Who Stole the Roll?

Rock and roll made one last valiant stand in the late '80s and early '90s, when unrepentant rock and rollers like Guns N' Roses and the Black Crowes pushed their way to the top of the charts — a lot of metal, especially fast metal, swings like a demon. As a matter of fact, vestiges of roll can even be found in the music of many bands playing this weekend's Rock the Bayou festival on the former AstroWorld grounds — Ratt, Great White, Dangerous Toys, Jackyl, Bullet Boys (featuring ex-GN'R drummer Steven Adler) and certainly erstwhile Poison frontman Bret "Rock of Love" Michaels. Then Nirvana came along and redrew the map, and it's been all post-grunge and rap-metal ever since.

But why is the roll worth mourning in the first place? Who cares about a little rhythmic flourish that's hard to define outside "I know when I hear it" when you can load up another round of Guitar Hero or Rock Band? First of all, because rock is a whole lot less fun without it — think of the roll as a sense memory of a time when music was less scrutinized, less compartmentalized, less civilized. And considering today's so-called "rock stars" are either manufactured pop acts in disguise like the Jonas Brothers or personality-free wankers like Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd, rock could use a little roll now more than ever.

Luckily, it's still out there; you just have to know where to look (besides obvious places like Rock the Bayou and Tom Petty's show Friday, that is). Though old-school rock and roll may be relegated to the nostalgia circuit at the moment, younger bands like The Hives, Drive-By Truckers, Kings of Leon, The Hold Steady and Black Keys — and even scattered modern rockers like Queens of the Stone Age and Toadies (see "No Deliverance from Evil," page 54) — all have moments on recent albums (see list below) where they both rock and roll.


Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers perform, with Steve Winwood, 7 p.m. Friday, August 29, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, 281-363-3300. Rock the Bayou runs Friday, August 29, through Monday, September 1, at the former AstroWorld location, Loop 610 at Kirby Dr, Little Steven's Underground Garage airs locally7 p.m. Sundays on KKRW, 93.7 FM.

Don't forget, the highest-grossing tour of all time was the Stones' A Bigger Bang outing a couple of years back (and it wasn't all 50-year-olds at those shows, trust me). Springsteen's right-hand man Little Steven van Zandt waves the rock and roll flag higher than anyone on his weekly Underground Garage radio show. And given the cyclical nature of all popular music, it's impossible — and downright stupid — to ever count rock and roll out entirely.

"I think it'll be back," agrees Hill. "At some point, people are going to say, 'We're tired of antiseptic music that's quote-unquote "perfect" — we want something that's kind of funky in there.' There's going to be somebody that has a hit record with a swing and rock and roll thing in the next five years. Without a doubt."


"It's too powerful," Hill says. "And it's a new sound to people. I see kids at Oldies shows and they're singing along — they love this stuff."

So maybe Neil Young was right after all: Rock, and roll, will never die. Hey hey, my my.

Ten Great Rock and Roll Songs from This Decade

1. Kings of Leon, "Holy Roller Novocaine"

2. Ryan Adams, "New York, New York"

3. Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out"

4. Wilco, "I'm the Man Who Loves You"

5. John Fogerty, "Creedence Song"

6. Drive-By Truckers, "Aftermath USA"

7. Queens of the Stone Age, "Little Sister"

8. The Strokes, "Juicebox"

9. The Black Keys, "Strange Times"

10. The Hives, "Hate to Say I Told You So"

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