When giants walked the earth…the end of “the age of rock stars…” a personal view…

who1.jpgI think maybe this starts at a Who concert in 1976:

I went to the concert with two musician friends of mine and some women who, for reasons obvious to me at least, shall remain nameless. Toots and the Maytals, one of the great reggae bands, opened the show. In retrospect, they played a nice opening set – what there was of it. We booed them off the stage early.

I always rationalize to myself that it was because they covered John Denver’s execrable “Country Roads” – I mean, who in hell can tolerate “Almost Heaven/West Jamaica” as a lyric? But that wasn’t the real reason we booed them off, pissed off Pete Townshend, and had to wait an extra half-hour for The Who to come out and play an amazing show.

What we wanted was the spectacle. We wanted The Who – rock stars who’d give us a show worthy of our grubbily lofty expectations. It was 1976, after all. No one would want to see authentic musicians like The Maytals playing their music – we wanted the Big Bang.

And The Who delivered – a laser lit , ear ringing spectacle that I have long told anyone who’d listen was the best concert I ever saw….

In Art Into Pop, British scholar and critic Simon Frith speaks of the “recuperation” of Pete Townshend into a “pop star” (the Brits use the term pop almost interchangeably with rock and certainly have a much less pejorative connotation about it than Americans do, so relax) as explanation of how Townshend “lost control of [him]self” as an artist. By that, Frith means that the rock star lives in a “dual” culture that both rewards artistic risk and commodifies the artist/person taking that risk. Think of the sensation of Hendrix when his talent exploded onto the American consciousness at Monterrey – and of the pathetic circumstances surrounding his death and the fight over his estate.

I don’t think it’s by chance that in The Rolling Stone History of Rock the image for the chapter on The Beatles IS NOT a picture of The Fabs – it’s a picture of a British Bobby holding the limp body of a teeny bopper who has fainted from the sheer ecstasy of being near (physically and temporally) her heroes. More than any other media outlet Rolling Stone promotes the ideal of the rock star culture: a culture that Simon Frith describes this way: “the rock experience ‘the magic that can set you free’ is never described but endlessly referred back to as some mythical adolescent moment against which all subsequent rock moments can be judged.” He goes on to point out this about Rolling Stone: “What they value in music is its ability to infuse hedonism with a sense of community….” As David Sanjek notes, “It is an essentially conservative, even mystical approach to music….”

And it’s Rolling Stone who decided who were rock stars – “Wenner identified rock’s authenticity with a limited set of figures who formed the publication’s icons of the rock canon: these include Dylan, the Stones, and the Beatles” (Sanjek, Pleasure and Principles). Of course, Rolling Stone also gave proper obeisance to the great progenitors and contemporaries of the “anointed ones” – folks like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, Hank Williams and Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, and James Brown and George Jones were lauded for “authenticity.” (Remember that cliche from the 60’s “keeping it real”?) But those rock stars – The Beatles/Stones/Dylan triumvirate – dominated and defined rock stardom – and its attendant cultural myth-making.

Now David Shumway offers us an overview of his forthcoming book from NYU Press, on rock stars as cultural icons. In a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education called, interestingly enough, “Where Have All the Rock Stars Gone?” he explores what a recent WBUR (Boston NPR) On Point program called the “The Death of the Rock Star.”

Shumway argues what I’ve heard argued before – that the reasons for the fading of the rock star from relevancy are the following: the splintering of the mass audience that post WWII icons from Elvis to Kurt Cobain could draw to them; the evolution of technology which changed listening habits from mass media communalized (everyone tuned to rock radio) to idiosyncratically individualized (each one to his/her iPod); the mutability of the powerful cultural forces (the rise of Baby Boomers to adolescence and young adulthood; the Civil Rights movement; the Vietnam War) over time from central, uniting issues to “the dustbin of history.”

Shumway’s right, I believe (and I suspect those of you educated in postmodernist, cultural studies analysis would agree) but there’s something in his Jameson/Baudrillard/Hall “academized” approach that leaves me with a sense of being unfulfilled. And I think I’ve figured out what it is.

Let’s use an analogy – a metaphor, if you prefer – and the more persnickety of you may insist that this comparison is metaphorical – so….

