September 16, 2019

JAMES LILEKS ON THE DEATH OF THE CARS’ RIC OCASEK:

I wonder if the death of the Cars’ Ric Ocasek is a shock because he was from my youth, not the youth of the Boomers who came before. There was a great article a fortnight ago — can’t find it at the moment, sorry — about the coming tsunami of deaths that will take all the late-60s / early 70s GODS OF RAWK. It’ll be dismaying to lose them, but these things come to all generations.

But. Perhaps it’s because the 80s live in perpetuity on the satellite channel, the bands introduced by the same VeeJays who appeared on the early days of MTV, the between-the-song chatter discussing the latest tour of a band that had one album with one hit, and still does the circuit. It’s as if time folded in on itself and created a pocket where it’s always 1985. There are pockets for every year, and they don’t age.We do, but the past is now always with us, pretending it’s not the past at all. When someone from the pocket perishes, it’s as if the pocket was punctured and decompressed, and the ageless are dessiccated in an instant.

I’m pretty sure this is the article that James is referencing: Damon Linker of The Week on “The coming death of just about every rock legend,” and here’s an excerpt from my take on it at Ed Driscoll.com, from the start of the month:

This is what happens when a genre is exhausted, and there aren’t any new stars of an equal stature arriving to take the place of the departed. As I wrote at Instapundit back in 2016, shortly after David Bowie, Lemmy of Motorhead and Glen Frey all trundled off to the place Pink Floyd dubbed “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Growing up in the 1970s with a father who had an enormous collection of Big Band records, I would semi-regularly see him a bit morose in the morning, after the Today Show announced that another swing era superstar had died. Louis Armstrong in 1971. Gene Krupa in 1973. Duke Ellington in 1974. Ozzie Nelson in 1975. And Bing Crosby in 1977 (the big one, as my dad worshiped Crosby).

Jazz died off as a mass genre for two reasons. First, as Mark Gauvreau Judge wrote in his fun 2000 book, If It Ain’t Got That Swing, postwar economics and the rise of bebop as a counterforce in jazz greatly killed off the big bands of the 1930s and ‘40s, but the complexities of bop led many teenagers in the 1950s to seek out rock and roll as a simpler music style to dance along with. Capitol Records putting the full force of their PR team behind The Beatles when they arrived in America in early 1964 cemented rock and roll as the dominant musical genre for teenage whites, as Nat “King” Cole, who helped make Capitol a dominant force in America in the 1950s, discovered to his horror when he called their flagship Los Angeles office that year and the receptionist answered “Capitol Records – home of The Beatles!” (My dad shared his pain, as reflected in the very few new titles in his record collection after 1964.)

I believe when Lileks writes above that “the 80s live in perpetuity on the satellite channel, the bands introduced by the same VeeJays who appeared on the early days of MTV,” he’s referring to Sirius-XM satellite radio, where most of the surviving MTV VJs have shows. But last week, I was going through some old DVD-Rs I cut about ten years ago to archive my videotapes of MTV-era video collections and concerts before they disintegrated. While the jazz artists passing away in the 1970s made their mark decades prior in an era of scratchy 78s and black & white films, the rock videos of the ‘80s are still accessible in full (albeit NTSC) color and anytime on YouTube. Comparing any of the stars of MTV in their perfectly lit, costumed and made-up appearances in ‘80s rock videos to how they look today is a reminder that, as Pete Townshend once said (when he was 29, incidentally), “Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t just age you in time, it ages you quicker than time.”

QED.

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