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MUSIC The changing face of Rock and Roll

Published 31 DEC 2017 14:23PM

Words by Sarah Smith




The culture of Rock and Roll was never without a sharp sheen, it carried the smell of dirt and cyan-lit sex, with the afterthought of white powder. But there was substance, a carnivorous flesh chamming up the gorgeous and gifted. But we forgave its temperament because to stumble across the sound felt kismet. It was to exist in a ramshackle funhouse.

The transient live wire was consumed as part of the popular market. Led Zeppelin and Queen selling over 240 million albums globally between them. But the form beneath that irrevocable swish of a cloak has gone.

It was always important to not give a f*ck.

“I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass.” (Dave Lee Roth of Van Halen)


Comedy laced with the shameless gluttony of excess. There was unerring clarity with which the crinkled, night worn genius’s both experienced and understood stardom as a foreboding undertaking.


In contrast, the late ‘rockers’ of the decade utilise bespoke tailoring. Marred intentionally with unkempt hair and a lazy gait, pout wrapped and ready to ship; we no longer think of rock-stars crawling through a romantic wasteland of glass bottles and sticky notes, instead they are part of the upper echelon of saran wrapped society.

It could be argued that the martyrdom of talent is outdated. But the search for the same hectic energy that allowed pre-AM spike Arctic Monkeys to beat out the Oasis crowd at Old Trafford cricket ground in 2007 was what turned the head toward the culture in the first place.

Purred semantics and chalky lullabies of white-washed jeans, bursting bubble-gum and the flicking of tongues don’t quite deliver the same sharp jolt to the synapses. The term became a dirty fingerprint on a whiskey glass. Picture the last dregs of tipped Carlsberg spitting on the surface of a splintered vinyl and you have the modern-day aurora of casually coiffed rock.

Yet the output of electronic fission that strips the walls has become cult classic. Vintage T-shirts And a brief modicum of nostalgia simper in the cubby-hole of leather Jackets and pelvic thrusts. With little to do than watch the dash lights flicker. On my first trip to Glastonbury, the titters and confused looks from the vast majority of those around me during Nick Caves set read..”Who is this old man?”.


The industry is partly to blame, it regurgitates the amplified version of youth culture Tenfold, retracts the dirty details and cleans out the alcoves. The flexing forearm is wilfully and gratuitously distended underneath the weight of mediocre strums and prancing wannabes. The appeal of ruddy alleys and dilapidated underground clubs crumbling under a faux-culture of the Queen's nose.

There are sparks of hope. The voice of that era still pulses with the likes of Alabama Shakes, Manchester Orchestra and Deer hunter whom all pay dividends to a sub-genre of a now dilapidated Umbrella.

In 2012 the Strypes canon-balled onto the litter-strewn scene. Scratchy riffs supported undulating vocals, trained through the gift of gab and trial and error as opposed to the search for a sound to support an aesthetic. ‘Blue Collar Jane’ was the thumping, kick over the telly climb out the window banger that stings of a 1970 ford pinto, cheap cider and uneasy adolescence.

But a dash amongst a slathering of industry catcalls, brief blinding and cathartic release, ‘The Strypes’ were described as ‘The Irish Teens Giving Rock N’ Roll A Kick In The Arse’, only for the re-emergence of the sputtering sub-culture to fall flat.


But perhaps dissolution is the natural course. There are no wars, the fight for equality is part of an open discussion, even the boundaries of ‘taboo’ have been joy ridden to the brink of “Oh..really. Cool?”. Bowie and Prince, two glittering anomalies, bench pressed androgyny on the open stage and the muscle became a sentient being of its own.

Even the coldest terrain of hyper-masculinity is dipping its toe in unconventional waters. Urban Alternative artist Jaden Smith is boldly the face of Louis Vuitton’s Womenswear.

Rock and Roll at its core, is rebellion. This is the untapped and unfiltered conglomerate. The push forward socially has, despite the election of Donald Trump and the simmering racial tension that sparked the vote for Brexit, given a voice to the previously muted. It is easier to create spaces, and consequently, we’d rather bold statements than flowery lyrics or stumbling drunkards flipping off the paps.


So the dream of financial stability is what is left, surplus income to spend as we so choose amongst the fashion savvy in Milan. Where no-one will judge you for wearing sunglasses Indoors.

Perhaps this is the voice of a generation ridden with student debt and tenacious political storms. More so than the cheese-wire wrapped tight around the minds of the sixties. It’s the yearning to fit in not as one atom of a greater movement. But as one of the elite. One of the special. One of the few.












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