What I may have been experiencing at that concert in 1976 was, in rock experience terms, my “peak oil” moment.

I’d been listening to rock since I was 6 or 7 (I had an aunt less than a decade older than I who let me play her old 45’s – that’s how I discovered Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and other primeval greats). I was on the cusp of adolescence when Beatlemania hit – I got my first guitar the following Christmas, setting me on a path that led to professional work as a rock musician for a number of years. By the time of that Who concert in 1976, I’d seen almost everybody who mattered (to me, anyway) except Elvis and The Beatles (and I’d see The King some 5 months later, only a few months before his sad demise that came apparently while he was on the throne – life is full of irony). Having worked in the business (and I would work in it part-time off and on for another 18 years), I knew a lot about what was behind the music. The filth and the fury, one might say….

But there were still bands I had held in awe – that I needed to see for my life to be complete. The Who, of course, was one of those bands. And, as I noted, they delivered shock and awe suitable to my lofty opinion of them.

But a year later much would be different – I’d be listening religiously to Elvis Costello, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols. And my feeling for those musicians would be considerably different than the reverence in which I held the groups who formed for me rock’s holy trinity, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who. And while I admired the intensity and serieuxment of The Clash and the talent and artistry of Graham Parker, Joe Jackson and the plethora of New Wave artists who came in the wake of the sea change that occurred in rock with the dying of the “dancing days” of rock’s arena gods, something was over, I knew.

And then that goddam madman shot John and the dream was really over.

Rock became, despite my sincere efforts (and those of dear friends who push good new music at me constantly) less than everybody’s everything….

There have been golden moments since – seeing a group in a local club that turned out to be a big deal (Dave Matthews Band); the sloppy, raucous joy of The Black Crowes and Georgia Satellites; hearing Nirvana for the first time and knowing that a transcendent band could still simply appear. But those golden moments have been tempered by the loss of spirit guides and bright lights – Kurt’s suicide, George’s cancer….

And more and more the business trumps the music. The rule used to be that one could determine a band’s greatness by its third album. Many bands had an initial good album. And one usually forgave the sophomore slump. But if a band (or artist) was worth a damn long term, the third album demonstrated it. A few examples to prove my point: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Damn the Torpedoes; Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run; U2, War; REM, Fables of the Reconstruction; Nirvana – oh, that’s right (sigh)…..

Think. How many bands can you name since Nirvana’s passing that have had careers that even mattered for three albums?

Now we are infected and afflicted with manufactured music by manufactured artists. Tell me – do you consider Justin Timberlake a “rock star”? Timbaland? Fergie? Don’t rock stars play instruments? When did dancing around like a stripper to pre-recorded soundtracks begin to qualify as rock performance? Ashley Simpson, anyone? Anyone?

Maybe you’ll dismiss these as old geezer complaints. If so, you’re missing the point – or maybe I haven’t made it. Let me try again….

Once there were these people who played instruments and wrote songs that made us want to change the world. We hailed them as heroes.

After all, where does one hear this kind of stuff now?

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

They were called rock stars. They belong to the ages now. We may never see their like again….

21 replies »

  1. Music is about the time and place that you hear it,what state of mind, what level of maturity. Those artists you mention made such a huge impression on you because,in some cases, they were the first of their kind and you were ready for them.
    Coming from a similar age group, I think, I can remember when it was hard to hear the good stuff, commercial radio was all singing dogs and Doris day songs. You had to know someone who had the latest stuff. Now one can’t turn around without seeing the latest thing from Spangle and the Spanglers up close and personal.
    But that just means that you have try harder than you used to, to block out the bad stuff and hear the good stuff. You still might have to know someone who has the good stuff.
    So I disagree with you a little that we may not see great artists again, we may have to search a bit harder to find them.
    I do share your concerns that modern music might not be very durable.
    Do you think that part of the attraction with The Who was watching Townshend mature?

  2. This is a pretty airtight analysis, I’d say. I feel like there’s a piece missing in here for my generation, though. You note that something changed when punk and New Wave arrived, and you’re right. Sure, there were still stars – megastars, even, because that was a good decade before U2 blew the lid off – but something fundamentally changed. Elvis wasn’t Pete. GP should have been bigger than The Kinks but he wasn’t. And so on.

