Has Rock and Roll Gone Mickey Mouse?

I have often read culture critics decrying the Disneyfication of our culture and how the essence of what makes us unique is being re-packaged, tarted up and sold based on the lowest cultural denominator. They always refer to everything Disney as being not only a personification of that which is an idealized version of Americana but the fact that it is a false reality, an artificial utopia. Rock and roll has not escaped this argument, especially when it comes to the dreaded “retro” word which I have talked about in pasts posts, but the greatest criticism seems to be leveled at institutions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Now the argument seems to go something like this: Rock and Roll was once a vibrant and potent force of youth rebellion but now that energy is either spent or has been re-directed to other forms of music or entertainment, therefore the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is merely a museum of memories for out of touch 40 somethings with more time and money than sense. On the surface, I partially agree with this argument because places like the Experience Music Project. Hardrock Vault and the Beatles Story give one the image that rock and roll is a spent force that is only now available for your viewing and listening pleasure at a museum or the public records department of your local library under the heading “contemporary music from the “rock ‘n’ roll era”” or worse yet at a Monkees reunion concert. When I am at a concert at some local club listening to really great rock and roll, museum exhibit is the last thing on my mind. Perception is reality in this day and age and the perception that rock and roll is dead is something that a lot of bands and record labels are trying hard to overcome and at first blush these places might not help the cause but have you seen these places? Have you actually checked out what they offer? Visiting the Italian pavilion at Epcot certainly does not in any way diminish your experience when you actually visit Italy, in fact it giving you a taste of the country may actually encourage you to visit the real thing. Therefore, places like these are not a replacement for the real thing but merely a teaser, an introduction to what the real experience can be. Now if you think all you’re going to see are Iggy Pop’s blood stained pants or the cherry red sunburst guitar that Eric Clapton used to record his triple tracked solo from Layla you will be quite surprised. From a recreation of the Cavern Club at the Beatles Story to the “2 Decades of U2” exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (granted that the EMP is hosting an exhibit on disco but they do have “The Quest for Volume” amplifier exhibit as well as the “Sound Lab”), these are not the places to inspire rebellion but to enjoy and explore the rich heritage of rock and roll. If anything they may inspire you to pick up a guitar and create some of your own noise and that may be your inspiration to try and change the world through music but don’t expect watching “Don’t Knock The Rock” to do anything more than make you laugh at how silly it must have all seemed in the ‘50s. Visit these places, enjoy them, argue about them but please, at the end of the day enjoy them for what they are intended to be, fun. That is what they are there for. That is why you should go.

1 Comment

  1. Vote for your favorite deserving but overlooked artists into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    The top 22 vote-getters at this point are:
    1. Joan Jett
    2. Blondie
    3. Van Halen
    4. Rush
    5. Black Sabbath
    6. Doobie Brothers
    7. Lynyrd Skynyrd
    8. Dire Straits
    9. Chicago
    10. Def Leppard
    11. Pat Benatar
    12. Yes
    13. Peter Gabriel (solo)
    14. Heart
    15. Genesis
    16. Alice Cooper
    17. John Mellencamp
    18. Journey
    19. Duran Duran
    20. Deep Purple
    21. Phil Collins (solo)
    22. Pete Townshend (solo)

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