Column: Is Rock Dead?

Bad Karma, Volume 3

By P.J. D’Annunzio, Staff Writer,

If you’re like me then you have hard time finding the right dress slacks. But if you’re like me you’re also moved by the awesome, face-melting power that is Rock and Roll.

The very thought of it conjures up images of long haired barbarians in leather pants, shredding furiously upon their axes to appease the Rock gods above. Nothing beats it in terms of feeling, from the surge of energy that courses through the veins from ringing power chords to the windfall of emotion kindled by the most heartfelt ballads.

The unapologetic excess and drive of Rock and Roll are what this country was built on.

Well…maybe not, but it made this nation great! Everyone you know—even your grandmother—has a favorite song that can be found in the many genres that encompass Rock. It can range from Elvis to Kings of Leon, but everyone has at least one. Everyone. Anybody who says otherwise is either a liar or a Communist, possibly both.

As a music lover, I enjoy and respect a multitude of musical disciplines ranging from Jazz to Classical to others. But as a musician—of the Rock and Roll variety—nothing scratches the visceral itch better than spending extended periods of time listening to Exile on Main Street.

Some may say that my taste in Rock is somewhat antiquated. On the surface it may seem that way, as you’d be hard pressed to find many well known newer bands in my music archives (as opposed to the many obscure newer ones I have). Does that mean has music soured in recent years? Is there a correlation between the quality of Rock and the passage of time? Some, such as the multitudinous Boomers, say yes. Others ask a more basic question.

Is rock dead?

There is no easy answer. If we’re going by the numbers—breaking into the top 25 charts—then yes, rock is lying cold on a slab in the mortuary. The tastes of consumers have shifted over the years, thus mainstream music changed to accommodate those tastes. Thoughtless, repetitive, hormonal-pop represents the new wave: Justin Bieber and the MTV legion have trampled a path leading to a new musical dark age, an age where the future of rock is dubious.

It simply illustrates that Rock just isn’t in demand any more. But is that acceptable? As Americans, Rock and Roll is our birthright, one of the few art forms originating from this country. That begs the question: do we keep rock as a precious gem for only the true adherents to enjoy? Do we try to stop the torrential vomit of new pop songs from drowning us in musical mediocrity, and force a rock comeback? Or do we simply let it fade away?

Bob Seger was right, today’s music ain’t got the same soul, but I’m not sure if anything can be done to remedy that.

Outside of the mainstream circuit there are many great indie bands, but they’re too obscure to put a dent in the armor of popular “music,” or to appeal to the average listener. These days airwaves are simply replete with aural trash. For sustenance many of us are seek refuge in classic rock stations that play Zep ten times an hour, and while I like them, I just can’t take that much Robert Plant. I think he says “baby” more than Bieber now that I think about it.

Essentially, music is a reflection of the people it derives from. It shows us what our society values, or in this case doesn’t value. The ability to play an instrument, to have semi-thoughtful lyrics, and to have some semblence of musical knowledge has gone by the wayside. We now want simple words, synthesized instrumentation, and basic dance beats.

But the question still remains. Is Rock dead? Does it cling to life in the shadows of the Garage revival or did it die with Kurt Cobain and Lane Staley and the rest of the martyred Grungies?

Personally, I say no. Much like Keith Richards, it can never truly die. As long as there are listeners, as long as there are kids picking up guitars, as long as somebody’s interested in that old Abbey Road vinyl in the record shop, Rock lives on.

Oh and do me a favor: the next time some peon rolls up beside you at a red light with the bass rattling every panel in his car, put your windows down and blast Voodoo Child at as many decibels as your stereo can handle. That’ll get the word out.

Rock on kids.

P.J. D’Annunzio is a local writer whose sarcasm and ability to rock far surpass his years.  He enjoys jamming, lovely ladies, and getting into (and staying) in trouble. His column, Bad Karma, appears weekly and he can reached at

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