How Classic Is Classic Rock?

Father Tucker

Ludicrous: If Carol Barnwell is the official spokeswoman of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, why did Craig Malisow not bother to publish anything she had to say during her 2007 interview ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell," May 21, 2009]? Why did he deem her remarks irrelevant to a story about the diocese? Why was she reduced to a callous chuckle?

Perhaps printing Barnwell's actual words would have taken up the valuable space he needed for his creative interpretation of them:"How ludicrous."

His words, mind you. Not hers. How ludicrous, indeed.

I do hope that in the future, Malisow focuses more on legitimate, unbiased journalism and less on portraying his interviewees as caricature villains bent on thwarting him. Granted, holier-than-thou, self-indulgent melodrama does have its place, but not in a story about the victims of sexual abuse.

Should a follow-up article on this tragic and painful situation be in the works, please find a less egocentric writer to handle it.

Thomas Blanton
Houston

Classic Debate

New rock sucks: I snickered when I read Ben Westhoff's piece on the "virus" that is classic rock ["Going Viral," by Ben Westhoff, May 14, 2009]. See, I'm from that era. Why, I even saw Led Zeppelin in concert back in the day. However, I'm always looking for new music to listen to. You can't just keep listening to stuff that came out 30 years ago, no matter how good it was. In fact, I have such a large music collection that I rarely even listen to anything "old." But here's the thing: By and large, new rock music sucks when compared to "classic" rock.

Are you seriously gonna tell me that there's anyone out there right now that's as good as The Who or the Stones or The Beatles or Zeppelin? Really? Name them. Green Day? The Killers? Arcade Fire? Much as I enjoy the bands out there today, the fact is, very few of them come close to comparing with the great old stuff. Believe me, I wish that wasn't the case. I would absolutely love to hear some great new bands, bands as fantastic as the old ones. They don't seem to exist, though.

Here's a question for you: Name a current band that will end up getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Keep in mind that you have to have been around for 25 years in order to get inducted. Any current bands gonna last that long, Ben? Is there anyone out there right now who is good enough, popular enough and influential enough to last 25 years?

I suspect that part of the reason that classic rock is still popular is that a lot of people like it, even younger people. Maybe they don't find the new music out there quite as thrilling as you do. Oh, by the way, if you go to YouTube, you can bring up a concert clip from last year featuring Win and Régine from Arcade Fire doing "Keep the Car Running" with "moldy" Bruce Springsteen. Apparently, they see something in him that you don't.

Scott Rose
Sugar Land

Online readers weigh in:

Forgettable: Your generation's music is not memorable. It is already consigned to the ash heap of history. The Beatles, Neil Young and the like have stood and will continue to stand the test of time. They know how to perform, play and entertain — triple threats. So many of the new bands can't even master one of those three ingredients.

Comment by mark from Park City

Feeling groovy: Your generation's music is nothing new. Other than some catchy "off the wall" names for bands, they channel the "old masters" in their work that's worth a darn. The rest is trash. For every "successful" new band, there is a distinct and ever-present style that can be attributed to an artist of the "classic rock" genre. Our musicians forged a pathway into music that has stood and will stand the test of time. Our generation was one of the most enlightened of the 20th century, producing leaders in the music industry who are still unchallenged in their abilities. Sorry, but your generation has a long way to go. And what's so bad about feeling groovy? It's better than pretending to feel nothing.

Comment by Rosie from Houston

Taking space: The name "classic" usually means that there is some real substance there. Perhaps it is "classic" because it has stood the test of time. Maybe it is classic because it actually has structure, harmony, melody and a craft to the writing. Then again, maybe it is classic because newer listeners are lazy, and call anything that is blues-based rock, or done in 4/4 time, "classic rock."

True, radio stations are appalling, and no one needs to hear "Free Bird" again, or "Bad Company," or especially "Layla." They are more cancerous than the music you cite.

