Tuesday, 11 January 2011

RIP Rock'n'Roll?

I had a great night last night. My wife and I went to the City Hall in Sheffield for a night of Classic Rock presented by a group of 10 wonderfully talented musicians, who played almost flawless copies of some of my favourite songs, by bands such as Supertramp, Genesis, Dire Straits (yes, I don't mind admitting I like them), Lynyrd Skynyrd & Pink Floyd. It was a great evening, not just for me but for the others who had come along too.

It came as a bit of a surprise to me, this morning, to find a link to this story in the Guardian, which proclaims the last rites over Rock'Roll. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jan/10/rock-n-roll-read-last-rites? Was I witnessing the final death-throws last night? Or is this simply a case of journalistic hyperbole?

I'm old enough to remember the late 70s, when Punk was at its height and Progressive Rock was written off as 'Dinosaur music', ready for extinction. Yet Prog has survived, and Punk has evolved into something a little more palatable. New festivals celebrating the diversity of the Rock genres have sprung up in recent years, most recently the 'High Voltage' Festival in London, which catered for Classic & Progressive tastes. Rock'n'Roll, it seems, is not as dead as some might proclaim/desire.

Yet the article says that this apparent life is not being reflected in the official charts, particularly the singles charts. This may be due to a number of factors, chiefly broadcasting policy (what gets on the playlists of the major radio stations) and the dumbing-down and short-term commerciality that shows like 'X Factor' bring to popular music. But the singles charts have never represented the depth of music in the world: in fact it might be fair to say that the singles charts have very little to do with depth.

However, rock continues to thrive in the shadows (maybe that's where it truly belongs, rather than in the full glare of popularity). There are bands queueing up to play in my local pub; new Progressive Music continues to be made, in this country and across the world (I've written earlier about Uzbekistani Prog, but there's also good stuff from Sweden, Holland, Mexico as well as the USA and UK); and people continue to flock to concerts, though there may be a few more grey hairs both in the audience and on the stage. I'm looking forward this year to seeing Rush & Yes in concert, both of whom have been in the business for over 40 years. But I'm also looking forward to seeing new talent take to the stage, strap on a guitar, and shout what's on their heart.

Neil Young was, to my mind, probably right when he said "My, my, hey, hey; rock'n'roll is here to stay!" "Hey, hey, my, my; rock'n'roll will never die!"

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