Jennings: Rock Is Dead?

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Sammy Hagar and Vic Johnson

Commentary
Thom Jennings
Rock Music Critic

 

 

 

The iconic band that coined the phrase “Long Live Rock” back in the 1970s will be hitting the road to celebrate their 50 year run. Coined “The Who Hits 50!” will certainly sell out a few major arenas, but the title suggests that this may indeed be the final run for the band that had its first farewell tour way back in 1982.

In light of Gene Simmons recent comments to Rolling Stone magazine that “rock is dead,” murdered by “white, middle-and upper class young people who were native born” for not paying for music, opting instead to download music.

The argument is an interesting one but there is one fatal flaw, many of those white people still buy country music albums, and attend country music concerts. In fact, shrewd modern country artists can repackage a classic rock song and make it a hit.

I think Simmons has a point on one level, but in this writer’s opinion, it was the rock music community that killed rock music. The vast majority of rock artists became lazy and stopped recording albums on a regular basis, and slowly became irrelevant in the music marketplace regardless of downloading, legal or illegal.

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Gene Simmons and Kiss

Before artists’ obsession with downloads, they attacked cassettes and bootleg albums. Do they rob the artist of royalties? Absolutely! Is it theft of product? Yep, but artists like The Grateful Dead learned long ago that there are some fights not worth fighting, and while they stopped the free downloading of soundboard recordings, there are plenty of free Grateful Dead recordings that are available, and they still repackage recordings that have been available for years.

To drive home that point let’s compare Kiss to George Strait in terms of recorded output. From 1974 to 1984 Kiss released 10 studio albums, and in the next 30 years they released eight. Strait’s first album came out in 1981, and he has released 26 studio albums, 22 since 1984, almost three times the number of Kiss over the same period, and Straight rarely went over two years between releases.

Over their career, The Who has released 11 studio albums, only one of those since 1984. The Rolling Stones have released five albums since 1984, and even U2, whose career started around the time George Strait’s did, has only put out 13 albums over their 34-year career. The Beatles released 12 in eight years.

Country music is also supported by country radio, and country musicians still have a relationship with country radio, whereas the rock pioneers gave up on catering to the media or radio years ago.

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Todd Rundgren

One other thing Gene Simmons fails to take into account, many rock bands don’t let up and coming bands open for them on tour, opting instead to go out in big packages. The list of young rock bands that opened for Kiss include Foreigner, Styx, Rush, and AC/DC. Even Kiss’ last outing was a co-headlining package with Def Leppard.

So if rock is dead Mr. Simmons, you can’t blame those white middle class kids for stealing songs, you also forget that many of those white kids bought your classic albums twice, once on vinyl and then on CD, and that Beatles catalogue still sells well even though it was freely available.

If rock is dead it’s because instead of passing the torch to a new generation of musicians, like country music did, they just gave up trying to make new fans with new music, opting instead to play concerts for those white upper middle class guys.

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About Joseph Suto

Location: Buffalo, NY Photographer/Reviewer
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