Rock & Roll Redux: Taking It Easy, Resting in Peace…

Well, you’d think that with Glenn Frey joining the fray of the dearly departed rock & roller fame of hollers, now we’d be hearing endless covers of Eagles’ standards and personal testaments to the boys’ transition from post-Burrito bluegrass spin-offs to rock-and-roll juggernauts, BUT… naah, Bowie is still outdrawing the Eagles two to one, depending on your location and station to station…

Note to music programmers around the world: the thin white duke is dead. Can we give it a rest now with the tributes, trials and tribulations? I don’t remember John Lennon getting this much ‘dead air play’ and I know Lou Reed didn’t. I mean: I’ve heard the same twenty songs over and over, and have yet to hear much of anything new, and I wasn’t even a Bowie fanatic, not really…

Okay, I take that back. The tribute by Springsteen was sweet, and telling of Bowie’s magnanimity that he supported Bruce back in his formative years by covering ‘Growing Up’ and others. I did not know that; no wonder, since I never owned a Bowie album, not his earliest supporter, to be honest, and somewhat put off by the ‘glam-rock’ that he spawned—still am—though he himself quickly moved on to other genders and genres to bend…

I WAS an early supporter of the Eagles, though, back when the boys still knew how to pick bluegrass and best defined the SoCal country-rock fusion that Gram Parsons pretty much invented single-handedly and Jackson Browne used as a springboard to troubador stardom (yes, I owned the first Eagles album in eight-track). But I was never a die-hard fan and by the time they reached international super-stardom with ‘Hotel California’ I could care less. Ironically my interest in Bowie increased over time, starting with ‘Sorrow’, skeptical as I was over the glam scam…

Even more ironic is that Eagles outsold Bowie by a stretch, even with only a quarter of the number of albums produced. Bowie was more of a social phenomenon and consummate artist than a recording monster measured by number of sales. He simply revolutionized Western-oriented societies by making it okay to be weird. And if most recording artists and performers rack up sales by ‘branding’ themselves and knocking out the grooves endlessly similar and familiar, Bowie defined himself by constantly ch-ch-ch-changing. Simply put: he affected people—permanently and for the better, usually.

Unfortunately for most of the rest of the world, they never got it, if they ever even knew it. For example, almost everybody in Thailand—my second home—knows of the Eagles. Almost no one knows Bowie, even though a local artist long ago copped the name ‘Bowie’ and Thailand is the transgender capital of the world. That was Boy George who made that statement—sign of the times.

English-language pop music became big biz internationally in the mid-70’s and Eagles were part of that, as were the Bee Gees and John Denver, resulting in Hotels California and C&W-themed ‘Country Roads’ bars that exist to this day—Marketing 101. Bob Dylan? Never heard of him. Bob Marley they’ve heard of. Only Kurt Cobain gives Marley a run for his money as warbling-class hero of the Third World. Rap is big, but not especially Jay-Z. Kanye? Sure, anyone can; just hire a band… or better yet, a DJ…

The moral of the story is: where was I going with this? Oh yeah, I remember now. Rock-and-roll is dead. Yeah, right, and I’m Friedrich Nietzsche, ready to speak all Zoroastrian to you, about life and death and the gray area multi-color in between. That’s where rock-and-roll lives, in the nooks and crannies of your imagination—and it’s dying, if not dead, no matter what Dave Grohl has to say on the subject. Your garage is where you park your car(s), not park your ass trying to make it as an R & R band. That day has past, and America is growing up, ready to get a ‘real job’ and start making babies…

And, oh yeah, heroes are either dead or dying, too, they necessary for classic rock-and-roll. After all, isn’t that what Dylan, Lennon, Bowie, and others really are: heroes, as much or more than anything else? All our heroes are dead now, though the heroin lives on. Heroes arise when and where needed in a time and place of scarcity. Now that everyone wants to be a rock-and-roll star, and can be with a video cam and a cheap mike, there’s no more need. The rock-and-roll star system is dead, like publishing to boot, Hollywood likely to soon follow suit—I hope. America: you’re on notice…

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