    Once we get further along into the ’80s you can begin blaming my generation for its devaluation of stardom. I mean, come on – Pavement? Bitch, please. We dismissed the grandiosity of stardom perhaps because we saw it as so inextricably Boomer, and also because it was so very corporate. And the system had no place for us, so fuck the whole system.

    But this doesn’t quite cover it, because the change happened on the Boomers’ watch. It happened before we really had much say in things. So maybe there was a fatigue at the tail end of the Boom as it began prepping for real adulthood?

    It’s also worth noting that the change happened as all of America began getting eaten by corporatism. Look at the economies of our cities in NC at that time, for example. Piedmont Airlines was going completely to hell at that point, RJR, Hanes, etc. So maybe there’s a more elemental industry driver underneath some of this?

    Don’t know, but a great post….

  3. Hamish,

    I think basically we agree. I freely admit to your first point – obviously I was primed for the emergence of the great music that came in my childhood and adolescence. And clearly the fact that I became a musician reflects my own inclination toward music absorption….

    I remember well how the underground worked to help us find bands that seem all too obviously legendary now. Little Feat, anyone?

    I still love music, play music, work at finding great new music (I’m currently a big fan of Jets Overhead, for instance). And I have good friends who send me good stuff all the time….My sons are also in the business and send along recommendations regularly….

    But something has shifted. Maybe it’s the sad state of music since “pop” took over in the later ’90’s. Maybe it’s age. As I said in my essay, I’m not sure I articulated my feeling as clearly as I’d have liked.Part of the issue is the shift that rock musicians themselves made – from the position of “anti-stars” like Costello or The Clash (indeed the entire punk ethos is built on that idea) to the “we’re just schmucks like you” positioning of REM (and early U2) to the “loser chic” of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the grunge movement, there’s been a retreat from stardom that, while noble in its aim, hasn’t served rock well. I admire U2 for stepping up to take the mantle of “band of record,” but they waited rather too late in the game to do so. All that sort of distaff academic inquiry they engaged in from “Zooropa” to “Pop” to “Discotheque,” while brilliant in its way, rendered them somewhat irrelevant to too many mainstream rock fans – and their conscious decision to return to their original musical formulae only served to alienate too many rock critics….

    The only rockers who courted stardom were metal heads – and they weren’t exactly bringing any deep messages…. 🙂

    We no longer have bands of record. That, to me, is troubling….

    Of course, seeing the career arc of the great artists is gratifying – but as in U2’s case, what often happens is that rock critics, a notoriously unreasonable bunch, often greet artistic growth and experimentation with skepticism. And despite what we might say, what critics say about rock still affects us….

    The media is making smothering outbreaks of independent artists a goal. The Internet gives me hope – but for now, that’s all I’ve got – hope….

  4. Sam,

    See my message to Hamish – especially my paragraph on the retreat from stardom that the Xer’s led. We’re in agreement….

    Your point about the relationship between the rise of corporatism and the decline of rock stars is a brilliant stroke. And it makes the current sad landscape of rock all the more explicable.

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  6. The Sex Pistols said that their goal was “to destroy rock and roll.”
    They failed in this mission, of course (rock music remains a giant, corporate, profitable biz three decades later). But I think that the Pistols DID succeed in making all subsequent rock music seem a bit silly and pointless.

    The fact is, rock as an art form had pretty much exhausted itself by the mid-1970s. There has been great rock music since then, of course, but nothing that has really been ground-breaking. It’s all a retread of what’s been done before.

    However, there is still great music being produced these days. I’m not sure much of this music belongs in the “rock” category. And most of the best music is quite obscure—you have to dig to find it.

    I despise radio, MTV, the Grammys, and the Billboard charts—it’s all dogsh*t as far as I’m concerned. Still, spend some time listening to the sound files at a site like Aquarius Records, and it becomes obvious that there is still a lot of worthwhile music being produced today.

  7. Jim,

    I agree with a lot of this post, but also disagree with much of it.

    The corporatization of music is definitely not new (Payola scandals were around as long ago as Elvis, after all), and it clearly has accelerated in the modern era, stripping music of any sort of power to make changes and reducing it to the lowest common denominator of selling singles, ringtones, and commercial product tie-ins.

