Before I start, I want to mention that I did not include Pink Floyd in the Brit bands. Pink Floyd is classic, but never one of my loves. Pink Floyd, I forgot about you, but I don’t really care that much. Sorry.
The broad scope of American rock makes it hard for me to pinpoint any one thing, or to focus too long on anything. This is going to be a whambamthankyoumam kind of thing.
First, Elvis. Elvis is the fucking King of Rock and Roll. There is no other king. Chuck Berry is there too, but Chuck Berry is not the King of Rock and Roll. Elvis is the King. Without Elvis, I don’t know what would have happened. We would probably have an Elvis with a different name. Elvis, as a red-blooded American rock student, I salute you.
The 27 Club. The 27 Club is an exclusive club, reserved only for rockers who achieve amazing, superstar status through the exceptional qualities of their polyphonic debris. 27 Club members all died when they were 27, at the height of their fame. Most of the deaths can be linked directly to over-consumption of drugs, or a very closely related factor.
These people did not get rich and internationally famous because of their connections, their pretty face, their money, or any other thing than how badass they were at rocking the fuck out.
There are 5 member of the 27 club. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Kurt Kobain. How many Brits are in this infamous list, the sealed stamp of approval of rockstar god status? 1. Uno. Un. One. The ratio of Brits to Americans in this most critical list is 1:4, and that ratio plays itself out all over the place.
Is it wrong to base my decision on a list of musicians that glorifies a fiery death through rock and roll? No. Rock and Roll is a force of nature, a force unto itself, a mythical beast which exerts an enormous influence on the way people perceive and act upon the world. The thing about rock and roll is, it’s not even subliminal. These people are singing songs to us, lyricizing our deepest fears and desires, using everything that they have experienced to create a new experience for us. And we willingly buy (or steal online) these people’s souls, the product of an extraordinary effort of introspection, and then projection. It is a transcendent experience to listen to a live performance of rock; “a more perfect union” can be achieved, which is not all that different from doing the nasty.
Rock and Roll is a form of art, but it is also a form of religion. I, for one, deeply believe in the power of rock and roll, and the feelings and sentiments the music can inspire. Rock and Roll has changed my real-world actions before, it has pushed itself into my life and into the lives of the people around me. I am better for it, too.
When John Lennon said, “The Beatles are bigger than Jesus,” he was fucking right. There were, and still are, more people creating a more personal, intimate, transcendent relationship with their chosen rocker, than there are people creating those same types of relationships with Jesus. If you go to church and daze off, or do whatever, that doesn’t count, and I know it, and Jesus knows it. When you go to a real rock show, and something hits you in the stomach, you choke up, you tear up…you are having a fucking experience that can never be achieved again, ever, by anyone. It was your show, the band is on for you, and if you do it right, you can come away with something that is more than just a light show or magic show. It is a religious experience.
Now that I have established that rock and roll is a religion, I move on. Every religion needs a sacrificial lamb. The Gods of Rock are not a mellow breed. They do not take kindly to negligence. They need blood, and that’s what American rockers are here to provide. American rockers are the soul of Rock and Roll. Rock and Roll was invented here, Rock and Roll grew up here, and Rock and Roll will die here. The blues are from the deep South, via Africa, and I’m not really sure where country western is from. Mix those fuckers up, and you get some rock and roll.
I could go on. I could list band after band of American rockers, and compare them with British rockers, and see who borrowed what from who, and blabla. I’m not going to, though, because it all comes down to the fact that Rock and Roll is an American past-time, and it always will be. The altar of Rock is built on American soil, and stained with American blood.
I think that the icing on the cake is a club I kinda made up…the 28 Club. Right now, Bradley Nowell (sublime) and Shannon Hoon (blind melon) are the only two I have in there. I’m saving a spot open for Pete Doherty this year; he’ll be 29 next March.
For a sum-up, I chose Blind Melon’s song, “Galaxie.” Shannon Hoon died of a cocaine overdose, a roadie found his body in the bus, right before the band’s soundcheck.
Rock and Roll = Savage
For anyone who has shit to say about glorifying the wrong things about rock and roll, or blabla, I say, “Fuck off.” If it wasn’t about dying in the name of rock, then why aren’t there a bunch of badass rockers, making real rock and roll? They are out there, but they are few and far between. I am not lamenting the end of rock, because I believe in it too much to doubt. White Stripes, Strokes, Pete Doherty, here and there we see glimpses of eternal greatness.
There will be more.