After recently watching the BBC Rolling Stones documentary ‘Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane’ it struck me just how bad things in the music world have got. Upon this realisation I fell into a deep dark depression. ‘How’ I asked myself, ‘are we ever going to experience something as revolutionary and ground-breaking as the likes of The Rolling Stones?’ Before we get ourselves stuck in the trap of harking back to so-called Golden Ages of music that we were not alive to witness we must remember that at the time, The Rolling Stones were not that well liked. This aside the footage of the crowds they managed to attract is unparalleled to what bands of the genre can achieve today. Not so much in the size of the crowds but in terms of the hysteria the band created. ‘But what about people like Justin Bieber and One Direction who sell out huge arenas worldwide?’ I hear you cry. Yes these artists create hysteria but it’s in a different way. These bands do not represent a new culture. There is no sense of representing a new era not only of music but of values and lifestyle. This is my point. Can we ever hope to recreate the hysteria of new music movements like that of The Rolling Stones?
So let’s take a little trip down memory lane. In the 60s we have The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, 70s we’ve got the psychedelic rock movement spurred on by Jimi Hendrix and his death, 80s the Punk Movement truly cemented itself after its creation during the late 70s with the likes of Sex Pistols and The Clash paving the way, 90s it’s the Grunge movement and finally 2000s it’s errrr. You see I don’t really know what the answer is here. This, my friends, is the problem I have. What can I say to my grandkids in generations to come? There doesn’t seem to be one defining genre or band that symbolises our era.
The Rolling Stones were mavericks of their time, labelled as the resident bad boys of the sixties because they dared to step outside without wearing a tie and grew their hair a little longer. Such brash behaviour earned them the highly coveted rebel status without them really even trying. Their fan base grew rapidly, particularly among teenage girls, who could not resist the charms of Mick Jagger. So much so that according to the documentary they physically wet themselves. This I just cannot understand for many reasons (my concern mainly lies with these girls’ grasp of the basic hygiene principle). I can safely say that no musician has ever excited me so much that I’ve wet myself. Still a girl can dream.
Whilst it’s true that the likes of Justin Bieber create hysteria (he is the proud inventor of the infectious disease Bieber Fever) it appears to be hysteria of a different kind. These fans are lusting after a fantasy. Stars like Justin Bieber and One Direction are a wonderful manufactured façade. The bands of previous eras were far more tangible. They were not perfectly polished; all of them were rather scruffy. Think of the Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious couldn’t even play the bass. Normally this would enrage me but in this case it doesn’t matter. Its what they represent that is more important. Each band listed from each era promoted a change in the way people thought and felt.
In the documentary Mick Jagger says he is dissatisfied with the generation he has grown up in telling him what to do. His music encouraged young people everywhere to also question the lifestyle promoted by older generations. This occurred at a pivotal point in history. The sixties sparked a revolution in terms of sexual freedom, particularly for women with the invention of the contraceptive pill, promoting a change in people’s thinking and the way they lived. I think its fair to say that this sense of dissatisfaction still remains. There’s little hope in terms of job prospects, us students have amalgamated an enormous debt and our economy is at an all time low. So why does the music industry place these manufactured artists at the forefront of the industry? We are meant to derive satisfaction from song after song about drinking, dancing in clubs and living like there’s no tomorrow. I’m afraid their offerings just don’t quite cut it. The problem is I just don’t believe what these artists are saying and more importantly I don’t believe in the lifestyle they are promoting.
Let us not fall too far into the dark depths of despair. I haven’t lost all hope in the music industry and neither should you. Despite all of this there remains some bands who sing with genuine talent and meaning. They make music for the love of music not money and because of this have gone on to have great success. The band that springs to mind for me is Sigur Ros. They come from Iceland, a country that is not necessarily prominent upon the map, but have reached millions with their music. More importantly they don’t even sing in English. I have no idea what they are saying yet they are still able to evoke incredible moments packed full of emotion.
So maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe we just live in a time where we are so used to the music industry that we have been sensitised to the hysteria that bands create. Or maybe with time us girls have just evolved to have stronger bladders. Whatever the answer is, I hope that music will continue to be rough, raucous and a little bit scruffy.
The documentary can be viewed on BBC iPlayer by clicking here.