Dear Dirty America


The Wrack and Ruin of Wrock and Roll

The Wrack and Ruin of Wrock and Roll
March 16
18:16 2018

Perthshire, Scotland 

If music is supposed to be the food of love, most modern music makes me vomit.

Compare the first three 7″ singles I bought, the “Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes. “Witch Queen of New Orleans” by Redbone. And “Rock ‘n’ Roll, parts 1and 2” by Mr G Glitter, to the disposal junk which is masquerading as music these days.

The downward spiral has begun to move with far more speed in the last fifteen years.

I mean,  I know I’m getting older at a fairly rapid pace, but the decline in quality of popular music is racing far ahead of MY own decline.

I grew up listening to the vibrant tunes of the Rolling Stones, The Searchers, The Hollies, The Merseybeats, The Who, The Beatles, and many more in the sixties.

Then the Seventies produced some of the most iconic music which has ever been written and played.

T-Rex, David Bowie, Sweet, more Rolling Stones, Gary Glitter (before we knew he was a paedophile), Rod Stewart, although he had been around in the sixties, he didn’t gain fame until he recorded the amazing “Maggie May”!

We also had Elton John, one of the least likely people to gain stardom, but his music was fresh and original. His personality and unique talent propelled him to worldwide fame.

The same decade produced Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and dozens of heavy metal bands, blasting our ears into submission.

These are only a small selection of British bands and musicians, but there were many huge American bands and solo artists who lit up our youth.

The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, a true original and hugely influential performer, The Eagles, The Byrds and many other wonderful talented musicians who wrote music which will never grow old or go out of fashion.

I remember how we all watched Top of the Pops every Thursday evening, to see and hear the latest hits from bands like The Kinks, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Bowie, The Police, Alice Cooper, and Elton John.

We had a radio in the garage where I worked and of course it was usually tuned to BBC Radio One. They played the latest singles from all the bands of the time. I recall hearing “Crocodile Rock” by Elton, and being completely blown away by the song.

It’s difficult to describe the way music affected me and the group of friends I had at the time. There was real excitement waiting to hear the latest songs from our favourite performers.

Occasionally, someone new would appear with a song which opened up new avenues and our imagination.

“Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr Hook and the Medicine Show, still gives me a shiver and immediately takes me back to an exact moment in my life. My first car, Ford Prefect, registration number VGS 747, bought from Gavin Wilkie, for the princely sum of £25:00!

My first girlfriend, Marjory Ross, who had to sit in this wreck of a car, covered in dust, because of the holes in the floor.

But this was the seventies and we were young and didn’t have a care in the world.

My musical tastes were formed quite early on in life. I spent an inordinate amount of time in hospital as a child. This was in the sixties, when pop music was changing from the sweet sixteen saccharine of the American teen angel, Bobby Vee and Neil Sedaka type of music, to the long haired British rebellion of the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and of course The Beatles.

In the hospital, where I was being so routinely opened up, I should have had a zipper installed, we in the children’s ward of Maryfield Hospital in Dundee, would listen to the radio and, of course, watched Top of the Pops.

Nancy Sinatra, whose “Boots Were Made for Walking”, was one of the most popular songs at the time, along with The Searchers and a myriad of other groups and singers, who kept us entertained while evil doctors experimented upon us. *we thought so anyway*

When I was allowed home after surgeries, I would listen to Radio Luxembourg on my tiny transistor radio in the evenings.

At that time, Radio One hadn’t seen the light of day and the BBC had something called the Home Service, which played mostly fifties ballads and strange typically British songs like “The Laughing Policeman” which still scares me after five decades. And “Nellie the Elephant” which I still remember fondly.

But once I had listened to Radio Luxembourg, the BBC and its strange mixture of music was old hat. The disc jockeys were loud and brash and so was the music. Then along came pirate radio. This was transmitted from small ships in the North Sea and just outside British territorial waters. This was necessary because they didn’t have licence from the government to broadcast to the UK.

I realise some people outwith Britain won’t have a clue of what I’m talking about, and many young people here won’t know either, but that doesn’t matter because music crosses all borders and appeals to different people in different ways.

The Punk Rock era was a wonderful slap in the face to the establishment and authority. It didn’t care for normal conventions or if people were outraged. It set out to destabilise and shock, which it did with great success, with the Sex Pistols being the most outrageous exponents of the time. They had a huge effect on the way music was played and presented, despite crashing and burning in a fairly short space of time.

By that time, the big record companies had realised that there was money to be made from this new raw music, and the true Punk ideal was washed away and made palatable to a mass audience.

The seventies also spawned the whole Disco movement. This was dance music with a smile and some of the most memorable moments in musical history. Chic, Donna Summers, Earth Wind and Fire, were three of many acts which made us dance in the aisles.

I could go on and on describing what real music sounds like, but this isn’t a book.

What links all the different types of music from the late fifties to the end of possibly the mid eighties, are the melodies. These songs, well most of them, have a tune we can identify immediately we hear them played.

This is not the case with the majority of the music in the last couple of decades. The sheer lack of tune or melody makes the music of today completely forgettable and utterly disposable.

Just like single use plastic bags, we now have single use songs, some of them ripping off other music and passing it off as their own.

The sheer lack of originality is breathtaking and very sad.

I believe my generation has seen the best of music ever written for a teenage and youth audience. We had The Animals and The Zombies.

Today it’s the people who are the animals and the zombies, hooked on video games and fast food.

There is great music out there. Please take a look.

Follow The Party of Common Sense on Twitter, at @tpocs

Michael J Blair contributes political analysis to DDA, and he can be reached at: His Twitter handle is: @mmjblair

[Header image courtesy of Gorupdebesanez, Wikimedia Commons]


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1 Comment

  1. johnny argent
    johnny argent August 16, 17:55

    We’re in utter agreement about the general devolution of Pop/Rock music, and I say this may years after swearing I’d never turn into one of those old guys who condemns the music of the day and swears he lived through a “golden age” which young people now have sadly missed. Well, here I am saying just that, in full confidence that it’s true by most any metric one can apply. People can remind us that it’s all subjective, but as a trained, working musician who started playing professionally in the mid-to-late 1960s, I can attest to your observation (which I’ve been saying for years, now) that there is, indeed, an undeniable dearth of melody in so much of the Pop of the last couple of decades and more. In my younger days, older listeners made the same claim about lots of the music of the time that I loved. But, an impartial look back reveals an undeniable truth: compared to so much of what’s promoted and sold today, the music of the 60s, 70s & 80s was inarguably more ‘tune laden,’ with verses, choruses, and refrains – “hooks” that were more individualized, memorable, ‘hum-able’ than most of what has followed. If I’m not mistaken, people have even mathematically analyzed & compared degrees of melodic movement and variance, etc. in the music of the eras we’re comparing and found that what we’re saying is objectively verifiable. To sum it up: every generation wants to have and does have music it feels as its own, but consumers can only order from “the menu,” in this case, the “menu” being what they’re exposed to, what’s chosen to be promoted, etc., and the consumer does NOT “print the menu.” Those who do are obviously more about business and less about art, and it sadly shows.

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