The Decline And Fall Of Rock And Roll

Old Music

The invention of the wireless (radio), and the gramophone (record player), created a market for music. Folks were listenin’ to these new-fangled gadgets, and they wanted to be entertained. This all created a new profession – song-writer. All that new music had to come from somewhere.

In the early part of the 20th century, most of it, at least in North America, came from a small area in New York City known as Tin Pan Alley – from a group of a couple of dozen professional song writers. They might be approached to compose a song about a specific theme, and/or for a particular performer. They produced songs for stage musical comedies – and later for movies, when they gained sound.

They wrote songs about whatever came to mind – everything, and nothing. The songs had no soul. (Not Negro Soul – that came later.) During the feel-good, bath-tub gin, Flapper Girl, Roaring 20s, many of the songs were light, happy little lilts. In the Dirty-30s Depression era, people had to be convinced that things would get better, with even more happy little lilts, songs like Happy Days Are Here Again.

During WW II there were patriotic songs for the troops, and upbeat Musical Comedy songs for those left at home. Tin Pan Alley had almost disappeared. More songs were being written by more people, but they were all formulaic – all just X number of bars long, all just X number of minutes play-time.

In the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, Big Band Sound regained popularity. There was more pure music, with fewer lyrics. The popular music scene all began to change in the mid-50s, when the Baby-Boomers began to come of age.

It all started with the likes of Canadian, Paul Anka, who wrote and sang a song about an older babysitter that he’d had the hots for. Then, because he did it his way, he wrote ‘I Did It My Way,’ for Frank Sinatra to make a hit of. They were about “something.”

Many of the new, young music makers were disillusioned, cynical, and angry, tired of a status quo which had brought a Great Depression, two World Wars, the Korean War, and threatening to involve America in the Viet Nam War.

A new word and category had been created – singer/songwriter. Soon, hundreds of teenagers were recording their own songs – and millions more were buying them. At first, the powers-that-be dismissed them –They’re just rebellious. They’re just Anti-(insert random cause here.) Soon though, attempts were made to outlaw this seditious music.

These new performers weren’t just anti…. Government corruption and brainwashing, corporate greed and toxic waste, Christian manipulation and control! They wrote songs about what they were for…. Negro civil rights, feminism, LGBT respect, a living wage.

They also wrote about things that affected their lives, and the lives of millions of other young Boomers who listened to them. They sang about THINGS – surfing, car racing, personal relations, travel, what touring with a band was like, the pros and cons of drug use, sexual abuse, alcohol, ecology, sex, love, and finally, what DJ Alan Freed had dubbed this new aggressive music genre, Rock And Roll.

Rock and roll has held on for over half a century. It defeated the upstart, Disco, but it is losing its edginess, its social concern, its cynical dissatisfaction. Elvis made a fortune, singing Black music to white folks. Nowadays, Snowflakes would have a meltdown about cultural appropriation.

Justin Bieber’s stuff is bright and tuneful, but about as exciting as a how-to manual for frying eggs. Alanis Morisette can’t read a dictionary, and if Taylor Swift weren’t so high-maintenance, she wouldn’t have 18 songs about ex-boyfriends.

None of it has the syncopated beat, the drive, the barely repressed anger, the social concern, anymore. Ed Sheeran’s work has a little bit more body to it, but it’s all become nice, and I don’t want “nice.” I miss the good old days when I could get a little Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ram Jam, Ozzy Ozbourne, Queen, or Fleetwood Mac.

‘They’ say that a population gets the government that they deserve. I guess the same is true about music. I’m all for civilized behavior, but if this keeps up, we won’t have to worry about China or North Korea. We’ve become so limp and whiny that we could be taken over by a Girl Scout troop from Iceland.

Stop back again in a couple of days, and I’ll sing you another tune. 😉

Being Social…With Somebody Else’s Money

I don’t care if many Americans think they’ll wind up living in Putin’s garage if they accept socialized medical care; I thank God for the fact that it’s available to me, here in Ontario.  My medical Odyssey to restore normal sight in my left eye continues.  At a suggestion from BrainRants, I’ve been reading the biography of the sci-fi author, Robert Heinlein.  Bob was never a healthy guy, and a couple of times in his life he had some serious medical problems.  One time he was unable to work for over six months.  With the fact that he had a very intelligent, well educated and highly trained wife, and also that he could market, albeit at reduced rates, material he had written before he fell ill, he was able to survive the crisis.  Somebody like me, with a grade twelve education, only hands-on training and a disabled wife would wind up out of our mortgaged house, living on a hot air vent in front of a restaurant and eating out of the dumpster in the back.

