White Boys With Amplifiers

Once, when I was seventeen or so, I was riding in the car with my father and my stepmother. Not unusual, of course, to watch my stepmother crank the radio dial away from the rock and roll station that I had lobbied in favor of, in favor of one of those Muzak stations—abundant in those days. What was unusual was the conversation that followed: I complained vociferously, and then my stepmom, who had been a huge fan of the Beatles in the mid-sixties, told me that eventually I would “get over” this music I so loved. I said, of course, “No, I won’t, I won’t ever get over it.” It went back and forth like that. If I was 17 at the time, that meant my mother was 33.

Now I’m about to be 44 years old, and the question for today is whether she was right and it’s possible to have outgrown rock and roll. I’m a little worried that I may have precisely this condition.

For example, I can’t listen to any of the “alternative” rock stations anymore, at all. I would rather have dental surgery than listen to the steroid-afflicted death-metal influenced nonsense on those stations. What about the pop punk and emo? I used to have a punk rock thing when I was younger, when I was in college. But, unfortunately, most of these “punk” bands don’t sound like punk rock to me. They sound like they’re pre-packaged corporate fare. And the emo boys are just whining too much.

Can it be that rock and roll is in historical disarray? Can it be that no one (excepting the brilliant Nels Cline, currently playing with Wilco) has done anything interesting with the electric guitar since Sonic Youth recorded Daydream Nation? Can it be that only women (I’m thinking of Sleater-Kinney, for example) are able to rock these days? Maybe white boys with amplifiers have just used up the garage and used up the Marshall Stack, and they need to find the next thing, which, I can assure them is not hip hop.

It could be history, and it could be that I’m now definitively middle-aged. I still like the stuff I liked in the seventies, and, god help me, I actually think the new Rolling Stones song has some pep. It could be that guys my age are meant to get out of the way and play folk music on the porch with their friends. Maybe that’s what the idiom demands. But this note is to say that again my stepmother might have been, at least in part, right.