Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rock of Ages

What defines good music is so personal and subjective.  So much is based upon what we listened to as youngsters.  I grew up in the 80’s.  I started high school in 1980 and graduated college in 1989.  I think the greatest music was produced in that decade.  In those ten years, my tastes evolved from Country Western, to pop music, and finally, to good old Rock and Roll.  I ended up loving what we called at the time Heavy Metal.  Now it is termed derogatorily as the Hair Bands.

While I am not a fan of musicals, I have been anticipating the film Rock of Ages for several months now.  Even the trailers gave me goose bumps.  Despite the poor box office showing in its opening week, I was excited to go today.  I was rewarded with a clever, whimsical celebration of the music and culture of the 1980’s.

I am of the opinion that music in general has been in a creative coma since about 1994.  That isn’t to say there hasn’t been some exceptional, original acts in the past two decades.  There certainly has been some terrific music made in the past several years – just not very much.  The stodgy editors at Rolling Stone magazine seem to think very little great music has been produced since about 1977, according to their recent, ridiculous list of the top 500 albums of all time.

People seem embarrassed by their love of 80’s music.  They seem to not want to admit they ever listened to the radio or bought a record.  I just don’t get this attitude.  Some of the biggest selling records all time were made in that era.  For years, MTV (when they still actually showed videos all day) had a daily program where they counted down top 10 most requested videos of the day.  For years, that list was consistently filled with Heavy Metal bands, or if you prefer, Hair Bands.  In the last six years of so of that decade, rock and roll ruled.  Then, of course, the quality did a nose dive and it became more about the image than the music, and the writing was on the wall. 

Rock and roll answered back to all of the glam, color, and hair of the 1980’s with the grungy look and sound of Alternative Rock in the early 90’s.  After four or five years of incredible, creative, destructive music and behavior, rock and roll just kind of faded away and has been on life support ever since.  It’s like rock and roll still hasn’t recovered from the death of Kurt Cobain.  Sure, there have been many, many rock stars who have died young and tragically over the past sixty years but Cobain’s death seems to have been the final straw. 

I also think the musicianship and song writing of the 80’s is vastly underrated.  There were no “singer, song writer” types like in the two previous music generations.  There were not great causes or cultural changes to rally around.  It was about looks and excess but sometimes the quality is overlooked.  There is no decade that has produced more terrific sing along songs; songs that make everyone who hears them feel good - the type of music you want to turn up when it comes on the radio.  Even though there were some talentless hacks that were in famous bands and acts in the 80’s, there were also plenty of incredible musicians.

Enough of my pontificating.  Let’s get to the actual film.  I had a blast.  I was the weird guy tapping his toes and singing along with every single song.  That was the music I loved.  I knew the words to every tune.  The two lead characters, played adequately by Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, were likeable and believable.  I must say though, that Catherine Zeta-Jones stole every scene she was in, portraying a Tipper Gore-type harridan.  The always stellar Paul Giamatti was appropriately sleazy as the self serving talent agent.  Additionally, Tom Cruise was surprisingly believable as the over-the-top, self centered, quirky rock and roll god.  Cruise acquitted himself quite well vocally.  Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand provided the humor, and in the process, forever changed how I will remember REO Speedwagon’s classic “Can’t Fight This Feeling”( I think I even spotted Kevin Cronin in a crowd scene).  The ever sexy Malin Ackerman, the brilliant Bryan Cranston, and the vocally versatile Mary J. Blige fill out a deep and talented cast. 

The story was a parody on a popular 80’s theme and the music was absolutely stellar.  I am astounded the reaction to this film hasn’t been more positive.  It is a titillating smorgasbord for the music lover of any generation.  As a parody, it cannot be taken too seriously.  As someone who grew up in the 80’s and read Circus magazine (much less stuffy than Rolling Stone) religiously, the story was based on a real theme of the decade but it really is just about the music and the rock culture.  Do yourself a favor.  Go see this film.  Show Hollywood that we get it and we get tired of the same old crap week in and week out.  Treat yourself!

I also want to take this opportunity to thank those who follow my blogs, read my opinions, and give their support.  I have not been writing quite as much over the past month but I still have over 4000 hits since I first started posting sixteen months ago.  I will try to do a better job getting more posts up.  Please be patient with me and keep reading.  Thanks for all your support.

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