February 15, 2013

Rock Evolution - Rockin' in the Free World


From You Tube: 
BBC's landmark 10-part series on the evolution of rock music with the innovators of the late-1940s and 1950s. For forty years, rock and roll has continued to reinvent itself, to challenge, to upset as well as delight, to break rules and make new ones. Dancing in the Street is a full-scale salute to that turbulent roller-coaster ride and an accompanying guide to the ten-part BBC series. Well-known American music journalist Robert Palmer illuminates the roots of rock in the fifties and explores its development through to its continuing growth today. In ten key chapters he investigates how the many tributaries - from blues and gospel to reggae, punk and rap - converge and connect.

(extract www.ovguide.com)      
Some years ago – around 1995 – I watched a BBC documentary series called “Dancing In The Street”.

I also have the book of the same name. Thankfully some of this series is posted on You Tube and I have included one episode above.

The book and the series complement each other: they are not mirror images.
The book and series are quite difficult to find now.

I have only seen it once but what I do recall of the main points being made are below, and not necessarily in order of importance.

Firstly, the fact that music reflects cultural and societal changes. I think this is very obvious to any one who has lived through these times and now we can add technological advances as well.

Secondly, I recall that a lot was made of the fact that in the USA music was segregated, just like society.

This barrier was broken down eventually, and the main contributors to this were Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis who had been exposed to Rock and Blues music which was actually the music of the African-American population.
The phrase ‘rock and roll’ was slang for sex.

An example of segregation occurring in Australian music can be seen in the recent movie “The Sapphires”. I had no idea they existed until I saw the film.

Also, mention is made of those who advanced, or contributed to, the progress of contemporary music.

This of course means that some of the most famous singers don’t rate a mention while other lesser-known performers do.

A good example of this is that Cliff Richard doesn’t, but his lead guitarist virtuoso from The Shadows, Hank Marvin, does.

The article below covers this rather well and also makes the point that technological advances and human ingenuity have changed the course of the music industry and society quite dramatically.

While watching the Grammy awards last Sunday, it occurred to me that American culture has been defined by music ever since the end of World War II. After the Germans and Japanese surrendered in 1945, millions of GI's returned home to marry and begin families. The big band era of good time music accompanied that, and romantic singers like Frank Sinatra ruled the day.

In the fifties, many young people, tired of conformity, began to rebel. The rise of Elvis Presley illuminated that rebellion. Then the angst kind of died out as Chubby Checker ushered in the Twist in 1960 and Americans began dancing all over the place.

Exhausted from doing the Pony, young consumers eventually began to respond to the snappy melodies of an English group called The Beatles and, once again, music mania gripped the nation. The British invasion featured the four mop-tops, The Rolling Stones and The Animals, among others.
Then Vietnam emerged.

That led to protest music, drug-fueled lyrics, as well as introspective tunes by The Doors, The Jefferson Airplane, and Bob Dylan. Acid rock soon followed and everything was very far out, man.

After about seven years, that intensity died out. The dark themes receded and dancing once again came back. The age of disco took hold as The Bee Gees and other polyester-clad groups dominated the charts. The good times of the late 1970's unleashed Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Earth, Wind and Fire. But it all ended when the AIDS scare arrived in 1984. Suddenly, the uninhibited party became dangerous.

Then music kind of meandered around for a while until rap emerged. At first, the anger-fueled recordings were confined to urban radio stations and a niche audience. But when Elton John sang a duet with the white rapper Eminem on a Grammy telecast, rap went mainstream. Massive parental headaches followed.

The rise of the Internet signaled the slow collapse of record stores and the music industry quickly fragmented after the turn of the century. Consumers could now download songs into portable machines and bop at will. Americans no longer had to depend on the radio to hear their favorite tunes.

Since then, there have been a series of pop superstars but no real purpose or point-of-view in the music which, again, may reflect the current time. I mean what do Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez really stand for? Narcissism? Just asking.

The talent is still there. I heard Justin Bieber do a knockout version of Paul McCartney's classic "Let it Be." And Bruno Mars with his little hat was pretty good on the Grammy show this year.

We are definitely living in confusing, rapidly changing times as machines are now dominating leisure options for many consumers. Fifty years ago, we all were humming the same tunes heard over and over on AM radio. The good vibrations of The Beach Boys thrilled Maine as well as Malibu. The music actually brought Americans together.

Today, the tuneless lure of cyber-space has pulled us apart. Perhaps forever. 

Article by, and with thanks to Bill O’Reilly

Further to this topic - Discs go at DJs as digital takes over

( I am glad I have quite a few of them!)

Many thanks to SP for sending me this article.