What happened to rock music?

During 2016 we also lost Eagles frontman Glenn Frey, Jefferson Airplane guitarist Paul Kantner, fifth Beatle George Martin, Genius of Earth, Wind and Fire Maurice White, prog rock maniac / E in ELP Keith Emerson, Elvis Scotty Moore guitarist, Alan Vega nightmare machine, King Crimson lead singer / L in ELP Greg Lake, The real bizarre visionary Leon Russell, and, most recently, heir to the kingdom of Freddie Mercury, George Michael. If you were to broaden the category a bit further, there would be the second greatest (but most literary) songwriter of his generation, Leonard Cohen; poor but proud poet laureate Merle Haggard; experimental wizard Tony Conrad; godfather of alternative country Guy Clark; Bluegrass virtuoso Ralph Stanley; and dap queen sharon jones. If you had to sum up what happened in rock in 2016, you would say: people have died.


If you were a fairly healthy rocker who released a pretty successful record in the 1960s or 1970s and you hadn’t written a book yet, there’s a good chance you’ve written a book or have wrote a book about you in 2016. As the publishing industry has become more vulnerable, it has become more risk averse. Names established with established audiences – preferably older audiences, who spend money on things like books – have become increasingly valuable. After the success of Bob Dylan Chronicles, Keith Richards Life, and that of Patti Smith Just kids, publishers are fond of baby boomer nostalgia, while musicians are equally fond of cashing checks. In 2016, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Robbie Robertson, Johnny Marr, and Sebastian Bach all published memoirs – in a few cases they even wrote them too.

But, with the exception of Springsteen’s happy memoirs, a sense of resentment permeates these books meant to serve as well-deserved victory tricks. The desire to bask in glory is inseparable from the feeling that the credit has not been given where it should be. This curious mix of self-righteousness and resentment – let’s call it the revenge of the baby boomers – was reflected in the politics of 2016, which was defined by a reactionary nostalgia that led to Brexit and the election of Donald. Trump, two catastrophic events that occurred in the face of expressed opposition from the younger generations.

This rock is sort of evil should come as no surprise in the case of Mike Love, who has become the most notorious villain in Beach Boys lore. love Good vibes is, despite its title, bitter, angry, cynical, and very blunt about its primary purpose, which is to correct the widely held perception that love is an asshole. Memories prove again and again that Love was the hero of the Beach Boys and that everyone (except perhaps Carl Wilson, who is described as having been childish and naive) was a thug. Love treats the late 1960s – which is the period we really mean when we talk about the ’60s – as a bewildering period of cultural decay. Love has little patience for the monsters who surrounded Brian Wilson as he made Animal sounds and worked on Smile. For Love, the Beach Boys were a quintessential “American” band, devoted to surfing, walking around and hamburger stands, which Brian’s sound experiences did not convey.


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