"Those who knew which station to tune to, which club to go
to on which night, which magazine or paper to read, which
friend to visit, managed also to keep in touch with the few
contemporary records that retained contact with the culture
that had originally inspired rock 'n' roll."
- Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the City
I'm increasingly out of touch with rock 'n' roll these days. I've only bought five new releases so far this year and honesty couldn't hum a tune by most current popular acts. Part of me just hopes that I don't get locked into a rut I've seen too many others go through: Still swearing by and pining for my 'Mats and Gear Dads and sucking up whatever Cities-97-mid-tempo-clever-and-sincere-songwriting-acoustic-guitar-with-lite-rock-post-Hootie-band-behind-him-or-her singer that comes along.
Then again, on a recent weekend at a bonfire I did spend a good half-hour reciting Kid Rock lyrics (to the delight of all, natch) with a couple of my beer-guzzling buds. I hope Kid is the wave of the future - he ain't a great singer, but at least he tries to sing and least he's got some style. Unlike the singers I invariably hear on Radio K more often than not these days: White boys sounding TOO WHITE - all whiny and lazy. Those dweebs' vocals are so feeble and fragile that they end up making Ben Folds sound like John Fogerty. Worse, the pinheads don't try too hard with their songwriting either. Or maybe they're trying too hard. Either way, they're coming up short.
Like there's this one tune in heavy rotation on 770 where you just know that the singer came up with what he thought was a genius chorus (it goes: "I love the unknown / I love the unknown / I love (dramatic pause) the unknown") and couldn't wait to get to it. Apparently, he is very proud of that chorus because he sings a couple of lines of a verse then jumps right into it! In fact, almost the whole damn song is the words "I love the unknown / I love the unknown." Hey paleface: consider workshopping your next great songwriting idea, huh? I mean, I'm all in favor of gibberish; but when it's disguised as Intellectual Achievement I gotta call your bluff.
Anyway, I don't know if my being out of touch with rock 'n' roll is a sign of my own laziness or if it's a sign of the much-maligned state of rock 'n' roll these days. It's probably a combination of both. But what I need badly today is some sort of moment, like all those moments back in 1984. Does anybody else remember '84? It was an incredible year full of magical moments. Like waking up New Year's Day and hearing Van Halen's "Jump" and realizing they'd finally taken that final step to greatness. Or that summer - the greatest summer ever, living at my parents' lake cabin mostly on my own - getting a speeding ticket because I was late for work and was speeding down Highway 59 doing 70 and blasting "Cover Me" on Q98 out of Fargo. The patrolman let me off easy because there was a Tuomala on the state patrol (go figure) somewhere in southern Minnesota. (It's not who you know, it's who you're distantly related to.) When I got to work at the nightclub that I washed dishes at, I apologized for being late, then snuck off to play "I Fought the Law" on the jukebox.
Or later that summer hearing "Let's Go Crazy" on the radio when driving back to school with my car loaded down with everything I owned: turning up the volume, knowing, just knowing that there would never quite be another Summer of '84 - a summer of fun and independence and water and girls and this incredible soundtrack right there on FM and Top 40 radios -
lights out uh-huh blast blast blast who ya gonna call? round and round I'm not missing you here I am rock you like a hurricane I'm sorry ... I'm sorry the heart of rock 'n' roll's still beating girl I want to know ya (know ya) on the dark side your pink Cadillac panama-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
So much fun - a maelstrom of music, a blast of songs, coming through one after another. And the strangest thing was the whole shebang of that summer was wrapped up beautifully by "The Boys of Summer" - a damn Don Henley song!
Like Chuck Eddy wrote: The kind of radio landslide that comes around once in an adolescence if you're lucky. And it was a summer full of such great music that it made me less of a classic-rock dork and more of a new-music freak. Fresh kicks were suddenly way more important than hearing "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" on the radio. I would walk into a record store for the next few years - when money wasn't so easy to come by - determined to take risks. Risks like getting Purple Rain or King of Rock or Peace Sells ... But Who's Buying or True Believers or Lost & Found or Made to Be Broken.
Maybe I'm dealing in mere nostalgia here when I wish for another 1984. Maybe time has passed me by and I should just shut my trap, drink my beer, and routinely watch Behind the Music and wistfully dwell on the good old days - boring the kids down at the bar with tales of my fastly-fading Obsessive Rock Fan Era.
But I just goddamn know that somewhere in this country, something is happening, somewhere shit is being stirred and shaken up; somewhere there's a ragtag band practicing in garages and basements, trying to become the next Creedence or Clash or Guns n' Roses. They're misfits, of course, everyone in the high school halls mocks their dreams. During rehearsal breaks over Old Mils, they plot their inevitable stardom-slash-revenge upon their classmates and the American public. These are our messiahs, and many of you will reject them and you will continue to listen to your classic rocks or your alternative classics or your alt-countries or your emocores or your no-rap-no-heavy-metals. Yet these punks will save rock 'n' roll all over again - save it from apathy and save it from Behind the Music and save it from Legends and save it from Top 100's and save it from the MTV Fashion Awards and save it from Rolling Stone and save it from FM radio and save it from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All of us who have wandered in the desert for all this time will welcome them with gleeful grins and a fuck-yeah-they-rule's said loudly and proudly to anybody who dismisses them as mere derivative upstart clowns. You heard it here first, folks.
And I'm just as sure that there is some kid out there whose Summer of 2000 was filled with a dishwashing job and a bunch of downloaded Napster tunes playing out of some little gadget that he's got strapped to his waist or tucked into his backpack and he was thinking Fuckin ayyy my next paycheck is goin' towards more music. He sure ain't interested in the ramblings of this out-of-touch oldster, because he's all in love with new music. And all I can say to that dude is fucking rock on my man, don't let all those who say the good old days are gone fool ya - just turn up that volume. Keep on smiling and don't lose the faith; because today is yours, as are all those tomorrows.
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