I'm pretty much ready to join the Campaign for Real Rock, but I can't help my sneaking suspicion that this is one of those things dreamed up by The Stranger staff at their mid-morning pot break. I'm as big a rock fan as the next person, but I must admit to having a few quibbles with the concept. If I'm gonna throw my lot in with the Hessians, Elf Rockers, MC5-ers, Garage Maniacs, and the last of the Grungers, then I wanna know it's a sure bet. Flash the devil's horns I will, but first I'm gonna check in with my rock and roll guru, Monte Coco, to make sure I'm not getting hoodwinked by poseurs.
THE STRANGER: Dude! What is it with rock and roll? I been wondering what it is that makes us shake and scream about it. Is it the LOUD or is it the LEWD? Kick down with some answers, or else I might do something drastic like go Young Country.
MONTE COCO: Bro! Well, if you listen to the local cognoscenti, rock is best described by the things it is NOT: i.e., "Issa not punk rock, baby--issa rocka roll! Thassa why I'm a tattoo Johnny Thunda!" Do not listen to these people. I will share with you! It is the beat, the sound, and the soul. It cannot be faked. (Actually it can be faked, but fakers are totally fake.) Have you heard Little Richard or Screamin' Joe Neal screech? Have you seen how Rob Tyner's moves make his ugly ass strangely sexy? Would you put an age on a volcano, or describe the beauty of the night sky or the agony of the death of one thousand knives? Know this: It may be loud or lewd, or both or neither, but Travis Tritt does not compare.
Okay! I'm down, but what's with all the rules? Like, what decade am I supposed to pick to be the utmost in righteous and cool? Do I gotta be like '60s-dirty or '70s-fringe or '80s-bubble-glam or '90s-'60s/'70s/'80s... ? I'm confused.
Some will tell you, a rocka roll got no rules, man! Again, you must not listen to these fools. One rule is steadfast, and it goes for the whole universe: those who do not live in the current year will surely perish. What is good about rocka roll isn't the inherent timelessness of Keith Richards' riffs. It is the beautiful translation of the good old-fashioned sex-beat through ungodly late-'90s turbo--or rocka roll is of no concern to Monte Coco. A healthy and perhaps obsessive regard for what has gone before has its perks--got to know where ya come from--but keep all of that "doomed to repeat it" jazz close to heart. It's kind of how there are bands patterned after the Mummies now... I mean, a '90s band aping an '80s band aping many mid-'60s bands? Those who are in love with music tend to dig deep and learn their history, but you gotta take care not to be consumed by the musty, moldy artifacts! And hence, what is "cool"? Is the coelacanth really extinct?
Roger to that concept! But what about that other big bone to pick? Namely, the clothes and hair. Just how crucial is the belt buckle? Are you nothing if your hair ain't either flowin' like a horse's mane or black 'n' greasy?
Monte Coco cares not for hair and clothes! Nerd power is what powers rock 'n' roll! (That and Steven Tyler and Mick and whatnot.) Check out Iggy! The man sums up everything! Is he not simply a deranged nerd with the proper focus? Ditto Van Morrison (circa-Them, mostly). He's even bald! Your belt will not hide your No Soul!
Van Morrison? Aren't you heading into hippie territory there, bro? I mean, isn't the real rock about stylin', lean dudes who've got ear-shattering pipes and wear scarves and shit?
I SAID Them-era! And even post-Them, my special Irishman held the distinction of being the only white guy I can think of with true soul. I mean, there have been plenty of white folks who got what you might call white-people soul. That's great shit, but just not in the same league as, say, Howlin' Wolf or Larry Williams or Joe Tex or James Brown. You might call Janis Joplin a hippie too, but that's only because these burnt Seattle espresso-cynics think they can scoff at sincerity. Watch Monterey Pop, and if you can still question the pain in her... uh... soul, then we can fight. And let's not forget Bon Scott! A Hessian with soul is a precious and rare commodity. But I digress. On to the scarves....
2. Steven Tyler
3. Ian Astbury ("hot papoose mama shakin' on a turkey shack yeah!" Shut the fuck up, limey Tyler!)
4. Stevie Nicks
5. Meat Loaf (he did hold one in his hand)
Whether or not they merit any attention will have to be your call. But stylin' lean dudes can kiss my ass. I prefer ugly fuckers whose beauty shines through their screaming nerdly ways.
Okay, Monte. One more thing before you spread your wings and fly. And this might be the single most crucial piece of advice I need. I don't know about you, but I was always on the wrong end of any high school beef with the parking lot pot-heads who basically defined rock and roll in my early life. How do I get over the menacing flashbacks that the Real Rock is bound to trigger?
Me on wrong end too. But being as we're both a little young to have been on the wrong end of greasers (hence we're just talking about Hessians) you gotta ask yourself: how did those bozos "define" rock 'n' roll, or anything else other than their own Hessian jackassery? Just because they yell "rock 'n' roll!" all the time doesn't make them definers of nuthin'! People often want to pretend that rock 'n' roll is epitomized by lack of talent and thuggery and all that, but personally I think that real greatness has only ever really been achieved by those who are sensitive for real. Then it can be enjoyed by thugs. Oh well.