Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Old Time Rock N Roll

Visual imagery can be so powerful!
My early childhood was almost devoid of any influence of Western Music. Once, when I was quite grown up, I saw this movie, “Risky Business” in which the then sane Tom Cruise, who looked fresh and cherubic, danced wildly with an imaginary guitar, to the famous upbeat tunes by Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock-n-Roll”:

I Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music aln ’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ’n’ roll

I reacted with a WOW and I wanted to learn more about *Old Time* R-n-R!!!
This always evoked in me vivid images of “hippies”; who sported a very amusing fashion-taste of long hair, short-skirts, and bell-bottom or rather preferred being partially nude; who adhered to and advocated free expression of love-n-sex and were totally cool with the liberal use of psychedelic drugs. These images were so interesting and so overpowering, that it ushered in me, an interest to dig into the origins of this musical form, in the socio-political-economic set-up in which it evolved...
My impression is still sex-drugs-Rock-n-Roll ... BUT much more...

R-n-R evolved in the US, in around mid-50. So what was the mainstream culture at that time? After 15 years of depression and world war, there was relative stability, soldiers were returning home, there was economic surge and all this created conditions for birth of baby-boom generation (1946-64). Alongside, the "civil rights movement" - for equality in races - was gaining momentum. It was the time of Martin Luther King and of increased protests against segregation of Blacks n Whites in buses, schools and public-places.! The atmosphere of integration was beset with a lot of resistance and violence. This was the milieu, at the cusp of the most historic musical revolution: The emergence of Rock n-Roll. Not surprisingly, this new genre combined elements of music that was hitherto enjoyed separately by Blacks and Whites; and fused them together; to be enjoyed by both!!! So R-n-R has origins in gospel, R&B, boogie-woogie and country music of the time...

By the mid 50's the first batch of Rock-n-Roll songs was out. There is some controversy as to which song can be termed “first-ever” R-n-R song; contenders being:
“Rock Round the Clock” (Bill Haley n his Comets - 1954);
“That’s All Right, Mama” (Elvis Presley -1954)
“Maybellene” (Chuck Berry - 1955) …
Some other landmark songs of this era are; Peggy Sue (Buddy Holly);
Shake, Rattle n Roll (Big Joe Turner), Tutti-Frutti (Little Richards) …
This new music style was flashier, more upbeat, fast-paced, and people could swing n dance to the beats. It was termed as ROCKABILLY and is said to be the earliest form of Rock-n-Roll music, but almost died by end of 50’s!!!

The entry of Elvis Presley, in the mid-50’s; later to be crowned “The King”; is said to be the most significant development in music-world. Not only did he bring R-n-R into mainstream culture but also opened the doors of Black music in White population His versatile range, pulsating beats, hip-swiveling, pelvic thrusts, bizarre dress-sense, hair-style was like nothing that people had ever seen before. His early hits are rock-classics: Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, Don’t be Cruel, Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock, All Shook Up …

Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It’s down at the end of lonely street, At heartbreak hotel.
You make me so lonely baby, I get so lonely, I get so lonely I could die.

The 60's brought in new developments and so evolved R-n-R! Main events can be summed as The British invasion (Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Kinks....); Vietnam War (1965-73); advancements in medicines resulting in birth-control pills ( ushering sexual-revolution); increased use of drugs and coming of age of the oldest of baby-boomer generation !!! This mix of factors was the breeding ground of a new culture of “hippies”. They stood for everything that adult culture loathed. They rebelled against taboos: adopted a lifestyle of free sex n drugs; were anti-Christ; but most of all … they embraced Black music (although even played by White acts)!!! Adults hated it, teenagers loved it. These teenagers formed a distinctive culture and by their sheer number (baby-boomers) exerted tremendous social impact. They were politically active taking anti-war stance – with demonstrations against the Vietnam War. They stood against ostentatious life-style and favored simple bohemian living. This Hippie-Generation rightly earned the name as “Counterculture Generation”!

Along with hippie culture Rock- music entered the next stage and now the lyrics were more diverse on love, peace, anti-war, anti-racism, anti-Christ, serious messages, satires, humor, drugs … almost everything ..
Some hits of this era, reflect these developments:
- Protest songs (Give Peace a Chance - John Lennon; Unknown Soldiers - The Doors)

Ev'rybody's talking about ministers, Sinister, Banisters
And canisters, Bishops, Fishops,
Rabbis,and Pop eyes, Bye, bye, bye byes
All we are saying is give peace a chance.

- Satiric social commentary on the life-style of show and ostentation.
(I Can Get No Satisfaction – Rolling Stones, Dedicated Follower of Fashion – Kinks)

He flits from shop to shop just like a butterfly.
In matters of the cloth he is as fickle as can be,’
cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion

- Songs that reflected the ideology and values of this new generation
(My Generation - The Who; Times They Are A-Changing - Bob Dylan)

Come mothers and fathers all over this land
And don't criticize what you can't understand
Your sons and your daughter are beyond your command
Your old role is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand
For the times they are a changing

With the increased use of drugs evolved a new style of Rock-music: PSYCHEDELIC /Acid-Rock/ Hard-Rock. It was an attempt to replicate the mind-altering experience of drugs. It reached its peak popularity by about 67-68; with almost all rockers producing music which depicted this psychedelic experience. Some names stand out; Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd …. Some famous songs; (Strawberry Fields Forever - Beatles; Sunshine Superman – Donovan; Purple Haze – Hendrix; Psychedelic Shack – Temptations; Eight Miles High – Byrds……)

The high-point, or the ultimate climax of the hippie culture n Rock-n-Roll was Woodstock, 1969!!! It is said that over 500,000 attended the concert. Rains, drugs, nudity But remarkably no violence are highlights of this event.

(This write-up has been my attempt to understand the environment in which R-n-R evolved development from about mid-50 … to …70’s….)


At 02 November, 2005 17:41, Blogger Prashanth said...

Wow... quite a treatise! My first close-in exposure to this generation, their views and their music, etc. was in the television serial "The Wonder Years". Kevin's sister's character is portrayed wonderfully... and her fiance was played by none other than David Schwimmer. I could talk for hours about those episodes.

At 02 November, 2005 20:07, Blogger Artful Badger said...

but no fair..after all the prodding..it's right that you atleast inform that you have created a blog :D...he he..
Wow..quite a rock fan...
In terms of general lyrics, some of the most lilting lyrics I have heard in recent times are from U2...'One'

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head

At 02 November, 2005 22:51, Blogger Intern said...

Prashanth and Ramani,

WOW!!! Someone would actually read and comment in this Blog is the last thing I expected!

But my main intention of starting a Blog has been to assort, compile and organize the plethora of the information I've gathered on music-n-movies. Soon, I'll start a Blog on movies; and I think these two would be my main focus! But too early to say anything ...

[Prashanth] Thanks!
I remember I used to enjoy watching "Wonder Years"; but now my memories are kind of blurred .. SAD.

[Ramani] Yeah, I should have informed you, and I'm sorry I didnt. WELCOME!!!
I very much like U2 myself and "One" is a wonderful song. I quite admire Bono.
About posts on Rock-music... many more will follow.... next maybe on "psychedelic rock"; which I really enjoy ...


Post a Comment

<< Home