OFF THE SHELF: YOUNGSTERS TAKE ON ICONS OF BOOMERS
BY TERRY ENGLAND
The Santa Fe New Mexican (New Mexico)
July 25, 2004 Sunday
It's a tradition as old as mankind itself, probably: The younger generation
grows up and trashes everything their parents hold dear.
This is the theme of Kill Your Idols, edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmél
Carrillo (Barricade Books, $16), in which "a new generation of rock writers
reconsiders the classics," according to the subtitle. Well, Pepsi has been
billing itself as "the choice of a new generation" for something like 40 years
and it's still No. 2, so forgive my skepticism. It might be the rule for the
younger generation to shove aside the old and take over, but they're not always
right. Or have good taste.
"Why should anything be accepted as dogma in an art form (the devil's music, no
less!) that, at best, is about questioning everything?" says DeRogatis in the
foreword. "A lot of people don't think this way; a lot of people don't like to
think, period. Baby Boomers, the largest generation in American history ... are
particularly prone to safeguarding works whose values they adopted as articles
of faith in their youth, even though said youth is now several decades behind
Ah, the younger generation, so cute, so naive -- and not entirely wrong, either.
DeRogatis -- pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times (these critics are
young, not necessarily alternative) -- admits to understanding what rock can do
to a teenager in his essay about St. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band: "... I'll
grant these boys the fact that everybody was listening to this album. Big deal,
so what: What were they hearing?" (Emphasis his.) Fair question.
In defense of boomer taste, I will say Sgt. Pepper hit so hard was because it
lifted us out of rock 'n' roll of sappy lyrics, insipid melodies and the same ol',
same ol' one-two beat. At last, rock that was different, imaginative. So what if
we took our joy too far, spilling over into kitsch. It's what my generation does
best. While granting the album does suffer from too much technical meddling, I
say his rant about a harpsichord -- "The very symbol of the baroque and
Victorian!" -- on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is mere whining.
But I'm not here to argue point-by-point with these folks over their wisdom or
savvy. (Really.) The other essays, while not quite as strident as DeRogatis, do
make some excellent points. Keith Moerer, after giving us juicy details about
the making of the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St., praises a couple of songs,
faintly damns others and disses one in particular: "I'll take any of the songs
... over Exile on Main St.'s lowest moment, "Sweet Black Angel," a deeply
offensive "tribute" to black radical Angela Davis that combines lovely acoustic
guitar, light, lilting marimbas, and a jaw-dropping set of blackface lyrics ..."
Jeff Nordstedt discusses the background of and the problems with the Pet Sounds
by the Beach Boys (It "... is a completely cerebral work of art ..." and "...
lacks the visceral charge that is found in great rock music.") Steve Knopper
takes on The Who's Tommy ("It has its charms, but it's best if you accept it as
camp and laugh at its indulgences.") Andy Wang argues that MC5's Kick Out the
Jams really doesn't make any sense. Adrian Brijbassi describes the horror of
being told the only reason a girl danced with him was because Stairway to Heaven
by Led Zeppelin was playing.
I was never a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but Leanne Potts, pop-culture writer for
the Albuquerque Journal who was born in raised in Alabama, explains why the
group's album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, is offensive to Southerners. Kim
Walsh serves up a fantasy on assassinating the members of Fleetwood Mac during a
concert. Bizarre, yes, but -- understandable.
So it goes. Some of the albums included here are surprises because of their
iconic status -- Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon; Bob Marley and the Wailers,
Exodus; Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A.; U2, The Joshua
Tree; Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks. Others are here because they deserve it --
Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks ... Here's the Sex Pistols; Paul and Linda
McCartney, Ram. Others are a surprise because they're not boomer music -- Public
Enemy, It Takes a Nation of a Million to Hold us Back; Nirvana, Nevermind;
Radiohead, OK Computer; Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite
The contributors list their own 10 favorites and surprise -- some list the very
records criticized by the others, showing that this really is a subjective game.
Still, for the contributors, not a bad job overall. As a boomer to the next
generation, though, just wait until, heh-heh, your kids start trashing your