Last month, I received a beautiful photography book by Bruno Ducourant. My Generation, Only Rock And Roll ? is a collection of black and white photographs from 1968 to 1974. These images depict classic rock legends such as Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones, captured in their initial spark of future stardom.
The book however, is not just a slideshow of vintage rock pictures. It comes with a narrative description of Ducourant’s adventures, a genuine fan, during the era when all it took to be cool was to rock and roll. Half-conscious of the phenomenon the photographer was witnessing, he immortalized what was to become the most precious moments in rock history.
Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, B. B. King. Photo courtesy of Bruno Ducourant.
However, as much as his generation was not only rock and roll, ours is certainly not limited to EDM. We cannot deny the underlying influence rock and roll had on popular music. I believe it not only transcends generations but also trickles down to art and lifestyle. It is an artistic movement that shaped many individuals and will continue to impact future ones including myself.
But what is rock and roll really? Although, its origins are hard to define and some might argue differently, rock and roll essentially descends from several musical genres such as blues, rhythm and blues, soul and perhaps even jazz. For the purpose of this article, I would like to focus first and foremost on blues, which I believe is the strongest component of rock and roll’s identity.
It all starts with electrifying instruments that were originally acoustic, hence for example plugging a guitar in an amp. My father used to tell me that I could not understand rock without listening to blues guitarists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Willie Dixon. But I just could not get it at the time. I just wanted to blast AC/DC or The Who. I did not see how it related to Angus Young’s burning solos and duckwalks or Pete Townshend’s power chords and mesmerizing windmills.
Pete Townshend executing his signature windmill.
I soon realized that the duckwalk was inspired by Berry, and that many guitar licks were adopted from blues classics. As a matter of fact, many influences from indie rock can be traced all the way back to these blues legends. And blues roots were, in turn, influenced by the music of their past generations and so forth. Rock and roll will be genetically passed to new generations inevitably, and that is the true force of this movement; that it is immortal. Hard as a rock, but rolling to the next. This is not about rock and roll anymore. This is about music.
Then why can’t I feel for EDM, what I feel for rock and roll? I believe the essence of music is musicianship. What do I mean by musicianship? I would define it as one’s ability to juxtapose and merge selected notes, physically triggered by human motions. The process is executed in a precise order to conceive a coherent auditive experience. This musicianship not only applies in the context of playing simultaneously with other people but also when playing with oneself.
Musicianship is like craftsmanship. There is something about the human’s effort to manually create a certain object, visual or not. Human errors and imperfections are beautiful to art, and individuals that develop the ability to master those are the true geniuses. When I listen to music, I am listening to that unique performance, to those irreplaceable waves that vanish through time. Vulnerability is key to precious art.
Be sure to check out my album to understand what I mean by musicianship.
It’s only rock and roll, but you’ll like it!