Likewise, throwing together three random words to use as a band name and saying you dig Bowie — well, it just don't cut it. Put up or shut up. Most acts these days are just taking up space. Their music will be as easily forgotten as their personas.

Comment by Tim from Houston

Fan of both: Yeah, great local bands play down the street, and I buy their tickets too. But I wouldn't hesitate to shell out $100-plus for Neil Young either. In 31 years of my going to his shows, he's never given less than the money's worth. And I've caught a lot of bar bands that weren't worth the cost of a pint.

Comment by Nick Danger from Chicago

No support: It's what listeners are familiar with. Radio does not play the diversity it used to; it does not support up-and-coming artists. Kids are listening to new music over the Internet, and these bands may have a million fans, but from 150 countries, and they can't fill an arena in any given city.

Comment by Walker

Good music: Of Montreal is pretty cool. I like some of that band's songs, but only some. That's the case with most modern music I appreciate.

But I like five to ten albums from Pink Floyd, Rush and Black Sabbath. Not every song has to have a catchy melody, because the music itself is good. Who can say that for Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn or any other guitar-based modern rock played on the radio? Would you even notice the difference if you switched the guitarists out?

I will grant you one thing: There's an unbelievable array of metal these days. Communic, Dream Theater, Kalmah — it's great. The stuff I'm being force-fed, though? No way.

Comment by Steve

Really enjoyed this piece: There are a lot of reasons for older music continuing to dominate radio and arenas, but I think part of it is that these acts have been established as legends and younger musicians are still in the process of earning their credibility. There is a lot to say for being prolific and creating a large catalog of quality music. One of the problems with the current music scene is that bands blow up — i.e., The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand — but they don't have that much to back it up with after the first album or two. And that's frustrating for music fans who tout these bands and then watch their subsequent albums decrease in originality. I think the shift is on, though. Your typical college students will put on an MGMT album at a party years before a classic rock album. They probably did not pay for the album, though, and therein lies the entire problem.

Comment by Cousin Chris
from San Francisco

It's the execs: The author is laying the blame in the wrong place (the listeners). The author needs a history course on the executive side of the industry (not the performance side). The problem lies in the record companies' highest levels and has trickled down to the bottom for about 25 years.

The change came in the '80s, when the companies were taken over at the top by people with business experience, not music experience. In the '60s and '70s, the acts were given contracts for many albums and given time to develop. First album didn't sell? No problem; Ahmet Ertegun believes you have it and will give you time to prove it. How has it been for the past 20? One to two record contracts, renewable only if you go platinum. How has this affected radio? Executives of the same mentality own the stations. Why gamble with the latest Pearl Jam when "Jeremy" has already proven to make money for us?

Comment by Zep from Houston

Fuck current music: I was in high school in 1999-2003, and I hated my generation. I hated Jay-Z, Blink 182, Eminem, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Coldplay, Slipknot, and Alicia Keys. So I sought refuge in classic heavy metal. Ozzy, Metallica and Iron Maiden. Want to know how much my parents had to do with that? Zero. At best, I only have three artists in common with my parents — Bob Marley, Van Morrison and The Beatles. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I'd even be into metal if my parents liked it. I'd probably be too weirded out.

Don't want to hear "Start Me Up" for the millionth time? Don't listen to Classic Rock radio. And who cares if our culture has an identity or not?

Comment by Josh

It comes in cycles: I remember thinking how foolish my friends were for buying Doors and Led Zeppelin albums when I was a kid. That wasn't my music; it was someone else's. My very first CD was Camper Van Beethoven. Now I go to the mall or to festivals and see young kids with Nirvana T-shirts and think they are just as bad as my friends who wore Jim Morrison T-shirts when I was young. I want to tell those kids, "That was my music; get your own."

But keep the faith, the cool kids will always find the new stuff. There is hope for Animal Collective, TV on the Radio and the like.

Comment by roger from houston

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