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Left Photo -- Lenin, Trotsky & Others. Right Photo -- Lenin & Others: The Commissar Vanishes !

Classic Rock is not a genre of music:


Classic Rock Radio Revisionism


Left Photo -- Lenin, Trotsky & Others. Right Photo -- Lenin & Others: The Commissar Vanishes!

Classic Rock is not a genre of music: it’s a radio format. Rock n’ Roll is a genre of popular music that spans over fifty years and has very many sub-genres. Classic Rock tends to only feature music from the mid 60’s to the late 70’s. My issue with this radio format is not what music they play: it’s what they don’t play.

Like most people, I listen to radio in my car. And I’m a compulsive channel changer: always looking for that tune I like. My typical favorite stations are Hard / Alt Rock, Oldies and Classic Rock. I listen to talk radio too.

Steppenwolf is one of my favorite bands. Listening to Classic Rock radio, you’d think the only songs they ever recorded were "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Born To Be Wild:" two great songs. However, Steppenwolf has a great body of work. Couldn’t we hear some other tunes by the band?

Since the turn of this century, the Jimi Hendrix Estate has released great unheard material. I like the tunes "Purple Haze" and "Hey Joe," and it’s refreshing to hear the different versions of these songs from the recent releases.

Who would have thought there would be a new Beatles record in 2007? LOVE is a fresh take on Beatles music. It was put together as the soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil production in Las Vegas. George and Giles Martin did an excellent job reworking the songs. The most striking is the mash-up of "Within Without You" and "Tomorrow Never Knows." It’s effectively a new Beatles song.

But this fresh take on these radio staples go mostly ignored and the same old material is repeated on the same old format.

All roads lead to Liverpool and the Beatles with rock music since the mid ’60’s. Of course the Rolling Stones have their place, too. These British bands opened the doors for others to follow.

Since the mid 60’s, American bands like The Seeds, The Sonics and others produced a hard-edged sound commonly known as Garage Rock. Out of this movement came the seminal Stooges. Iggy Pop and the Stooges blazed the path for Punk Rock with their three album’s, The Stooges, Fun House and Raw Power.

Iggy Pop made great music in the mid 70’s (and beyond) with the albums Lust For Life and The Idiot. A song like "Lust For Life" has only entered contemporary popular sensibilities through being featured in television advertising. Why don’t they ever play this song on the Classic Rock stations I listen to? Couldn’t they bump Pink Floyd’s "Money" (Great tune!!), a few turns out of rotation to make room for Iggy?

It’s unfortunate that Classic Rock radio is ignoring this and other important work. It’s revisionism. Even though he looms large over music history, Iggy has been airbrushed out of the picture.

Of course this matters little if music is only what you hear in an elevator or on hold with a telephone. Music has been a way of life for me. Not only as a musician, but as a fan!

By today’s sensibilities, Classic Rock radio programming could merely mimic the content of an individual’s mp3 player. And it is, in a way. Playlists originate from a central location in the belly of the station’s corporate headquarters.

Commercial radio also ignores electronica: true modern music. Radio is stuck in a certain part of the past. It wasn’t always like this. Radio in the 70’s didn’t feature a heavy dose of music from the 30’s and 40’s!

Today, listeners hungry for challenging music can turn elsewhere with different technologies to not only get new music, but to not ignore important artists from pop’s echelon.

Note: This Thursday I'm hosting on the Ron & Don Show 710 KIRO -- 3 to 6pm. I'll be talking about free association and our democracy. My guests, so far, are Richard Winger from Ballot Access News, Stephen Gordon from Third Party Watchand Matt Gonzalez, running for Vice President with Ralph Nader's Independent bid for the White House.

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