Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Death and Rebirth of Rock n Roll.

The year was 1973. I was a wee lad (actually not so wee I was in high school) and American Graffiti was all the rage.

The movie was a big hit.

So was the soundtrack.

High schools and night clubs held 50s themed dances. Boys and girls rolled up the legs of their jeans. Boys put water in their hair to look like greasers. Brave ones actually used Brylcream. And we all danced to the best and the worst of 50s early 60s pre-Beatles rock n roll.

Also, remember Sha Na Na?

In retrospect it was all pretty cornball and quite embarrassing. It was media hype and manufactured nostalgia that promoted a comic image of the era without paying respect to the rhythm and blues and country and western that defined the music. That kind of overly sentimental Disneyfication of American roots music was the kiss of death of rock n roll.

But something happened. Maybe it was John Lennon's 1975 Rock 'n' Roll album that breathed new life into the art form. It certainly gave it back some credibility.

Fast forward to punk in the late 1970s that shocked  rock and roll's heart back to beating, a movement that inspired one of my all time favourite bands that revived traditional rockabilly rock and roll with all its rough edges intact - the Blasters.

I am pleased to report the Blasters have released a record as of June 2012, the first new material in years. Fun on a Saturday Night.

Here's a link to an NPR report about their return. I'll post links to new video material when it's available but meanwhile here's an early performance, a Blasters classic (a Little Willie John cover) and below that, a video from a 2010 show, one of their great songs - American Music.

The Blasters first record came out in 1980. They were part of scene some refer to as Cowpunk  that includes X, Rank and File (Alejandro Escovedo was a member) and Los Lobos.  And for the record, when people mention 80s music THESE are the bands I think of. (Musical Immigrant note: Look for X's John Doe at the 2012 Calgary Folk Music Festival.)

Musical Immigrant news update: As of June 2012, word via Dave Alvin on Facebook that his brother Phil Alvin, the lead singer in the Blasters, fell ill in Spain, while the band was on tour. Wishing Mr. Alvin, his family and the band all the best.

At the same time as The Blasters are making new music, more artists are emerging to breath life into this style of rock and rock. My newest find is J.D. McPherson. His debut Signs & Signifiers is terrific. It reached the top of the Americana charts soon after it's release.

As a musical immigrant, my earliest memories are of a time when rock and roll was rebel outsider music, then it became the main-est of mainstream, then a parody of itself and now, well, in some respects it has become part of a redefined folk/roots tradition where country, R&B and soul music mish and mash and comes out as indie-alt-country-roots-rock-Americana (see No Depression the online magazine for more of this stuff.) and I couldn't be happier with its latest reincarnation.

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