    Hip-hop, more than heavy metal or any musical form in recent years, restored some of that rebelllious rock n’roll spark that the parents just didn’t understand. Public Enemy was to my generation what the Clash was to yours–a bomb burst in the living rooms of middle America, something the kids could claim as their own and inspire them to flip a bird to polite society.

    But white record execs realized that conscious rap and even the early gangsta rap (Ice-T, NWA, early Ice Cube) was too dangerous, so they pushed the most crass, materalist, misogynist aspects of it and buried the rest. It’s much easier to sell gangsta fantasies of guns, drugs, and bitches to middle-class white kids than it is the history of slavery, and thus we end up with 50 Cent and snap music, the modern equivalents of shuckin’ and jivin’ if anything is.

    You don’t give metal enough credit either–bands like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Biohazard, Testament, etc. were singing (well, screaming :)) about important issues like the futility of war, the environment, our civil rights, and so on long before it became trendy to be socially conscious again. Those guys inspired me to be aware of the world and my place in it, and I know they did the same for thousands of other young kids growing up in the ’80s. Indeed, one can paint a direct correlation between Metallica’s embrace of the “rock star” image and the decline of their music. They stopped being angry and passionate, and turned into a bunch of self-involved burnouts.

    In terms of modern rock, I really have no use for the current crop of navel-gazing androgynous emo hipsters that’re supposed to be The Next Big Thing. The Strokes, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, all that crap is so much calculated poseurdom to me.

    But there’s still a lot of credible, passionate, world-changing music being made. You just have to find it. Look at Nine Inch Nails–Trent Reznor made one of the most brutal anti-Bush records I’ve ever heard (“Year Zero”), and he’s selling out stadiums with no radio or video play. That’s a guy who’s still relevant and who’s been making music since 1989. 😉 Or bands you may not have heard of, like VNV Nation or Covenant. They’re underground here in America, but they’re making some of the most beautiful, uplifting, and unifying music I’ve ever heard.

    In sum, rock is definitely dead as it once was, but it has great potential to be reborn as something else. Your world is gone, and mine is fast on its way. That’s always the way of it. The kids will always find something new to be rebellious with, and one day it may catch fire and set the world alight.

  8. Thanks, Jim.

    As one of your age (ahem), I can remember definitional moments at concerts

  9. Jim- Great blog! It’s so true that there are no giants anymore. This has more to do with the media than you give credit for, though. They aren’t concentrating their focus on the bands/artists with that powerhouse third record, even though they are out there. I agree with Marc about the radio, Grammys, etc., too.There was a telling moment on VH1 this summer that summed up alot of what was wrong with the music industry in one sweet moment. Check out my blog about it here.

  10. Thanks for a moving and thought-provoking post, Jim.

    Yes, music becomes “less than everybody

  11. Ahem. Let me respond to these thoughtful comments:

    Martin: Hip Hop is not, repeat not rock. It’s great, it’s important (well, it was during the days of PE and some others of their ilk), but IT”S PLAYED OUT…..Read some of the critical stuff out there now. As for metal, while I respect your interest in Metallica (and maybe the others), they don’t have the mass appeal of “bands of record” as I alluded to in my post to Hamish. In fact, they sort of fit the “splintering of rock” thesis advanced by academics – as does Reznor, whose work I respect (but am no fan  of, in full disclosure.) And my world is anything but gone. You hear it constantly in commercials…. 😉 BTW, I’m old, Martin. I was 25 when Costello and The Pistols arrived…. And what you see as sublimation of the individual to the group I see as an abdication of leadership and responsibility. Sam offers a brilliant insight that the reassertion of corporate authority in the music industry parallels this abdication of that socio-political responsibility….And don’t be fooled. I listen to lots of stuff now. That’s why I listen to XM, about which I moan and groan, but which does play more good new music in a day than one could hear in two years of listening to terrestrial radio. My mp3 players are full of mostly classic stuff (not just rock but blues and jazz, too), but my XM is always on search for new stuff – and for now, at least, I get good stuff. It’s there where I heard VNV Nation and Jets Overhead…..

