In the summer of 1974, the rock critic Lester Bangs was invited to type a review of a J. Geils Band concert onstage as part of the band's show. Jumping at the chance to jam with a favorite band and, at the same time, to storm the ultimate barrier between music and meaning, Bangs set up his typewriter next to the musicians as if it were another instrument. As he typed away in rhythmic and mental counterpoint to the music, he became more excited and frustrated until, at the song's climax, he smashed the table and finally stomped the typewriter itself in a fit of ecstatic rage. 1
Is this the way it is, or should be, between rock music and the critical mind? Since the beginning of rock 'n' roll, opponents of the music, and some fans too, would have us think so. The plaint of rock's enemies is familiar: loud, raucous, drug ridden, and narcissistic, if not nihilistic, rock music causes degeneration in youth, transmitting social evils and subverting rational thought and responsibility; even worse, it is boring, annoying, bad music. The same, of course, was thought about earlier musical crazes that now seem tame and stodgy by comparison: swing, ragtime, the waltz, the minuet, the sarabande. Each of these did in fact threaten some perceived element of social order, and rock has posed its own distinct threats: arising in a time of social upheaval, it has reflected, accompanied, enabled, and at times even constituted the rumblings of that upheaval.
Partly for that very reason, however, a generation has grown up for whom this music is fundamental and necessary; partly also because it has simply been there, a