By Brian McKay
Music goes through cycles. Some periods are amazing and others are just pure shit. It seems that there is a direct correlation between social change and musical brilliance. Decades can be spent in non-creative hell and then BAM! it just hits and it is way fucking good.
Don't think it's all junk during the down times. There are still some standouts and inevitably some guys using some serious drugs that create amazing stuff in between the illusions. The distinguishing factor is in the amount of quality created in those rare periods of musical brilliance. Basically, there is a lot more during the good times.
The advent of jazz after WWI was such a period. Blues was another standout with the first publication of blues sheet music in 1908. Both were created in the Southern United States as a response to the strife and marginalization of post-Civil War Jim Crow laws and segregation. African Americans were left in between things; slavery was over but substantive rights were still decades away. Social strife created amazing music.
Elvis was sort of a transition as the music of the 50’s shyly stuck its head out from behind the curtain after the end of WWII and during the Korean War. It was really the Sixties where true brilliance returned. The early Beatles were fun but the later Beatles were deep and experimental.
Motown, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Who all came to prominence. Entrance into the early 70’s saw glam in the U.K. and Velvet Underground in the U. S. And then it all fell to shit with disco. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” may be a cry for screwed over single people, but her song also came out when “It’s Raining Men” was somehow cool. Neither will ever be on my iPhone, but Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” certainly will be.
We saw a brief reprieve with the advent of punk in the late 70’s and then it was just crickets chirping in an empty room. Hair bands and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” were fun, but their common karaoke use today shows they were just standard fair pop anthems. The excesses and neon ski outfits of the 80’s created some lackluster music.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, ushered in plaid shirts and grunge. It was spectacular. Meanwhile, the L.A. rap scene was winning over East Coast rap with its response to the drug wars and the disparity prevalent on Compton Blvd. NWA, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Tupac,Radiohead and Soundgarden, were all amazing standouts from the 90’s.
Then crickets once again. Realyy annoying crickets that won't stop chirping. Dance music. DJs and songs of summer by Robin Thicke and some kid named Bieber.
As always there have been a few standouts in this long interim but the new period of serious creativity is just getting started. We might not even know it quite yet, but it is arriving as you read this. Life is getting a new and really fucking good soundtrack.
Again, it is division and social upheaval that will be the creative force behind amazing music. We see it now with political polarization and the coming chaos of the 2016 election season. Fear on one side will result in replays of “Proud to Be an American”, but new ideas on the other side will fuel inventive soundtracks. Let’s just be brutally honest while we're at it, conservatives traditionally create shitty music.
The Sanders disruption and the new thinking of the Millennials are about to create some really cool stuff. If strife and disparity create the amazing soundtracks of life, we now have that in spades. Rebels create great shit and now there are plenty of things to rebel against. It is a thing of beauty.
Great guitarists should become abundant, lyrics will echo new views and higher octaves and things might just get more rowdy. As a music lover, one can't help but be excited. The only bad part is that we had to completely fuck up everything in society to bring back amazing tunes. Oh well, I am actually glad that my music budget just went way up.
As they said in the sixties, we might just “turn on, tune in and drop out”. Someday, we might be laughing that a song called “Hot Line Bling” ever existed just as we now laugh about “It’s Raining Men”. Get ready for an amazing, strife fueled soundtrack.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption. He is seriously stoked for a period of amazing music creativity. Rebellion is his thing but he is also stuck in some serious non-changing habits, with egg white whiskey sours being his newest one. His iTunes library is already over 60gb. A new music revolution might double that.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license