Let There Be Rock

Well, ice cream, soda pop, bourbon on top…

Some people call it rock and some people call it pop…

Some call it country music every time you use a fiddle…

How am I supposed to know if that’s a fact or just a riddle?…

Too tight around the edges, leave a little room to wiggle… – Shovels and Rope, “Cavalier

New game… turn on your local radio station… the one that everyone listens to, the one that is always giving shit away… like bumper stickers, the one parking their van outside a local business, the one that has the annoying morning DJs, the one “bringing the hits” to your bumfuck Egypt town, the one that the kids get their music from (does that even exist)… and then as every song comes on scream “rock” or “pop”… I doubt you will scream “rock” very much. Steven Hyden at grantland.com argues that ROCK music is dying… or disappearing from the airwaves. He also begins the article with quote from a Driver-By Truckers’ song… so instant cred with me. The idea that the rock that we all know (and supposedly love) is disappearing is it immediately suspect… until you ask yourself: what is a new rock-n-roll band that you listen to AND played on the radio AND getting critical AND popular acclaim.

This idea of rock-n-roll bands not being critically acclaimed… or at least popularly received is very interesting. I recently had this very discussion with the woman I am dating, after we had gone and seen Gaslight Anthem at DC’s 9:30 Club. Gaslight Anthem is a rock-n-roll band that definitely owes its existence to its limited connection to Bruce Springsteen. Gaslight Anthem packed the 9:30 Club… I have never heard Gaslight Anthem on the radio. I, however, am a poor radio listener… I listen to satellite radio and then search for music on iTunes… or I take suggestions from friends… like the woman who I am dating and who introduced me to Gaslight Anthem. She can’t figure out why they aren’t more popular. Hyden hits on it… in a very lengthy manner. I think my explanation is a lot more to the point.

Rock bands were once a dime a dozen, once rock bands ruled the airwaves… once rock bands could be found in any club in any mid-sized or college town… now kids and listeners have pigeon-holed themselves and escape the opportunity of hearing something new… I am guilty of this. Hit radio stations don’t play rock-n-roll… they play pop… I would argue that it was the Beatles that started us on this road. But how novel is a four or five piece rock band that can turn smart but short lyrics to the 3 chords which is nothing more than poetry about sex, drugs, and a wee bit of anger… or at least angst. Guitar driven rock is about as new as claiming jeans are fashionable. Everyone thinks they have heard this band because they have heard this sound for their whole life… until radio stations quit playing it all together. Good rock bands aren’t getting radio air time because it is now populated by music that competed and then defeated rock music. Anything new in the old world of rock-n-roll is ignored… yet good rock-n-roll is what we all like… or at least what we tell ourselves.

Even my iPhone, iTunes, and Apple are against me listening to good rock-n-roll. I just purchased the complete AC/DC catalog, yet because of past listening habits… my “top 25 played” songs are skewed to pop… or at least music that doesn’t fit into the idea of rock. It is my fault though, my iPhone, iTunes, and Apple analyze my lazy listening habits.

This analysis of my music listening habits is slightly skewed… it is based on data that my iPhone and Macbook Pro share when I am at home and the two are mated. Seems when one has over 11,000 songs, one is unable to download every single tune to their iPhone… thus I am forced to determine which songs are on my iPhone and which ones lay silently in my iTunes library… at home… quietly awaiting my return and an opportunity to be played. This analysis is also skewed by my lazy attitude toward making playlists and then taking the time organize and store music on my iPhone… I am a victim of my own habits. The realization of how Apple and iTunes are guiding my music listening habits struck me about the time I tried to find a trashcan this morning to dispose of my coffee cup. For about 6th time in that many days, Too $hort’s “Blow the Whistle” came on about the time I flipped my wrist to toss my coffee cup away… and I was struck by the thought… “fuck… didn’t I just hear this song?”

This may not be shocking news to you other audiophiles… but for me, my relationship with iTunes has been one where I collect, collect, collect, and collect music but then don’t take time to ensure I get ample opportunity to listen to it. Like a lot of people, when I first moved from CDs to iPod/iTunes/iPhone… I spent days and days of burning one CD after another… building up that music library with shit that was bought in 1996 and I actually thought the Quad City DJ’s “C’mon N’Ride It (The Train)” was a song that had staying power… 26 year-olds very rarely know good music.

