The end of Rock and Roll

Rock and roll, as American as apple pie.  The music that most of us grew up with, promising the open road and freedom; and the sound track to the classic road trip.  But just as ‘put a dime in the jukebox’ has become a serious anachronism (Juke box?  A dime for a song?), the music known as ‘Rock and Roll’ will at some point fall out of of favor, as the basis for what it promised (and how it could be delivered) will fall by the wayside.

JHK wrote about some of this in The Long Emergency. The era of arena rock, and bands that tour from coast to coast in fuel gulping aircraft will most likely go extinct, as the infrastructure that makes it possible for such things to exist will also start to fall away.   No argument there.

What is more interesting, is that the music itself, and the songs that epitomized the freedom of the open road will at some point will be as obsolete as buggy whips, as well as any cultural touchstones (i.e. American Graffiti) that use Rock and Roll as their soundtrack. Fifty years from now (or possibly even less), it might take a scholar to explain to people lyrics like:

Well, i had the carburetor, baby, cleaned and checked
With her line blown out she’s hummin’ like a turbojet
Propped her up in the backyard on concrete blocks
For a new clutch plate and a new set of shocks
Took her down to the carwash, check the plugs and point
Well, i’m goin’ out tonight. i’m gonna rock that joint

Early north jersey industrial skyline
I’m a all-set cobra jet creepin’ through the nighttime
Gotta find a gas station, gotta find a pay phone
This turnpike sure is spooky at night when you’re all alone
Gotta hit the gas, baby. i’m running late
This new jersey in the mornin’ like a lunar landscape

(lyrics from from Bruce Springsteen’s “Open All Night”)

Carburetor?   Car wash?  Plugs and points?   Turnpike?  Heck, a good portion of Bruce’s catalog might be incomprehensible to the uninitiated fifty years from now, with all those references to driving and automobiles.  It might take a scholar to explain all those terms, as English teachers have done with Shakespeare’s “in” jokes and political commentary, as the world of Elizabethan England has slipped away, to be replaced by the modern.

What might replace Rock and Roll?  Songs about life on the farm?  In an unamplified and relatively untechnological future, what will be the touchstone topics of the day?  Rock and Roll won’t be forgotten, of course, and some songs will survive, but angry songs about taking to the road won’t make much sense to folks who can’t drive, or can’t conceive of a superhighway.

Questions for this week:

  • What will replace Rock And Roll?
  • What will teens do with their angst?
  • What will road trip songs sound like?   Sea shanties?

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