Rock music? A glass half empty, a glass half full, or a like a party that ran out of steam long ago, a bunch of shot glasses – once full – that just have a few drops left?
When you think back on what we now know as the “Golden Age” of rock, and compare it to what we've seen over the past decade or more, the problem hasn't just been with the music. It's also a matter of style.
That intangible is something that's harder to nail down, but rock veterans know exactly what I'm talking about. The rock stars of the '60s, '70s, and into the '80s and '90s did more than just write and perform hits. Many had a unique look, an attitude, a style that set them apart – and made their fans want to emulate their clothes, their hair, and their sense of fashion.
And it's not just those obvious signature looks like Elton John, the Beatles, ZZ Top, Bowie, Queen, AC/DC, Nirvana, Alice Cooper, and so many others. For that class of performers, it wasn't just about singles and albums. They exuded a sense of style that became part of the fashion culture of their day – and beyond. It was how they dressed, their album covers, their overall look.
Even a street rocker like Bruce Springsteen exploded on the scene, sporting that working class garb that represented his history, his stories, and his musical anthems.
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In that era of rock n' roll, artists and bands became household names. You may not have been an uber fan of the Stones, Hendrix, Santana, or Rod Stewart, but you knew who they were, as well their signature looks. And that was decades before there was an Internet or MTV – an era where rockers performing on television was not a common occurence, but instead was mostly confined to shows like “Saturday Night Live.”
An op-ed piece in Alt Press by Steve Loftin makes the assertion that, in fact, “music and aesthetics” are two peas in the same pod. While he offers up examples of a handful of new bands blazing the trail, his conclusion is that “nothing hits home like being able to identify with a subgenre.”
For those of us on the other side of fifty, it's probably been a number of years since you emulated your favorite rocker. But back in the day, there was a look, a style that became emblematic of the type of music you loved, and even what you stood for. It was possible to identify your politics based on your clothing style and your hair, something fueled and shaped by the rockers of the day.
So not surprisingly, The Guardian reports a comeback of sorts for vintage rock n' roll t-shirts emblazoned with those iconic logos. Writer Rob Davies attributes the upsurge in the value of clothes that display AC/DC, the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, Run DMC, and other bands as a combination of nostalgia as well as newer bands embracing those classic sounds – and styles. Just listening to the aforementioned Greta Van Fleet is an exercise in paying homage to Led Zeppelin and their rich influence.
To that point, we've all seen kids in malls all over America, sporting clothing emblazoned with the logos of bands that broke up long before they were born. But powerful logos from iconic bands continue to make their way into today's pop culture.
And you didn't have to look any farther than “60 Minutes” last night, and the feature on the Parkland teens to recognize the power of style on Millennials – and they're younger siblings – Gen Z.
That's not to say no one wants to wear a Shinedown or Halestorm branded shirt. But so many bands of the 2000s lack that sense of originality and style so common to their rock anestry.
Broadcasters are also discovering that throwback logoware can be lucrative, as well as serve as a reminder of a station's roots and time in grade. Yes, it's steeped in notstalgia, but it also signifies a brand's cred, as well as saying something about the person wearing that memorable shirt.
So for fledgling rock bands trying to break through in a music environment that's become long tail, and a radio industry ever-cautious about taking major leaps in uncertain times, a signature, a style, and even a degree of novelty would seem to have all the right component parts to at least garner attention in a crowded, noisy, and disjointed music environment.
It certainly worked for Elvis Presley and Gene Simmons.
Tomorrow: Is this the moment for a rock resurgence? Two very smart observors of the genre – Jack White and Alan Cross – think so.