After the Bataan Death March (link provided for the historically illiterate) of burning your CDs… one then began the frenzy of buying iTunes music… and this included the befuddled feeling of wonder of why AC/DC wasn’t there for your purchasing…. which thankfully has been rectified as of this past year (I now own the complete AC/DC musical catalog and yes… I do feel like my life is complete). But when you buy new music… and you buy it from different devices… your iTunes library gets fucked up. Yes, I am aware there is the iCloud option, yes I know there is the automatic download of purchases on your main iTunes device… but unless you take the time to organize that shit… and stay on top of it… you get a shitty playlist called “top 25 most played” songs that is strictly related to the device you listen to the most… for me that is my iPhone… and here is what Apple, iTunes, and my iPhone consider my listening habits… as I stated numerous times… more pop than rock and embarrassing as hell.

1. Neon Hitch “Bad Dog“… catchy 21st century dance music with not subtle sexual innuendo and as much as this song might have a special and personal feeling… it definitely doesn’t compare to what is predominately in my iTunes library of rock.

2. Oomph! “Labrynth“… well at least it is rock… but obviously German rock… and this version is in English which is rare for my German rock… most of it is in its native language. Still trying to figure out if I can group my Deutsch metal into the solid rock category.

3. The Vaccines “Teenage Icon“… a song that isn’t subtle .. this is an Australian band that is both catchy and very poppy… almost rock… it sounds like rock… until you hear their other stuff and then you can’t decide if they are rock or pop… but the band seems to be fairly unheard here in America because their upcoming tour is slim on US dates (get it with Amurika!) and heavy on European ones. Fortunately, I have tickets to see them February 1st here in DC.

4. AFI “Girl’s Not Grey“… like Oomph!, at least this shit is rock… however, the first time I heard this I thought it was Fall Out Boy… if you don’t know who sings it… you probably shouldn’t play it so much that it makes a “top” list of anything. Do have to say I can imagine the band playing this song as they jump and swing their guitars.

5. B.o.B. “So Good“… I get in these stretches where I purchase hip hop/techno/urban music that seems to be more mash-up songs than actual one song pieces… not sure if this is the result of Glee or Glee’s mash-up episodes are the result of these type of songs… I got turned on to these types of songs while driving alone through England in August 2011 while searching for golf courses and finding nothing but this type of music on the radio (or the awful 1980s crap BBC Radio plays).

6. “Caipirinha“… a zumba fitness song that iTunes Genius suggested… a latin disco tune that caught my ear… but seriously I have no clue when I have listened to it enough for it to make it to my list of top songs… I am all for world music and very open to appreciating good catchy tunes, but I have no idea why iTunes thought I would like it.

7. Marilyn Manson “Tainted Love“… okay, no apologies for this song… the original was a mainstay of my youth in the 80s… this cover is fucking awesome. Tainted love was once more bubble gum, now it is down right dirty and hard… yeah I said “taint” and even though it is hard to imagine… Marilyn took this pop and made it almost rock.

8. The Lonely Planet “I’m On a Boat” … explicit version (as if the song could be listened to without T-Pain singing(?) “I fuuuucked a mermaid”)… yeah I know why this is on my top played list… cause this song is awesome and it is definitely one I turn it up to eleven… and I listen it to all the time… just call me juvenile. “If yo on the shore, yo sure not me-o”… definitely not rock… but wonderfully stupid (sometimes music is supposed to be stupid).

9. Nelly “Air Force Ones“… The BEST song ever written about shoes… and I don’t mean songs that use shoes or boots as a metaphor… I mean, literally, a song specifically about shoes. Looking for the rock song that equals this in its love of shoes.

10. Cher Lloyd “Swagger Jagger“… plain and simple, got this while getting Neon Hitch music… seems I think I am some young 20something hanging out and dancing to club music… sue me.

11. Dada Life “Rolling Stones Tshirt“… electronica, I have no fucking clue who Dada Life is and for all I know, it is one dude and a computer. I see them sort of the 21st century version of Yaz. Type of song (and band) that you listen to but, in reality, a song that would never play (out loud) at any place you would actually be.

