Wednesday, February 14, 2007

it's only rock & roll, but i'll buy it

The Beatles backed the Nike revolution. Bob Seger forever abdicated his tough-guy "Like A Rock" image to Chevy trucks. Fancy cars have danced around a ballroom to Led Zeppelin and pampered cruise ship guests bop through the Caribbean with Iggy Pop. (I'm not so sure the life he originally lusted for was quite that pedestrian). The Kinks, The Who, Rolling Stones, and U2 are other ground-breaking, hell- and/or conscious-raising bands now shamelessly hawking goods for The Man they once scorned.

But what fresh Hell is this? The rebellious music of my college days is a backdrop for Wendy's, and the world as I knew it is over. My ears pricked up at that lonely, stubborn guitar intro; I instinctively air-drummed the next beats. Then I looked up, curious. Was it a crazy folk-punk tour? A compilation album of cool songs for almost-40-year olds? A marginally acceptable Levi's ad?? Sadly, despairingly, depressingly no. There was a gigantic glistening hamburger crowding my TV screen with an announcer proclaiming its irresistible juiciness, while "Blister in the Sun" blazed away in the background.

This is absolutely the last straw. The last straw for what, I'm not exactly sure (I don't even know what that phrase really means), but I am appalled. It's not so much that I am affronted by the advertising - I can turn the TV or radio off at will, and I can boycott the goods. It's that the dream of my punk rock youth has been squashed. Okay, I wasn't really a punk rocker but I desperately tried my Honor Society best, in my little brown outside-the-city-limits-house-in-a-Navy-town way. I drew the anarchy symbol on my PeeChees and put safety pins on my denim jacket in solidarity. I scandalized my mom by asking for Dead Milkmen and Sex Pistols albums for my birthday (never got them). As a college freshman, I frequently wore a pair of ripped jeans with boxers showing through; I scrawled another anarchy symbol on them, for good measure.

For white bread-good girl me, the Violent Femmes were the ultimate ticket to naughty; they were my soundtrack to flunking out of school. Their music was fast and loud and hard. Their lyrics were alternately screamed and panted and whispered. Everything about them implied somebody's hands in somebody's pants. Nothing about them ever said, "Hey, friend, buy a burger!"

Another problem with this sell-out crowd of former rockers is that all of today's young people will either think these classic songs are new and fail to appreciate their true intensity, or they will recognize their "oldness" and therefore dismiss them as stupid, as all things associated with people over 25 are. And nothing makes this woman feel more aged than her teenage students with the silent, ingratiating look that says, "When you're done reliving your pathetic old person past, I'd like to go do modern cool things you won't understand."

So today I shed a tear for all those bands who surrendered to vulgar consumerism; for the Violent Femmes, may their grease-stained dollars buy back some pride; and for that girl in the high tops & ripped jeans covered with edgy poetry who naively scoffed at the notion of rebels ever getting old and giving up.

Hey, who's selling tissue this week?