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Millennium of rock
October 1999

Here goes the human spirit celebrating the arrival of a new millennium. Some tell us, that it's not really happening in 2000, but in 2001, but who cares? If that's the case, we may as well repeat all our festivities in 365 days again. Wouldn't that be fun?

Rock music is ... well, what is it? A phenomenon of this century? This millennium? Who the hell knows? We don't have recordings of the punk music which guided the Spanish Inquisition, do we?

We are aware of rock and roll by recalling Bill Haley way back in 1953. Jerry Wexler, the old man of rhythm & blues recordings would probably suggest a date back in the 1940s or even 1930s.

Rock music is certainly music of the industrialized age. It's produced quickly for fast consumption. It's exactly this feature which made it popular: a catchy tune which stays in your mind for some time and is replaced by the next catchy tune.

The music and its producers are icons of the "McDonaldization of Society" - here's the 2-3 min. song blasting through the loudspeakers of your car or the radio in your kitchen which will accompany you during the day.

Rock is - short lived despite all of the heroes who made it and are played again and again: Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, you name them. They have reached the status of icons, i.e. almost religiously worshipped by producers, consumers and fans.

Now comes the turn of the year, which turns out to be the turn of the century, and even worse, the turn of the millennium. What's the contribution of rock music to this event? Anything we can carry over from the 2nd millennium to the 3rd millennium according to the Christian calendar? Will rock music tell us what may happen the next 1000 years? And will it be there in 1000 years to tell us what went wrong?

It's a bit ridiculous, isn't it? To expect from this product of fast consumption the provision of guidance - be it forward or backward? Rock music, as I stated elsewhere, is - full stop. Its history is the history made up by those who write about it. Fans hardly know much about those events and facts way back 30, 40, 50 or even 60 years.

Rock music is - loud, energetic, straight to the point of now and here. That's why people listen to it because it expresses some current sentiments.

Some times, though, in its finest moments, it has provided us with songs which stay for much longer than the average 3 months. Those songs are precious as they remind us that there was something going on in our lives which still touches us. We listen to these songs again and again ... and they become part of our lives. Most of them, however, are songs with melodies and lyrics of the special kind, not just riffs and rhythms which turn rock music into so much fun.

Since we don't live a millennium, and since these songs are our personal icons, they may be totally irrelevant for anybody else.

Ever listened to David Knopfler's "Slow-Mo King"? No? Well, no wonder, his records are not sold by any big company. He's got to sell them via his web-site, but if you get hold of this song, you may be able to survive the transition into the next millennium (or whatever) without any major bruises.

Rock is - so let's keep straight forward and forget the rest of the millennium madness.

Copyright © by Eberhard Wenzel, 1997-2001