    Eric: Thanks for sharing the blog post – and the site. Great stuff!

    Russ: Yes, I know Richard Thompson. I respect his work and like some of it a good deal. I’m not the fan you are, but I get it….As for the Kinks, they should be part of that group I called the trinity – it should be a quartet – the tragedy of the British Invasion is that some simple mischief in a hotel kept the Kinks out of the US for 3 years and ruined their momentum. And you’re right about the new Ray Davies – up there with “Village Green” and “Muswell Hillbillies.” One other note – I saw Hendrix open for – ready? The Monkees. He only did 3-4 dates before they parted ways. The next year I saw him headline and Chicago opened for him. Those were heady days….. 🙂

  12. That’s cool that you like the new Ray Davies album, Jim. Amazing that you saw Hendrix back when he was opening for the Monkees.

    I read an excerpt in Rolling Stone of a Hendrix biography that came out last year. Like many, he went to Britain to seek his fortune. The day he arrived there he achieved stardom. In one day.

    Personally speaking, while these days I mostly listen to an esoteric form of electronica because it’s the perfect driving background music for writing, I’m a huge fan of jazz and reggae (though I’ve lost track of them recently), blues (never get tired of that — never), not to mention ethnic international music. A little classical as well.

  13. Ahhh, I miss the old, when I was working for a company that let me stream my music to my computer and I could set up a stream of the top 100 listened-to techno (or shoegazer, industrial, goth, or metal) and go all day listening to music I’d never heard of. Most of my recent CD purchases have been off the three page list of artists I made from those days. But as much as I think some of the artists are fantastic, none would be a “rock star” in any sense of the word. Not because they sucked, but because I had to work so hard to find them.

    These days when I buy something that isn’t on that big list, it’s because I found it through the “If you like this artist, you might like these others too” references on Amazon et al, or because people recommend the music to me and loan me a CD to listen to.

    There are times I wish I’d discovered goth and industrial 20 years ago. C’est la vie.

  14. Jim thanks for replying so thoughtfully. It’s a great discussion and a great post from you to start it.
    What I’m worried about is not that the great artists, such as you mention, are not there, rather they are submerged in a sea of dross. Who will provide the link that we all needed to realise that there was more to music than songs about kissing and dancing?
    You can’t fault people who are happy with that pop music but the opportunity to discover bands with more meaning in their music may be being lost to the average punter.

  15. I think blaming the music industry for corporatising rock is a bit naive. Prior to, perhaps, Elvis, it wasn’t really possible for a single artist to become unbelievably, insuperably wealthy a few months after releasing a single.

    Artists who were willing to persevere through years of slow album sales growth did so because they had something to say and believed passionately in what they were doing. They were entrepreneurs. No different from a person taking a decade to build a business.

    Then it suddenly became possible to get rich quick. The “formula” for a popular song was soon obvious and it’s a short step from there to Britney Spears.

    The exact same thing has happened in business. Very few are prepared to invest decades in developing a new business when it’s possible to be a billionaire by the time you’re 30.

    There is still talent out there, but it’s real hard to make it out through all the noise.

  16. The “there’s still talent out there” argument is both true and beside the point. Yeah, there’s amazing talent out there. The problem is that the cultural possibility for that talent has changed.

    Ask a simple question: could The Beatles happen again?

    From a corporate standpoint the answer is no, although the irony is that every radio station, every label, every promoter, every manager would kill for it. But the fragmentation of the industry and consumer channels parallels the corresponding fragmentation of culture – in order for something like that to happen there has to be one well from which everybody drinks.

    We’ve also seen the death of the ideology of stardom. The Beatles wanted to be bigger than the gods. So did The Stones and Zep and Floyd and The Who. Superstardom was an ideology and an attitude that the culture embraced. Now that has been replaced by an ideology that sneers at that kind of ambition. In the world of the anti-star the artist has to be one of the people, completely indistinguishable from the people in the crowd. Grandiosity of ambition is mocked. PASSION is mocked. Think about it – when somebody is obviously over the top enthusiastic about something, what do his friends do to him? “Tell us how you really feel,” right? They mock anything that aspires.