Of course I never get to see the bills for the service I’ve received, and will receive, but I’ll bet I could buy a car, or a good chunk of my house with what’s been spent, just to eliminate non-causes.  The Ontario government used to pay for an eye exam every year.  I was born in 1944, to a father who was released from the Armed Forces for medical reasons, so I’m 2 to 22 years ahead of the Baby Boomers, who are aging even as we speak.  An eye exam every year to prevent expensive consequences would seem to be a good idea, but the politicians decided that every two years would be enough.  Several years ago I went in for my bi-annual check-up and the doctor found a thickening on the right retina.  Once we found that, I get to go back at the doctors direction.  For a couple of years it was every six months.  He’s had me taking some vitamins with an extra chemical which is supposed to prevent or slow further growth.  Seems to be working!  Then I dropped back to a yearly check-up.

When the problem with the left eye showed up, my visit was covered as part of an ongoing preventive maintenance program.  Add to that minor fee, a visit to an emergency ward and a CAT-scan  Then I got to visit an Ophthalmologist, and later that week, a technician in her office, who administered a field of vision test.  I went to my GP for a light physical and a requisition for blood and urine testing.  She justified her existence by giving me a prescription for a silver-based cream for a slight burn I got New Years Day.  Huge tube I won’t go through in five years, but it’s got two repeats.  I got to see a Neurologist the other day.  I was his first appointment at 8:00 A.M.  “Come in a half-hour early to fill in forms.”  We finished that by ten to eight.  He wandered in at 8:02 and saw me about 8:25.  Nice guy, he eliminated the obvious stuff by hand in twenty minutes, but then came more tests.

I have worked in metal-working plants, but not for many years.  Could it be a piece of metal in my eye?  Probably not, but he wanted me to have a cranial MRI, and if there were metal in the eye, an MRI could cause further damage.  Off I went with, what I thought was just a requisition for a facial X-ray, but which apparently included the MRI.  His office is in a building adjoining the hospital.  It is possible to get from him to the X-ray lab without going outside but, as he said, it’s like a rabbits warren.  If you don’t know your way through you could easily get lost.  The wife and I wended our merry way around and in, and down to X-ray, only to meet him coming back, after giving some ASAP instructions about my care.  I got to have two mug-shots, one this way, one that way.  These were X-rays, so, unless you can identify me by my dental records, they’re useless.

Then I was told to go on down the hall to MRI and fill in information forms for them for when they were supposed to call with an appointment date in a couple of days.  While we were working on the forms, a female tech came out a couple of times to the waiting room and called for Bob Jones(?).  No response. A minute or two later she came back out and called my name and gathered up the form we had filled in, quickly checked it over and asked if I wanted to have my MRI done right that moment.  Since Bob Jones hadn’t shown up, I could have his spot.  The instruction sheet says you have to lie motionless for an hour, but the tech said that it’s more like a half-hour, especially since we were only checking my head.  I wondered about my artificial shoulder.  It’s a cobalt ball and a titanium shank.  The cobalt is definitely non-magnetic, but the titanium shank sets off airport and bar screeners.  She said not to worry, I SHOULD be OK.  Her great confidence soothed me.  They give you a chicken-button for things like claustrophobia.  If I had any problems, all I had to do was push it.  Stick ear-plugs in and spend 30 minutes in a torpedo tube, listening to a varied series of loud noises.  At least that’s done with.

I still have to go back and see the Neurologist at least once more.  If none of these tests find anything, I will have to do the spinal tap thing.  If it shows nothing, we’re back to reaction from the flu.  He said, if that were the case, he had some medication that he could give me that should ease the inflammation.  I think the Neurologist is now the primary caregiver on this case.  I might not have to go back to the “eye-doctor”.  I am so glad that I don’t have to pay, personally, for all this care.  It comes from the taxes that I, and everyone else, pay.