Put another dime in the jukebox, baby. I like more or less all the music, at least all of it’s that written by humans and performed by musicians, which excludes most modern industrial. But Rock is the music of my time and tribe, and while other kinds can make me dream and weep, it’s the only one where the first guitar chord makes me smile and before long I can’t not dance.
Half a century · In 1966, shrimpy 11-year-old me was on a pre-Christmas visit to my uncle in Drumheller, Alberta, and then we drove back to Edmonton, only a few highway hours but his car heater was on the blink and it was like -20°, so we stopped in a diner at least once an hour to warm up. In those days, they all had jukeboxes, and those jukeboxes all had These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, and I cadged a quarter at every stop so I could play it. What a song — it still gives me a shiver every time.
Since then, I saw Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps tour at Maple Leaf Gardens, and Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town tour, and one of the good Kinks tours (at their peak their show rivaled Springsteen’s), and an Iggy Pop/Pretenders tour, and the Clash’s second and third North American tours, and Stevie Ray Vaughan (double bill with Jeff Beck) two weeks before he died, and a Michelle Shocked/Public Enemy double bill, and Ronnie Hawkins in a bar, and Johnny Winter in a bar, and Hot Tuna in a bar, and Patti Smith in a bar, and, well, lots more, and that’s just the ones from My Generation.
Lately too · Like the Tull song says: “No, you're never too old to Rock'n'Roll if you're too young to die.”
In recent months I’ve been to a performance of Bach’s Musical Offering, and it had the most pure beauty, golden arcs and loops spiraling up into the church’s nave. And I’ve been to one of Patricia Barber’s regular Monday-night shows at the GreenMill in Chicago, and her band squeezed the most music into each performance second, passion married to infinite depth and subtlety.
But screw all that stuff. In October I went to the Livewire Lounge in Chicago to see Shonen Knife, who play the purest possible guitar rock really loud with Japanese accents, and have written a lot of good songs over the years.
The opening act was Hotlips Messiah, pictured above and again below where the singer had leaped off the stage to engage her #1 fan a little more closely. Fast loud rock, maybe a little more complicated than it needs to be, but good stuff.
The Knife girls were awesome as always and I’ll probably buy their latest record because the songs they said were new were I think better than average for them, which is strong praise. Below is Atsuko on bass; I posted this on Twitter and Atsuko liked it!
And then on December 1st, Rock ’n’ Roll gave me the only really great time I’ve ever had in Las Vegas: Kings of Chaos live at the House of Blues, with guest star Billy Gibbons.
Context · I was at AWS re:Invent 2016, and could have gone to the party, featuring Martin Garrix. But all those EDM DJ’s are plastic bobble-heads to me. When I go to a live show, I wanna see performers perform. DJ’s don’t, really; but don’t believe me, take it from deadmau5.
Kings of Chaos · They’re a pickup band, organized by veteran hard-rock drummer Matt Sorum, of Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, the Cult, and so on. The line-up last Thursday, along with Sorum, included Billy Duffy (Cult), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol, Michael Jackson, etc), Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), and Chester Bennington (Linkin Park). Here they are (minus Bennington):
Man, that’s a lot of good music. I’ve never been to ZZ Top so it was nice to hear some of those songs; I’ve always loved Sharp-dressed Man and especially La Grange, which I’m not going to defend politically.
But the highlight of the night for me was Going Down, with four good singers on stage, leaning into the vocals and swapping guitar licks. Anyhow, good good times.
The songs without Billy were pretty tightly scripted, with the choruses and solos locked in. These guys may be a pickup band, but they’re polished professionals who take showing the audience a good time seriously and work hard at it.
Hey, look they have a website and they’re touring! I recommend taking them in if they come near you. Well, only if you like extremely loud flashy 70s-90s rock, played well.
Comparative musicology · A rock-and-roll lover has to give up a lot. The time is gonna be 4/4, and the beats are going to be on 2 and 4, and there’s not going to be much in the way of counterpoint, and there’s only one instrumental voice that matters.
But it’s not as though the notion of less being more is surprising or controversial. And it’s got a good beat, you could dance to it. I feel so lucky, musically, to have lived in the decades that I have.