From legislation to outlaw it to past preachers who condemn it — bucking trends, scrutiny and inflation — rock has risen again and again like the archetypical Phoenix, soaring over each obstacle that has ever crossed its path. But there have been those times — shifts in the cultural landscape, tragedies, even technological advances — that have tested rock’s mettle (or metal). Below are 10 black moments of our recent history that could have seen the annihilation of rock and roll…but didn’t.
“The Day The Music Died”
The plan crash that killed Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson could have easily ended rock and roll in its early days. Tragic as it was, the early fans of rock bolstered on, saddened but forever reminded of these great rock n' roll Gods.
Elvis Gets Inducted Into the Army
At the time Elvis’ induction, it certainly seemed like the end to the short yet amazing rise in popularity of rock and roll…or at least the King’s career. Some might argue that the latter did indeed happen — what with Priscilla and Col. Tom Parker’s successful attempt to remake a squeaky-clean Elvis Presley when the King came home on March 1960. But Elvis had a momentary shining comeback on the infamous1968 TV special. Despite his tailspin into Vegas infamy, the true King of Rock n' Roll has never been more popular, as sales of recent posthumous CDs attest.
Often sighted as the antithesis to the ‘rock-can-cure-the-ills-of-society’ vibe of Woodstock, this outdoor concert, on a cold day/night near the end of the decade saw inexplicable violence. Deaths, fights and finger-pointing, all with the Rolling Stones providing the soundtrack, this could have been the end of festival shows. Altamont certainly provided evidence for those who were quick to bemoan the decadence and danger of rock and roll. But life did go on…
Paul McCartney’s ‘Official’ Announcement Of The Beatles Break-Up
What could be argued as the greatest band ever officially calls it quits in 1970. But the individual mop tops released great solo stuff and left a legacy that continues its influence to this day.
The Tragic Trilogy: The Deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison
Definitely a crappy start to the decade, with the aforementioned Beatles break-up, Altamont, and these three deaths (and many more to follow), rock could have easily ended here. Alas, it didn’t. The 70’s saw the rise of great progressive bands, Led Zep’s Visigoth-like rule and legendary concerts.
Never really a threat, so don’t sweat it.
A blight on the rock n' roll landscape to be sure, creating an ‘art’ form out of what was (is) really just three-minute conceptual commercials with pop soundtracks. MTV has influenced performances (and I use the term ‘performance’ loosely), film, commercials as well as generations of naive artists, since its inception. But as cream often does, the true musical mavericks (or just the simply talented) rose to the top of the medium (does anybody really remember a-ha?) and with the popularity of You Tube and its brethren nobody needs to watch videos on TV anymore. MTV is left languishing as nothing more then a wasteland for tween angst.
Milli Vanilli Win Grammy
Though they will deny it to their dying day (which might just very well be sooner then anybody can guess) the ‘recoding industry’ claims they did not know that the gorgeous duo of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were not really singing their songs. Awarded the “Best New Artist” Grammy for 1990, The Recording Academy retracted the honor after the truth was found out, and Arista records dropped the band and deleted their catalog. But the damage to Grammy's rep had already been done. Seeing as great rock acts have been denied the little gold statues decade upon decade, this slight hiccup in the TV musical landscape didn’t matter much anyway.
First Airing Of American Idol
Truly a pop staple nowadays, the problem with this TV rot is that it does occasionally invite great rock stars (Brian May of “Queen,” Little Richard to name a few) on its whore-of-a stage set to legitimatize its vapid proceedings. Had rock been less stalwart, Ryan Seacrest and his cronies might have been able to convince the public that this bad copy of British Import “Pop Idol” is really what music is about these days…but we all know different. The old axiom has never been more true: “Popularity does not quality make.”
Death Of FM Radio
Once a truly great American innovation, FM rock radio has truly died a death these first few years of the new century. The preponderance of talk radio, pre-programmed ‘Jack’ format and corporate media buyouts have led to a stagnant radio landscape. Luckily for us all, internet radio and satellite exist.