When was the last time someone gave their life for rock and roll?
I mean, really? When was the last time someone got so deep into that excellent and precarious world of sex, drugs and debauchery that it just straight ended them?
Well, probably pretty recently, we just didn’t notice.
Some point between Kurt Cobain and the Internet, rock’n’roll stopped being the property of rock stars. Rock stars became about mass media and consumed with keeping appearances, meanwhile the residue essence of rock’n’roll trickled down to the masses to be re-ignited among common people (you and me!).
Consider for a moment the 27 Club, a group of dead rock stars who all went overboard and died at the age of 27. The “club” includes Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison. Here is a group of people who, save for maybe Cobain, got so carried away in that crazy fucking world that they didn’t quite make it out alive.
Jimi Hendrix asphyxiated on his own vomit after mixing alcohol with some pretty heavy sleeping pills. Janis Joplin overdosed on a potent batch of heroin. Jim Morrison’s death is still a little vague but it is generally accepted that he died of a heroin overdose as well. Kurt Cobain committed suicide (insert violent objections) but he was high as hell when he did it. Brian Jones was reported to have suffered a “death by misadventure” when he drowned in his swimming pool after abusing a whole shit-ton of drugs and alcohol.
You can call these people reckless, disturbed or whatever you like but you can’t say they weren’t dedicated to their lifestyle.
So what has changed? Are we all of a sudden too smart or too good to follow suit? Do we have such a heightened sense of self-preservation that we can’t give ourselves over to rock’n’roll entirely? If we did, school would fall by the wayside and we would probably disappoint our parents, so we ought not to.
Perhaps it is our familiarity with the consequences of that lifestyle that has thwarted its further existence. It’s the fear of becoming a washed-up, rambling old hippie that dropped too much acid and spends their days wandering the streets mumbling to themselves. I’m not saying that the rock’n’roll lifestyle is dead; I’m just saying that there are no shining beacons of light keeping it alive on a mainstream level. True rock’n’roll has been reduced to exist in our mid-sized venues, which might be better anyway. The closest, and also saddest, thing we have to a mainstream, balls out rock’n’roll figure is probably Ke$ha, whose music is sub-par but who does her best to go all out in terms of living the lifestyle.
Something else that ruined rock’n’roll is the idea of the role model. All of sudden our rock stars traded their drugs for positive images, took up some charity causes and did their part to keep kids in school. While children will always need positive role models, is it necessary for us to sacrifice the spirit of rock’n’roll in order to do it? No one ever said you needed to be sober to care about the environment.
Perhaps in the end rock’n’roll itself becomes a wholly selfish endeavour that requires absolute dedication and total disregard of positive role-modeling. Not that we should all run out, shoot heroin and pick up instruments, but someone needs to resurrect rock’n’roll properly. And soon!
image: Danielle Siemens