Every morning (when I have a morning class, that is) , you can (probably) see me, dark complexioned, with dishevelled hair and dull clothes scurrying towards the buses. But to the keen observer the most prominent feature would probably be my earphones, plugged in my ears with slightly more than adequate volume. Later, sometime during the evening/night, you can see me strolling under the sky with my cans, a demeanour that screams “I ain’t giving two shits about the world, I’m listening to Rock!” or at least that’s the way I see it. Most people would say that I’m this stoned guy who needs help. But such is my obsession with music. ‘Tis pure as the boys in a Taylor Swift song. Uptops to all Taylor Swift haters.
The immediate questions at hand would be- What music do I listen to? How did I come across such music (“I mean, such amazing music must have a backstory”)? You see, that’s long story – as I attempt writing in that direction, I hear a “BOO” echoing through the space-time continuum. So, I decided to be rather blunt and state my opinions and season it with a bit of trivia.
When it comes to music I simply do not listen to hiphop, Taylor Swift or rap. Unless it’s metal rap, of which a popular example is Linkin Park. Guilty of liking it a lot at one point of time. But then, most of us are. The second and highest of dictums is that “Mainstream pop is mostly a pile of poop”. Of course, there are a few gems in that heap, like “Hey there delilah”. However when “Bad Blood” won an award at MTV VMA 2015 my response was the the same as NOFX in their song “Dinosaurs will die” – which is “Prehistoric music industry, Three feet into la brea tar”. Lastly, autotuned voices are just as overrated as the Twilight series. ‘Nuff said. Period.
Except those mentioned above, I listen to most genres of music. Though my playlist is largely skewed in favour of Rock, there are quite a few Blues, Reggae, Country and Folk too. I find that it makes little sense to put such distinctions. Consider Bob Dylan- his music is a versatile mix of folk and rock. In fact, the album Bringing It All Back Home defined folk rock. Even today people remember the day when Bob Dylan “went electric”. Similarly his, contemporary Eric Clapton laid the ground for Blues Rock. An interesting trivia in context here is the song “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. Bob Dylan made the original in 1973 and Clapton made a cover of the same song. However, the song is mostly remembered in its pop rock version by the Guns N’ Roses.
Psychedelic rock is called so, because it drew inspiration from psychedelic culture that is the use of mind altering drugs. Bob Dylan was a forerunner here as well. He introduces the Beetle kids(back then) to cannabis(I never knew that until Wikipedia told me. I swear). The Beatles went on to make songs like “I Feel Fine” and “Day Tripper” as they were feeling fine and trippin’ on sunshine. The genre has a strong Indian feel with the use of sitar, ragas et al- which is obvious from the fact that the Beetles strongly influenced the genre(If you don’t find it obvious, then you don’t deserve to live). The Jimi Hendrix Experience Live in Stockholm 1969 is a masterpiece of psychedelic. By that I mean, it is the music to listen to while you are on cloud nine (If you know what I mean).
Many a time in music history, a band starts out a particular genre and moves on discover a unique flavour for themselves. But few artists are as revolutionary as Pink Floyd when it comes to defining entire genres. Pink Floyd originally psychedelic rock band went on revolutionize the landscape of music with its use whimsical lyrics of space, time, lunacy, conflict and death which are deeply philosophical, and the its characteristic extended compositions (Echoes is 26 minutes long) and outlandish experimentation with sound which later came to be termed as progressive rock. Pink Floyd is the music of my resting phase. By that, I mean that even though I try different genres of music from time to time and there have been drastic changes in my taste – at the end of the day I always come back to Pink Floyd. Always. Pink Floyd albums are also extremely themed. The Wall, for example, follows the tragic life of a fictional protagonist Pink from his boyhood days to an eventual self-imposed isolation where there is a wall between him and the rest of the world. He faces a fatherless childhood, an overprotective mother, an authoritarian education system, a system that makes him feel like he is a cog in the societal machine, each of which is another brick on the wall. It defined what would later come to be known as concept albums and art rock.
Since Bob Dylan’s “going electric”, music began to steadily get heavier. Led Zeppelin was among the first to experiment with heavier tones and distortions which later defined the genres I would come to love – Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. Zeppelin is highly regarded even today. Why, he topped the charts just last week with remastered re-releases of In through the Outdoor, Coda and Presence! I’d consider each and every one of Led Zeppelin’s eponymous albums to be classics.
Contemporary to them, in the US were the Black Sabbath- the gods of heavy metal. Black Sabbath explores darker themes in “Paranoid”, and even political themes in “War Pigs”, which is a reference to the Vietnamese war. Nativity in Black is a tribute album to Black Sabbath, with various metal bands playing covers of Sabbath’s songs. Ozzy Osbourne, the original lead singer of Sabbath on stage is a dope ass hype man on stage. A fun anecdote – on one occasion, a fan threw a live bat at him and he bit its head off, a feat that earned him the title “Madman of Rock”. The Ozzfest, owned by Ozzy is the annual metal fest that every metalhead wants to be in. Every time something amazing happens. Once, Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest steeped in place of a sick Ozzy in the Black Sabbath performance to the delight of fans from both the bands. For this year’s edition held in Japan, Ozzy is going to perform aside Slash.
What? Slash? Who? Only the greatest guitarist ever. His cover of the Godfather Theme on his guitar is so intense and carries with it the emotions of the movie that it would have Donald Trump tearing up like a kindergärtner. Apart from them, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax all feature in my song collection, alongside less popular ones like Saxon and Europe (Famous for Final Countdown). The Black Album by Metallica is a good place for metal n00b to start off with.
Many would disagree, but I find Hard Rock as good as Metal. Maybe that’s because I associate hard rock with AC/DC and Aerosmith. AC/DC has a certain raw energy and high voltage feel to it that keeps me pepped and the Aerosmith is an exposition of life through music. The Scorpions are hard rock as well, but I love them more for their soft songs like “Winds of Change”.
Besides the genres of rock above mentioned there is that I listen to but haven’t cared to go into further detail like the quirky fast beat songs by Dire Straits; the deep, fatalistic Deep Purple (Sweet child in time you’ll see the line. The line that’s drawn between the good and the bad). Or blues rock such as Creedence Clearwater Revival . Or just soft rock like Seals and Croft, Al Stewart or the Eagles.
So, I guess I have covered as little of Rock as I would find acceptable. Next up is the independent music era and basically genres of music that evolved after the 1970s which appear in the next issue due to the sheer length of the article.
Signing out for now. Peace out. Say hi to your Mom for me.
– Rama Krishna