Prelude to a Lick – Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die – Column

Prelude to a Lick

Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die, and Boy, Do I Wish It Would

by Scott Hefflon
illustration by Jef Taylor

Nineties nostalgia is rapidly catching up to the present. By the early ’00s, we’ll be smiling guiltily, remembering those bygone years of tomorrow. Seeing as how, at press time, that’s impossible, some sadistic whiz kid is going to have to devise a way for us to get that much-sought-after warm, fuzzy feeling brought on by fond memories of things which haven’t yet occurred (or fur-lined gloves, but that’s another topic). It’s either that, or kick the nostalgia habit altogether, and there’s just way too much money in it for that to happen. So the secretly-funded research continues.

While the ’60s retro thing never really bothered me because I didn’t realize tie-dye T-shirts weren’t always bought at The Gap, evidently some of the older folks (read: those not making the money off reselling a cultural identity package-plan to a bunch of MTV-watching, disposable-cash-carrying kids in search of something, anything, to make them feel part of a community larger than their math class) took offense. Even during the ’70s revival (yeah, that didn’t last very long, now did it?), aside from an increase in mail-order-only Guitar Rock albums on late night TV that made Freedom Rock Vols. 1 – 12 Gazillion look tempting, I still didn’t much mind. Anyone with so little to do at 4 am that they’ll watch network TV probably deserves to be bombarded by shitty CD compilations of the guitar-jam-era records we all bought while stoned out of our senses. We bought ’em on 12″ vinyl, kids, an investment with even less payoff than those breakdancing lessons. And that, aside from the plethora of dish towels made from flannel shirts I refused to wear during the grunge days, are all the memories my therapist, Capt. Morgan, and I have decided I’m ready to handle from the ’70s revival. I’m excluding the mandatory mention of any and every hack heavy band citing Black Sabbath as an influence because that rash is clearing itself up all on its own.

But now it seems we’re becoming nostalgic about the ’80s, a decade it took me ’til the mid-’90s to fully realize was really over. And there is still some dispute over that fact from the staff members I haven’t gotten around to firing yet. The difference between every other decade’s revival and reliving the fuckin’ ’80s all over again is that I was actually there. Personally, not buying into someone else’s retro trip is one thing, but watching my peers (or at least people my own age) getting all misty-eyed over the super-hyped crap I avoided like the plague a decade ago is rather unsettling.

As far as drugs go, I’m all for the common consumption of marijuana – it’s just the thing to unwind after a day of getting screwed by the ever-present man, coming home and trying to pay the bills with peanuts, and listening to the news recount the day’s atrocities. Neither pot nor alcohol actually solve the world’s ills, but at least they short-circuit the wiring for a night. And they increase lethargic tendencies, which remain the only justification for why we haven’t climbed atop a water tower or planted a few well-placed explosives. We haven’t the energy, man. Likewise, the use of psychedelic drugs certainly can’t be seen as such a terrible thing, seeing as how a misfiring imagination must be more interesting than what’s on prime-time TV. Sure, detouring around 30-foot iguanas on the freeway and discussing investment options with a client while the walls breathe takes some getting used to, but if it’s a choice between “them” making you a braindead do-bee and taking the initiative to permanently fry your own God-given synapses, dammit, the choice is rather clear. As far as heroin goes, you’re on your own. The misplaced ingenuousness of turning anything and everything into the cash for a quick fix has always made an impression on me (a far cry from impressing me, I might add), but it seems quick-thinking desperation is not a lasting trait once the withdrawal nightmare is over and all the bodily fluids are mopped up. But now, with the resuscitation of the ’80s, are we actually contemplating bringing back cocaine? You can’t be serious! Anyone who hasn’t already blown what amounts to a years’ tuition to a good private college for the privilege of staying up long after anything interesting happens in order to have heart palpitations with a bunch of greasy, sweating, fellow drug fiends is going to start now? Evidently so, seeing as how the process has already started. I’d snort derisively at the stupidity, but it makes my single-nostrilled nose bleed.

And while the music of the ’80s was bad, the fashion was worse. I’m not at all opposed to seeing high school chicks strutting around in trashy Madonna Wear®, hell, it’s better than the form-hiding crotch-at-the-knee bullshit those crazy kids picked up from rap music. (Evidently the chiropractor bills finally necessitated the hawking of all those gold chains.) But for fuck’s sake, don’t bring back parachute pants! It was bad enough when all the wrong people were wearing spandex, but you actually want the chubsters to start wearing skin-tight windbreakers on their legs? Sure the Flashdance leg warmers were cute, and study halls just wouldn’t have been the same without trying to snatch a peek of yummy flesh teased by that fallen-off-the-shoulder look, but parachute pants are evil. Ya sweat when it’s hot, ya freeze when it’s cold, and if you ever put anything in all those zippered pockets placed randomly up and down your legs you look like the Michelin Tire Guy. Who’s bright idea were those pockets anyway? You look like an over-stuffed bag of potatoes if you use them, and you’ve got no place to put a pencil if you don’t. And heaven help you if you ever get an erection, something that happens to high school males ten times as often as not doing their homework. Carry a notebook, gentlemen. Not to mention the fact that you keep sliding out of chairs, and sitting on cold surfaces is like sitting on an iceblock. I wouldn’t even mind feathered hair and prog rock coming back in style as much as I’d bemoan the youth of America wearing parachute pants. Friendship pins and puffy hair weren’t nearly as traumatizing as those shiny leggings. The Salvation Army wouldn’t even take them after that fad died a lingering death. That’s what an ineffective embarrassment they were in clothing history. Love beads and platform shoes just don’t even come close.

As far as music goes, don’t you think we moved on to Nirvana and Pearl Jam for a reason? Have you ever listened to a week straight of Pat Benatar, Mötley Crüe, Phil Collins, and Duran Duran? We needed some shabbily-dressed, boy-am-I-depressed poets to get the glam tendencies out of our systems. You try going through those formative years with larger-than-life buffoons as your idols. It’s hard to shout at the devil when you’re dressed like a dork (in parachute pants) and all your energies are expended trying to get laid. While I was never a teenage girl (allow me to dispel those rumors here and now), I’d rather have them idolize Tori Amos and Salt ‘n’ Pepa before regressing to those “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” daze. John Hughes was put out to pasture a good long time ago, and I wish Reality Bites had ended with a scene similar to Reservoir Dogs. Richard Marx was the Donny Osmond of the ’80s, and I don’t think anyone wants to go there again. Let him croon to the yuppies alongside Michael Bolton, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, and Jon Bon Jovi, at least he’ll be played on radio stations we never listen to. The only reason I can get behind this newfangled electronic music fad at all (it’s certainly not because it, in itself, is very interesting) is that at least it’s so far removed from The Human League and other New Wave pop travesties that it’ll draw attention away from rekindling interest in that genre. It ain’t time to fire up them stacks of castrated-sounding synthesizers (unless you’re a post-metal band realizing half a decade late that that Reznor fellow is really onto something), and hopefully it never will be.

Obviously there’s much more to say, but the video store is about to close and I already owe late fees on Trainspotting, the hip new coming of age movie with a kickin’ soundtrack, like The Breakfast Club except with syringes, and I need the change to buy the new Details to see what else I hate about this world.