As a forty-year-old artist, it is noticeable to me that the years bring with them a sense that one’s tastes have to keep changing. Rock music is certainly not the most advanced music in the world; is, basically, a kind of folk music; yet what’s good, or even best, about rock music (when it’s good) is a sense of solidity and depth, which can take a good long time to hear. Inversions abound: musicians might be surprised to know that to forty-year-old ears, George’s songs are the best, most musically solid, of the Beatles’ tunes; that many of McCartney’s 70s Wings singles (Goodnight Tonight, Listen To What The Man Said) are more solid then any of his Beatles material; and that of the Beatles oeuvre, the Lennon songs are the big floozies; in fact, the whole Beatles set-up, mythology and all, including hierarchical rankings, is a sham as one gets older. Viva George! As for more hometown pride/flag-waving; it is hilarious to me that Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton get to be ranked as acclaimed virtuosos on the surface, but Daryl Hall, for his vocal prowess, does not; Hall is another solid figure in pop music whose best songs get better as you hear them over the years. Then, the tug of war begins; do you have the guts to bring your own opinions to the surface, against the counterweight of who wants you to say what?
They did, on the other hand, play Hall and Oates with some frequency at the Last Drop in the Aughts. They also played the Velvet Underground, who I used to care for very much and don’t anymore; mature ears can’t not hear a paucity of musical intelligence in Lou Reed’s tunes, however interesting the lyrics might be. Big Star is even weirder; they shouldn’t still work, for a number of non-solidity musical reasons; yet, the je ne sais quoi factor is huge. The Big Star parts shouldn’t add up to something I can still listen to, but they do. Conversely, there’s so much about The Who that I want to get into again; like Roger Daltrey really putting some guts into his vocals; but the je ne sais quoi factor works the other way around with them. Then, you learn, the branch of rock subsists like Yes and much of Led Zeppelin, that’s actually classical music in disguise, and righteous as such; maybe Floyd, too; but then you wonder if Floyd were ripping off Sun Ra. And if you find yourself still able to deal with the Stones, it might be because, very much against the grain of most rock music, they were allowed to make a number of albums musically solid all the way through.
The Cars have to get better over the years, because their sense of what the electric guitar can do in rock recordings is more subtly advanced then it appears to be. Nick Drake is clearly a musical genius but lacks visceral impact; Bruce, Neil, and Van are still around in little bits; Bob and Joni never. Dylan starts, if most of us are being honest, from a middling ground, which he loses as one’s ears grow older. As far as the 90s are concerned, for me Smashing Pumpkins resolutely wins now as they won then. Whoever made the two or three major records had to be a formally trained musician. Bars were counted, folks. Poor Kurt is sounding pretty bedraggled these days, and Jeff Buckley is Daryl Hall’s worst nightmare, and a bad joke. The Aughts and Teens I don’t feel comfortable even addressing yet; we’re still too close to them. I will say that, with the Internet being what it is, there is no chance in hell that there isn’t a lot of good rock music floating around. For old heads such as me, it’s just a matter of being patient until you find the solid stuff. Music is solid, folks. The spirit of music is no floozy; and as long as people can express themselves on high levels musically, in rock and in higher branches of music, all of us who love and play music have a connection out into space which can never be severed.