Carved in Stone

In its day, classic rock didn’t just break down boundaries in
music, it took a ‘quantum creative’ leap right past them. So says
Mick Farren in the
Los Angeles City Beat as he waxes
nostalgic about the days when those rebellious tunes weren’t
selling cars or repetitively haunting radio stations. Now,
classic rock has a decidedly ‘unbending conservative spine’ and
corporate radio, says Farren, is to blame.

Once upon a time, around the dawn of what is now classic rock,
DJs ruled the airwaves. ‘Listeners were randomly exposed to all
manner of weirdness,’ writes Farren, ‘and all this musical
cross-pollination had a direct and profound effect on the bubbling
creativity of the times.’ As the popularity of the music spread,
national advertisers started seeing dollar signs on the FM dial.
Market research was conducted, popular bands and songs were noted,
and the playlist was born. Creativity shifted from free-form disc
jockeys to station managers and salespeople, and listeners were
offered a rotation of favorites. This was the end of anarchistic
classic rock, writes Farren.

Classic rock giants saw their careers boiled down to a handful
of songs. Bob Dylan was stricken from the radio for being too ‘Bob
Dylan.’ A band like the Doors was suddenly a one-hit wonder. And
people loved it. ‘They had gone so far with rock ‘n’ roll, but that
was as far as they wanted to go,’ Farren writes. Classic rock
standards morphed from defiant anthems into reassuring salves
protecting against the new boundary-pushers of glam, punk, and
hip-hop. ‘[D]espite all its macho posturing,’ Farren adds, classic
rock ‘essentially functioned as comfort radio for the culturally
conservative.’

The situation isn’t entirely downbeat though, Farren writes.
Classic rock radio may indeed be a dead horse on the FM dial, but
things are livening up on satellite radio. Sirius radio dedicates
an entire channel to the Who, and XM has signed for Bob Dylan to
host his own show. DJs are back in control of music selection and,
once again, exposing the ‘unexpected and eclectic’ side of classic
rock. — Rachel Anderson

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Carved in Stone

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