From Jailhouse to Suburban Rock: Music Once Had the Ability to Appal and Shock. Now the Most Radical Symbol Worn by Fans on the Streets Is the iPod. as Rock'n'roll Reaches Its 50th Birthday, It Has Become Unbearably Middle-of-the-Road, Writes Sarfraz Manzoor

By Manzoor, Sarfraz | New Statesman (1996), July 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

From Jailhouse to Suburban Rock: Music Once Had the Ability to Appal and Shock. Now the Most Radical Symbol Worn by Fans on the Streets Is the iPod. as Rock'n'roll Reaches Its 50th Birthday, It Has Become Unbearably Middle-of-the-Road, Writes Sarfraz Manzoor


Manzoor, Sarfraz, New Statesman (1996)


Fifty years ago, a 19-year-old truck driver walked into a Memphis recording studio and changed the world. There are, inevitably, furious arguments over the precise details of where and when rock'n'roll was born. While some maintain that the date was 5 July 1954, with the recording of "That's All Right", there is an equally persuasive argument that it was 19 July 1954, when the song was released on Sun Records as the first single from Elvis Presley. The anniversary has been marked as a musical milestone. What has been less remarked upon is the arrival of rock'n'roll as a cultural phenomenon: revolutionary and dangerous.

Only three months before Elvis made his landmark recording, the United States Supreme Court had outlawed segregation in schools, in a ruling that provided the legal foundation of the civil rights movement. By borrowing--or stealing--the black sound of rhythm and blues, and adding his own distinct sexual energy, Elvis turned whites on to the feared "Negro sound", unleashing a cultural earthquake that shocked the older generation even as it delighted the newly invented teenagers.

Suddenly, even Frank Sinatra was not cool any more. He famously attacked rock'n'roll: "It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons, and by means of its almost imbecilic reiteration and sly, lewd, in plain fact, dirty, lyrics ... it manages to be the martial music of every side-burned delinquent on the face of the earth." Sinatra didn't get it. Rock 'n'roll was not just the sound of drums and guitars; it was the sound of youth and freedom, subversion and self-expression.

As it celebrates its 50th year, rock music is enjoying something of a revival. Having ceded the past decade to electronic dance music, guitar bands such as the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Killers are now in fashion. And concert tours by rock's original greats such as the Rolling Stones, the Who and Bruce Springsteen continue to attract millions.

No one can reasonably expect the Stones or the Who to shock as they did 40 years ago. What is more disappointing is how many of today's bands lack the ambitions that made rock music so glorious. Guitar music may be back in vogue, but the bands making it are not even pretending to be dangerous. While they have borrowed the chord progressions, they have discarded the attitude. Consequently, much of today's rock music is worse than a pale imitation of what went before; it is something akin to musical necrophilia.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

There is nothing remotely dangerous or subversive about modern bands. Once rock'n'roll channelled generational conflict: it appalled parents, who feared their children were being corrupted. But music no longer splits generations. The new bands are enjoyed by parents and children alike. Teenagers find that, rather than outraging their parents, they are borrowing their albums. Indeed, the middle-aged buy more albums than any other age group and therefore influence which bands are given exposure. All that might be good for generational harmony, but it's hardly the spirit of rock'n'roll.

Even the notion that music could be subversive now sounds outdated. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

From Jailhouse to Suburban Rock: Music Once Had the Ability to Appal and Shock. Now the Most Radical Symbol Worn by Fans on the Streets Is the iPod. as Rock'n'roll Reaches Its 50th Birthday, It Has Become Unbearably Middle-of-the-Road, Writes Sarfraz Manzoor
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.