So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star
Werewolf in London
Tangled up in blue
A recent New York Times article asked the question of how relevant 20th century music would be 300 years from now. The authors' conclusion was that John Phillip Sousa and the Beatles would survive as the only great and memorable composers of our era. His hypothesis was based upon the false theory that rock and roll died in the late 60's, and that the extended influence of music fades dramatically over time.
I cannot begin to describe how much I disagree with this premise. Though one could argue that the relevance of rock in society died after Woodstock, insofar as it influenced the volatile political climate of the time, the true peak of rock and roll was in the early to mid 70's. The technology got better, the music became more sophisticated and nuanced, (both considerable achievements, considering the herbal and chemical influences of the time) and bands began to experiment with instruments and synthetic sounds never heard before. The creativity and quality of electronic music in this short era is nothing less than a renaissance, as what was happening in the American film industry.
The power of rock and roll can be directly attributed to the invention of the electric guitar, as it is an incredibly expressive instrument, much like the piano and the violin. To say that modern musical pieces structured and performed with brilliance on the electric guitar would not be relevant 300 years from now would be to deny the influence (and continued popularity) of musical concertos composed for the piano and violin as many years ago today. I would contend that a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul guitar from the 1950's will be as cherished in 2250 as a Stradivarius is today, and that the music that was created in the true Rock and Roll era will be as popular and renowned as that of the great classical composers of the 17th and 18th centuries are now.
And, we have recordings. Imagine if we could have recorded the music of centuries past. They would still be immensely popular with fans of classical and ancient folk music. Historians and linguists would have a field day exploring the methodology and language patterns of past musicians. I imagine a dystopian future, kind of like A Clockwork Orange (where the protagonist youth listens to Beethoven), with people, given the vast amount of recorded music available, will look to the classic Rock and Roll era with awe.
It will not be limited to Souza compositions and Beatles albums, but rather, they will explore the beautiful and heart wrenching music and lyrics of "soft rock" bands like Crosby Stills and Nash, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Fleetwood Mac, and classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones and The Who. There will be interest in the more introspective bands like Pink Floyd and technically proficient bands like Steely Dan, and of course the great heavy metal bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Mettalica.
Of course, I have left out MANY examples of great rock bands and electric guitar virtuosos, whose rankings will be argued long into the future. And that is the point. The fact that The Rolling Stones are selling out stadiums 50 years after their first album came out says a lot about the staying power of great music.
Popular music is very dynamic, and there is no doubt that Rock music has been overshadowed in the past few decades by the flash of dance pop and hip hop and whatever else those crazy kids are up to today, but the garage band will always endure. All you need is someone with a set of drums, anyone who can play bass, and a kid with an electric guitar who KNOWS he (or she) is the next Jimi Hendrix.