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The Future of Rock and Roll

We've seen it in a crystal ball and the pictures aren't pretty

The calendar says it's 1995, but the vibe in rock and roll these days is decidedly mid-'70s. As the Jimmy Page/Robert Plant juggernaut makes its way across the land, we're reminded that the biggest draws in last year's fair-to-middling concert season were highly profitable treks by the likes of the Eagles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.

Meanwhile, Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler continue to preen, pout and shake their moneymakers on MTV in steady rotation with young bucks such as Green Day, Offspring and Hootie and the Blowfish. It's a good bet that in 1996 you'll still be seeing plenty of Tyler and his bandmates between promotional spots for The Real World 5, while the best chance to catch a glimpse of any given member of the Blowfish will be behind the seafood counter at your local Rice Epicurean Market.

Even mod-rock geezer Rod Stewart, whose once illustrious career peaked with "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" in the late 1970s despite a string of fluffy pop hits in the late 1980s, has enjoyed a not-so-insignificant resurgence in popularity and sales on the heels of an MTV Unplugged appearance a couple of years back. As, for that matter, have Eric Clapton, Neil Young and, now, Bob Dylan. (Come to think of it, the Unplugged phenomenon is a whole other ax to grind, and leads to some nightmarish conclusions. For example: Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain" is tailor-made for the show's format. Can a Mark Farner revival be far off?)

The continued success of Plant, Tyler and their fiftysomething cohorts testifies to the amazing longevity of rock and rollers who depend on their looks (and wardrobes) to perpetuate the fiction of youthful rebellion and to maintain a psychic connection with the Alternative Nation. That gets us to wondering: do today's young music celebrities have what it takes to go the distance? Sure, Billy Joe Armstrong and Snoop Doggy Dogg may be hot now, but will they be able to maintain their high Q ratings among teenage and twentysomething consumers in the mid-2010s?

Wonder no more. We've dusted off the old crystal ball to see what the future holds for selected members of what Rolling Stone has dubbed rock and roll's Generation Next (the numbers in parentheses indicate the performers' ages in 2015, the year at which we gazed). As you can see, time generally waits for no one.

Billy Joe Armstrong (43)
Armstrong and his former bandmates in Green Day still hold the record as the youngest performers to ever play the now-annual Blockbuster-Woodstock Family Music Festival. Armstrong called it quits in the music business in 2002 when, having reached the age of 30, he was offered the opportunity to fill the "conservative" chair on CNN's Crossfire.

Quote: "They ... just ... don't ... get it. People, we need to send those folks in Washington a message."

Rat Bastard (52)
Following the startling and unexpected success of the Miami band To Live and Shave in L.A. in 1996, Bastard succumbed to the temptations of stardom and moved to Los Angeles. He split from To Live the following year to form ASCAP Sound Machine, an all-star band with vocalist Axl Rose, ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Billy Corgan and drummer Don Henley. With the money from last year's record-breaking concert tour safely in the bank, the members of ASM are now putting together a boxed compilation of their work. Bastard also found a lucrative sideline developing and producing halftime shows for the NFL's Super Bowl. Last year's show, "Up With People: The Reunion" actually garnered higher ratings than the game itself.

Quote: "Turn off that fuckin' noise! I'm tryin' to work here!"
Kurt Cobain (48)
Apart from the execution of convicted double murderer O.J. Simpson, the most sensational story of 1997 surrounded the re-emergence of Cobain. In a surprise appearance on Larry King Live, Cobain admitted he had faked his suicide in 1994 to escape the pressures of stardom. Near tears, the soft-spoken, apologetic singer/songwriter said he'd had time to sort out his personal demons, and was ready to start over with a new perspective on life. However, two conceptual solo albums revolving around his experiences watching the Home Shopping Network failed to make a dent in the charts, and Cobain quietly retired just outside of Seattle in 2000. He is now a certified Sandwich Artist at a Subway in Bremerton, Washington.

Quote: "I shoulda stayed dead."
Snoop Doggy Dogg (44)
Dogg (born Calvin Broadus) turned his back on the gangsta lifestyle after a near-fatal auto accident in 1997 and a subsequent six-month stay in the hospital gave him time to reflect upon the entertainment industry's impact on young people. At the end of the 20th century, Dogg pioneered the "Virtuous Rap" sound, having founded the record label Westa White Guys Ain't So Badd with William J. Bennett. Dogg, Time's Man of the Year in 2011, now makes his home on Martha's Vineyard.

Quote: "You want it Virtuous style?" (Bill Bennett response: "Oooh Doggy, I love it Virtuous style.")

Beck Hansen (45)
The world's most famous one-hit "Loser" found his true calling in 2004 and now makes a comfortable living concocting humorous scenarios for Mentos commercials.

Quote: "So, this guy, like, he's out goofing around with his buds, right? And he, like, you know, takes, like, a piece of paper off the floor and, like, uh, no wait! He, uh, like, uh...."

Liz Phair (48)
Phair continues to be the world's most wonderful, talented and gorgeous woman, and resides in Los Angeles with husband Jim Murphy, whom she met on a whim following the publication of an article by Murphy speculating on the future of selected rock stars. The happy couple is frequently spotted at Hollywood nightspots, sharing a bowl of Shepherd's Pie and engaging in good-natured verbal sparring with fans.

Quote: "I'm certainly glad I called Jim Murphy on a whim following the publication of his article about the future of selected rock stars."

Henry Rollins (54)
Beginning with his hard-core band Black Flag in the early 1980s and continuing with his "spoken word" work through the end of the century, Rollins steadily built a reputation as rock's "kooky intellectual" and amassed a huge following of fans. But in 2005 Rollins' career took a dive when, asked to recite a poem for the inaugural ceremonies of President John F. Kennedy Jr., Rollins pulled out an early work titled "No Deposit, No Return." Amazed at the sheer vapidity of the piece, critics re-examined the Rollins oeuvre and declared the artist "intellectually bankrupt." Rollins soon abandoned rock and roll and went to work for Kenner Products, where he helped develop the best-selling interactive computer program for children, My First Poem.

Quote: "There once was a rock star from Nantucket...."
Adam Sandler (48)
In the mid-1990s, Sandler was pegged the "next Gallagher" by some, the "next Weird Al Yankovic" by others. But the supremely unfunny comedian's career faltered by the turn of the century as audiences realized they were just hearing the same joke, recycled over and over and over, delivered in the guise of the same grating, tinny-voiced character.

Quote (in tinny voice): "'Table' rhymes with 'Grable.' Dontcha get it? Pleeeeeease say you get it?"

Eddie Vedder (51)
Once considered rock's best hope, Vedder experienced a string of setbacks at the turn of the century. In 2004, after several years of bitter litigation with his estranged ex-bandmates, the last original member of Pearl Jam was denied the right to use his former group's name. In 2005, Vedder launched the Joy of Angst Tour, but audiences stayed away in droves. Undeterred, in 2007, Vedder persuaded his wheelchair-bound hero, Neil Young, to join the band for a world tour. Tragedy struck at the first show when an exuberant Vedder slapped Young on the back in the middle of an extended guitar solo during "Cortez the Killer," causing Young to slowly roll off the stage and into the audience. Vedder immediately retreated into seclusion and has not been heard from since.

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