Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The 1960s and 1970s Were the Age of Rock's American Renaissance

At least, that's what occurred to me on the way home: that great rock albums from the 1960s and 1970s are like the great novels from the mid-19th Century: they're the only ones worth having or enjoying, they represent a flowering of genius that hasn't since been duplicated, and they are more likely to repay close attention than anything that's arrived since, which is how we define classics. Blonde on Blonde is rock's Moby-Dick. Forever Changes is rock's Leaves of Grass.

This probably isn't true and may reflect nothing more than the calcified tastes of someone who can't get really excited about anything (with the possible exception of the White Stripes) that doesn't have some age to it. The last few discs I've bought are the Rolling Stones' Big Hits; High Tide and Green Grass, the Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing at Baxter's and Crown of Creation, the Stylistics Greatest Hits, The Doors' Morrison Hotel, and two Alice Cooper classics from 1971: Love It To Death and Killer.

Everytime I look at lists of great discs of relatively recent vintage, like this interesting one from The Onion, I feel I'm missing the boat (eventhough I do have, um, two of those discs listed.)

Music is one area where I no longer know what it means to be current.

I keep buying this old shit and then playing it over and over. Tirelessly, I might add.

Having said all that, the Alice Cooper discs are wonderfully mad and varied hard rock classics, back when the band was just that, a real band, and before it degenerated into a low-rent, one-man Broadway show. Take a listen in particular to "Dead Babies" from Killer -- the brutally cynical tale of Little Betty, a toddler who dies after ingesting the contents of an aspirin bottle, and whose trashy parents are glad to have her off their hands. ("Dead babies can take care of themselves; dead babies can't take things off the shelf.")

Presumably the only known rock song to use the word "agrophile," Cooper's description of Betty's dad: "something which thrives or lives in cultivated soil."

No comments: