Bands mean well when they decided to create songs that celebrate rock and roll. They really do. Rock and roll should most definitely be praised and lauded. It should be sung about and shouted about – loudly – from the mountaintops. It is an art form that deserves much praise.
But Jesus Christ bleeding on the cross, almost all rock and roll songs that celebrate rock and roll suck a giant bag of suck.
No one’s favorite song, the ultimate jam, the tune that makes a person believe that life is worth living, is a song about rock and roll. It’s just not. At best you can kind of like it. At worst it is…well…the worst. It’s hard to have an anthem that is dedicated to a music form be your own personal anthem that speaks to you on multiple levels. Most rock and roll songs about rock and rock speak on one level – and that level is awfulness.
“Rockin’ In The Free World” by Neil Young, “God Gave Rock And Roll To You” by KISS, “Old Time Rock And Roll” by Bob Seger, “I Love Rock And Roll” by Joan Jett, “The Heart Of Rock & Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News are just a small cross sampling of the awfulness that is shaped when musical artists decide to pay homage to the art form they love, and in doing so dishonoring said art form. (Hey! Irony?) Even the classic rock behemoths have problems with songs talking about how much ass rock and roll kicks. The Stones’ “It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)” is most definitely not their most rockingest work. And Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll” is a song that everyone loves but in the band’s canon of work there are far better tunes. They are certainly not being the Ledest of Zeppelins with this one.
Singing the praises of a rock and roll in a rock and roll song is the equivalent of going to a rock concert and proudly wearing the T-shirt of the band you are seeing. No one wants to be that guy. And rock and roll bands shouldn’t want to be that band. There are so many ways to rock and so many ways to roll without declaring, “Look at us rock and look at us roll.” It kind of diminishes the cool factor of that band when you announce that you are rocking and rolling to your fullest capability.
If you were having sex with someone, would you want a running commentary about the fact that you are having sex? Would you want to hear, “We are having sex. Sex is awesome. I am great at the having sex thing. Having sex will never die! Long live sex!” Would that turn you on? If the answer is no, you have answered correctly. If the answer is yes, you have answered correctly for a person who has a peculiar and downright specific sexual fetish. And we all know that rock and roll music is sex. So to make a rock and roll song that is a running commentary about the greatness of rock and roll is just as unappealing. (Again, unless it’s a specific music fetish which in that case is even more peculiar than the sexual fetish.)
Music in general and rock and roll in the specific are constantly evolving. So the moment a band puts out a song celebrating rock and roll there is an immediate freshness expiration date stamped on it. The majority of rock and roll songs touting rock and roll are from the 70’s and 80’s and the sound and the feel of most of them are, shall we say, a little ripe? Even the phrase, “rock and roll” sounds a bit hokey these days. So while we should all encourage rock bands to rock out, maybe we should discourage them from telling us (ad nauseam) how much they like rocking out.