    If The Beatles came along today they’d either have to aim low or be giggled off stage. Their options would be indie obscurity (serious, but they’d need day jobs) or Justin Timberlake, where they’d have money but no respect.

    Yeah, there’s talent out there. And most of it is starving.

  17. Dammit, Gavin…

    When there were large numbers of relatively successful independent record companies (as there were in the US in the ’40’s-’80’s, artists had chances. One could be different and find someone who’d put your music out there in the marketplace and “let the market decide.” I should think you as a Libertarian would love that. In the ’80’s, when corprate and leveraged takeovers began in earnest, almost all those indy labels (Atlantic, Reprise, Asylum, Electra, and many others less well known) were absorbed into media conglomerates (Universal, Warners, Gulf-Western) many of whom also bought up the great independent book publishing houses (Random House, Delacorte, etc) and the movie industry. Since then, decisions about musical, cinematic, and literary artists are made by fricking marketing execs based on demographic studies rather than on some passionate record company’s willingness to take a risk because of his/her belief that an artist was worthy and deserved a shot at finding an audience. (Ahmet Ertegun and Lou Adler are two excellent examples of those “risk takers.”)

    And what we’ve gotten is goddam prole music – American Idol winners, dancing monkeys, and castrati (psychologically if not literally) who sing because someone tells them IT’S OK TO.

    For a man who appreciates “positive subversion” as much as you do, that should feel anathemic. And you’d be right to feel that way.

    Sam is right that The Beatles would be ignored now – but because they weren’t, that’s why corporate interest in a booming music business was sparked. And what did corporate force and fraud (wait, to use “corporate” and “force and fraud” together like that may be redundancy) do? Suck the life out of a vital, successful music business and make literature into nothing but formula work and turn movies into remakes of bad TV or sequels of mediocre movies. Why?

    $$$$$$$$$ – when the only thing one believes in is “property,” what one ends up with turns out to be worthless….Ask Tolstoy…..

  18. What I want … what will happen … I keep them separate.

    There are lovely little South African bands I adore to bits. I don’t expect them to become world-famous. I support them when I can.

    You can’t, as Sam points out, have the fragmentation of the industry (along all those niche interests that people have) as well as have the centralisation of industry control over who gets famous.

    The point is that rock music arrived as a massive surprise and then – as with any new product – fragmented. You could complain about the motor industry in the same way.

    Exchange “band” for “car” if it helps:

    The first cars were bespoke, produced and distributed by tiny manufacturers all over the world. The cost of each was high. Then along came Ford who produced a single make of vehicle at high volume along an assembly line. The price plummeted and soon the only cars around were vehicles produced in this way. The small bespoke manufacturers were either absorbed or went out of business (same as with the music industry). Then the fragmentation began. People wanted different vehicles for different purposes. So the large new corporations started designing a wide and ever-boggling set of vehicle styles.

    So that’s where we are: a few companies with massive scale churning out an ever-widening set of vehicles for an ever-expanding set of interests.

    Just like the music industry. Except, in music, the barrier to entry is less expensive than building the capacity to build a car. So a lot more people can enter on the margins on their own. There are large numbers of bands that release and distribute on their own but the world market is now dominated by the big record companies who have the scale to be everywhere. I think you’ll find more independent labels now than back in the 60s, and they probably sell more albums than back then. But the market is bigger and there is more choice. “Long-tail”, if you like.

    Music – like the motor industry – is now a developed and mature industry. It’s not like inventing the iPod and discovering you have no competition. Or like the Beatles and discovering no-one has ever made a catchy sound like that before and you expand out into areas like early American settlers on the prairie.

    How many bands are there now? In comparison to when The Beatles started? Same goes for cars? How many styles of vehicle are there now in comparison to when Ford got going?

    You really can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a democratic access to music to all people and then also demand that some new and esoteric band have unfettered access to that market without having any competition from others.

  19. “[O]ther older musicians are as good or better than ever” – You ain’t kiddin, Russ. I am continually bowled over at the quality and vitality of a hell of a lot of music from artists 40 and older.

    I feel your pain, Jim, but for me, as long as King’s X and Los Lobos continue to tour and record, rock & roll is alive and well methinks, and in damn good hands.

    That is all.