WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO is the old "Is Rock Dead?" question.
You see, rock has been popularized in the last year into being the stuff that makes up, now, magazine articles and even grownups' conversations. And when you get this much talking about something, you develop certain stock ideas about it that everyone then starts talking about. So, you have people talking about ideas about something instead of the thing itself. The evolution of this talking about ideas about ideas about ideas about things is that process we call "academics." Pretty sad, no?
This winter's idea about rock is that it is dead.
Now, that wouldn't seem to be true from just looking around you. After all, rock records are selling all over town, like, three times more than ever before. And now there are lots of different groups in the racks, and so on. But the dreaded locust swarms of ill fortune will soon be seen darkening rock's horizons when the record companies jack up their lp prices to four and five dollars later in the next month. Slightly longer then a year ago records went for $2.40 apiece. Who's going to buy them when they cost twice as much? The people who have twice as much money--the guys who are twice as old as we are. Pretty sad, hunh?
The reason that records prices are going up, the person who sells records at the Coop told me, is because at the end of last year when the Beatles came out with a double album that sold for $10 at non-discount places all across the country, it still sold 3 1/2 million copies in four days. The record companies learned there was a lot more money in the market than they thought.
Have you seen the big full page rock lp ads in all the press recently, I ask you. Have you seen them? Haven't you. They are there because the companies ar getting ready for the blitz. And who gets blitzed when the companies blitz? Not the stores: they just tack it onto the tag. The guy who pays gets blitzed. And who pays? The consumer pays.
These consumers are going to be older than what they used to be. and the question is can we still call it rock when these people have snatched it away from the kids.
Rock had always been a revolutionary music. The kids kept it revolutionary, defiant of what already existed, because they always liked best what was new and different. So rock had to be creative, and each generation of high school kids grew out of liking it--or rather, they were pushed out. But now Mick Jagger throws a party that Lord Harlech comes to. What have you got? People who are going to drag rock music into middle age with them.
THE CLINCHER to why rock might be dead is the whole thing got out of control. The hippy is dead because people piled into San Francisco so fast that a great unnaturalness arose. God is dead because populations started multiplying so fast that it became too much of a strain for God to care about everybody. Rock is dead because records started going so fast that the industry let its screws loose.
The creative process in rock had been smashed.
The thing that always made rock groups good has been dropped.
Groups are now stopped from becoming really good.
That is to say, the Beatles were playing together for two and a half years (without Ringo Starr) before they cut a hit record. Groups need this kind of practice and working together so they can become one and then do really creative things. Lots of the great groups did this before, let's say, last year. The Stones, the Who, the Zombies, the Blues Project, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish. Country Joe had been in the Navy and had been working--the whole routine--before the Fish finally made it. They had been playing for free in the park in San Francisco for a long time when they never expected much in the way of silver spangled fame. They were nothing like long, curly haired seventeen-year-old Stevie Winwood looking to shoot up to the top as number one rock musician in the world.
What's evil in rock is desire. . . . . You shouldn't want things. Rock musicians shouldn't want things either. I have been led to believe recently, by those people around me whom I listen to, that Buddha is right in telling us not to desire anything because all agony comes out of trying to get things we want.
If there is any rock musician to day who understands this idea, it is John Lennon. I don't think John Lennon wants anything. He doesn't care who's "better," who sells more, who gets more groupies. Unlike John Lennon, most rock players are very non-transcendent beings.