Monday, June 3, 2019

Relevant Re-Post: When Rock 'n' Roll Became Rock

Music evolves, goes from 8 track to 16 to digital, takes on a new parlance, someone messes with a Coke can or a hurdy-gurdy, with tape loops and feedback, but 50 years ago, pop music changed its meaning. In July '65, unabashed back-alley hooligans, The Rolling Stones, hit No. 1 with "Satisfaction," a song in which witty complaints about sexual frustration and social hypocrisy sowed the seeds of genuine protest. The next month, Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" shot to No. 2, fired by poetic language that spoke of the freedom, and the fear, of leaving social conventions behind. By October it was full tilt with Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," and in December The Who (more riff-raff) released "My Generation," a stammering, in your face, take no shit anthem that drew a violent line in the sand between young and old. The Generation Gap had arrived. To mark so huge a sea change, the sound got a new title — or at least an amended one: the music previously known as "rock 'n' roll" morphed into the emphatic, yet simply named "rock." Like when dungarees became jeans and stayed that way.


There is only speculation of the term rock 'n' roll, though one sexually explicit ditty comes to mind, Trixie Smith's 1922 "My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)". Others may suggest the household standard "Rock-a-bye Baby" from 1809 as the term's catalyst, but that's just dumb. Rock, if not sexually motivated, is at a minimum motivated in passion, and it was in 1965 that that that passion became a lifestyle, a movement, a reason to leave home and converge on Frisco bay, to smoke dope and protest the war, to "turn on, drop out and tune in." That phrase wasn't popularized by Leary until '66, but it's this writer's opinion that it was the music, "rock" to be specific, that inspired the events of the Summer of Love and Woodstock and not exclusively the other way around. The Beatles (The Stones, as well and so many more), were a product and a catalyst of their time.

It was 50 years ago that rock took on a new significance, one that had been the job of folk and then Dylan went electric to a cacophony of ballyhoo - but for a moment - and then no one cared anymore. We can argue all we want over rock's greatest year, '67? '72?, IDK, everything from Revolver to My Aim is True, but you can't argue that it was '65 when rock got real.