12. Meredith Brooks “Bitch”… she is hot (then and now)… the song is fucking true… and it fucking rocks. Makes me want to be a woman and then quote this every time I make a lover cry. Feminine rock ROCKS! by the way… damn you youtube for making it so hard to disable your safety mode… go find the link for this one.

13. Too $hort “Blow the Whistle“… yeah I like rap… first heard this song a couple of years ago when the then DC Nationals’ center fielder Niger Morgan used it as his walk-up music… found it catchy then… find it catchy now. Obviously it is played a lot because this is the song that made me curse transient trash cans and iTunes.

14. Fountains of Wayne “Stacy’s Mom“… okay another catchy and poppy, yet an almost rock, tune. Best song ever about a MILF without using the word “MILF” … Stacy’s mom has got it goin’ on… yeah she does… yeah she does.

15. Kukla “Kukla“… I call her Russia’s Madonna… the first time I saw her and this video was while I was sitting in a highly secure five-star hotel in a former Soviet Republic. I was mesmerized by her looks (platinum blonde) and the wonderful world of Metropolis (the original steam punk) she dances around in this song… Amurika may have drones… but Madonna is how we are conquering the world.

16. Dada Life “Kick Out the Epic Motherfucker“… again, techno music with no history that I know of… but I bought the album and this one has a kick-ass bass beat to it that makes me want to start my own flash mob on a metro train when it comes on.

17. The Raconteurs “Salute Your Solution“… Jack White in one of the 100s of his disguises… the song rocks and good luck keeping up with the lyrics… blah blah blah salute your solution. Sometimes Jack White surprises me with this type of song and then I am totally dumbfounded… however, the shit he touches seems to be pure genius… see his producing of Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose.

18. Nelly “Country Grammar“… this song came out when I was a young lieutenant in the Army and it was all my soldiers were listening to at a certain time when we were all deployed away from home… with my sometimes Southern accent… country grammar seems apropos… Nelly is never bought in full album length, but his songs are scoured for what I consider gems… but none of them are rock.

19. Foster the People “Pumped Up Kicks“… duck kisses whatever… this song is catchy and is definitely not rock but digs into your ear and nestles down in your brain. I know I can woo to this song… thus it is personal more than anything. No claim to the mantel of rock there though.

20. The Allman Brothers Band “One Way Out“… okay, no explanation needed. This link though is an amazing display the Allman Brothers’ ability… definitely swamp… and definitely rock.

21. The Allman Brothers Band “Statesboro Blues” …^^^ditto^^^

22. Big Audio Dynamite “The Globe“… club music before we called it club music. A mainstay of my youth when Motley Crue or Metallica weren’t playing… no I never admitted to listening to it… but I love it nonetheless.

23. Travis Porter “Make It Rain“… I got a thing for strip club rap… seems when you buy a significant amount of this subgenre of rap it then ends up on a top played list. Really there is nothing redeemable about it. It is almost theatrical in production.

24. Flo Rida “Low“… see my comments above about Nelly and B.o.B.

25. Marilyn Manson “Personal Jesus“… ditto again on what was said about taint… however, Depeche Mode pretty much rocked this dark the first time around… Marilyn Manson just honored the Mode by making it equally dark.

Shovels and Rope… a band that hails out of Charleston, South Carolina, and mentioned at the very beginning… is being added to my iTunes and I hope their songs make it to my “top 25 played” songs. Shovels and Rope isn’t a rock band… but they seem a little more iTuned to my life… and the music that is the soundtrack to that life. Although, after going through this list, I feel a lot less shame but I am struck by how music is more than music to me. Time and place… and the moment… “then sings my soul“… music is the river of emotion on which I float on in my daily travels. I do lament the lack of rock music on pop/hits radio stations… I do hope there is never a time when no one listens when a simple band in jeans plugs in their guitars and make us remember… and make us feel alive. If that time has passed… I have 293 AC/DC songs to keep me company in my lonely future of non-rock. Let there be rock… please little plastic baby Jesus… let there be rock. <<<<probably the greatest display of a rock-n-roll guitar mastery EVER.

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