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Dead or Alive? Is good music becoming extinct?

I fell in love with the sweet sensation, I gave my heart to a simple chord I gave my soul to a new religion, Whatever happened to you? -B.M.R.C

As 1:17 a.m. rolled in, I still had nothing written on paper. My plan was a sweeping clever critique of pop culture as we know it in 2012; to ask the question in this new millennium–can rock n ‘roll survive?

I’d start with the recent atrocity called the American Music Awards, moving quickly to outlining potentially revolutionary bands who could change it all over night, and then dropping the bomb on a world overrun by choreographers,  layin’ down the real deal of what needs to happen, then I’d flip the channels on my idiot box like a organic sampler looking for that kick-start.

Lucky me, I wound up on the history channel watching Ancient Aliens.

But there was no talk of ancient astronauts tonight. Instead, it was all about Dec 21 2012 and the Mayan calender running out.

Most scientists feel the Mayans expected the world to end on that date.  Damn,  I thought–here I am pontificating on the future of Rock n’ Roll  and I got just a couple of weeks before the world ends.

Do they mean fire and brimstone or will the earth line up with the sun and bring on the end?  Or do the Mayan ‘Gods’ return to hit that big reset button and a new game begins and we get to enter a new, enlightened age.

I’d prefer the latter, but more than likely, we’re fucked. So back to music. Where then do I start?

Metal: The only true member of the bloodline from the first American Rock n’ Roller Robert Johnson that didn’t bitch up? That could take forever, so check the new kids like Royal Thunder.

If Janis gave up on trying to be Bessie Smith and embraced the stairway to heaven, you’d have these kids.

Then I should talk about the hip hop era’s gift to the Hendrix/ Clapton Electric Church Gilbert Clark Jr., a raw soulful voice that feels like Frank Ocean channeled Otis Redding and a wailing guitar, awakening the dead souls of turn of the century drifters and today’s Compton gangtas.

Or should I wax poetic all over my local ‘Occupy’ rock faves Ertel, a nu-millenium gift from the ipod generation who blend every American genre of rebel music from contemporary r&b to punk-rock blues and dub-step with a lead singer who channels both Polly Jean Harvey and Erykah Badu, sometimes in the same song?

But then I should be championing the mutants from the planet of Brooklyn: the Afro-punk kids, where black kids mix with all races and restate their claim to a genre their elders created, vowing to forsake the infection of “ChrisBrownism”, and finally be allowed to drive that train high on cocaine.

I didn’t even mention the the rise in vinyl being bought and the possibility that the only civilized way to listen to music might actually be coming back, bringing nuggets like Andre Williams ‘Do the Popcorn’ and countless others to a generation that needs soul brought back into music.

A week ago while watching the brilliant Rolling Stones documentary “Crossfire Hurricane,” Mick Jagger as a young buck explained his take on himself as a performer. And his deal was that he was playing a character, a character he believed in and who had parts of him in it, but a character none-the-less. He wasn’t fronting, he didn’t lose track, and he was deadly serious about what he was doing. And maybe that’s what we need in these troubled times for folks to be serious, not in that humorless “I am here to save you” bullshit, but this is what I think— if you agree, come along for the ride.

In a couple weeks the world might end, but if we survive I want to believe again. I want to see outrage and sex and drugs and rock n’ roll or at least a little danger. It happened before. It could happen again.

About P.Downes

A Los Angeles-based Bajan, rude boy from Boston, P. Downes (Writer/Film & Independent Music Editor) is a card-carrying music and comic book geek with dreams of making movies. He's a published comic book writer, most notably "Killer Ape and Other City Stories," a collaboration with Greg Moutafis about a black, punk band who comes of age on the night of the LA Riots. Rumor has it that he types his articles in Spider-man Underoos for good luck.

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