I'd say that 100 percent of music is political, that music either supports the status quo or challenges the status quo, so every artist is political. Now, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez probably don't self-identify as political artists, but their music, while often very entertaining and loved by their fan bases, is the bread and circuses of our times. If you're not questioning authority, you're tacitly submitting to authority. That's not to say that I don't have a long list of booty-shaking jams on my iPod, and there's certainly a place for that, but I'm also conscious of the fact that in my own work, that what you say and what you do matters, that you are a historical agent, and that if you don't have your hands on the steering wheel, somebody else does.
I always want to go and see things for myself. That's why I ended up during the famine in Ethiopia. That's why I ended up in central America during the problems there in El Salvador and even in Nicaragua. I just want to go, I just want to see for myself.
I see things that are very hard to explain. That words, perhaps if I was a better writer, maybe I could just write journalism. But I'm blessed because I'm part of the U2 group and they're really good. They have an ability to express inexpressible thoughts. When I explained to Edge what I've been through in El Salvador, he was able to – with a nod to Jimi Hendrix actually – try and put some of that fear and loathing into his guitar solo.
We strapped my feelings to the [U2] song "Bullet the Blue Sky." I've been there; it was an American movement that were… wonderful people who were offering solace to refugees from the war in El Salvador. I was with one of those groups visiting. It was just a few of us. We went out into the hills and maybe that ...
You know what, 57 years is a long time. And if anything is gonna make life in whatever way better for the Cuban people, then it needs to happen. I happen to think that as long as that government is there, some things may change, but they are still taking repressive measures.
Even the day that President [Obama] landed in Cuba. The Ladies in White, which are these ladies that protest every Sunday very peacefully, walking silently with a flower were beaten and jailed. Gorki [Aguila], one of the top rap artist in Cuba now that is very vocal against the Cuban government but wont leave. He stays in Cuba to be there and to have his message come through. He was arrested that day. There were cameras on them. There were journalists covering it. It was kind of Castro's way of saying: "We don't care if you come here."
As you notice, Raúl Castro did not greet the President at the airport. He was greeted not even by the vice president, but by somebody in the diplomatic mission. [Castro] had very subtle ways of telling [Obama]. And then we saw, obviously, the op-ed that Fidel Castro ...
I don't know if music has the power to change people's minds as far as about political ideas, about issues, things like that. I do think it has the power to unify people who are maybe slightly undecided, maybe slightly feeling a certain way but haven't been able to articulate it. Music does a good job of articulating something and how something feels more than kind of an editorial. It's really good at explaining how it feels and people who haven't had those feelings articulated, that they feel a certain way about something, music will do that. And then they realize that there are other people that music helps do that, that feel the same way they do. So, it creates a kind of group with a kind of like mind. Which isn't really changing anybody's mind, but it's kind of bringing people with like minds together.
The Who continue to perform “My Generation” in their 2016 tour dates, even with that line about hoping to die before they get old. And with Mick Jagger becoming a great-grandfather in 2014, rock culture really is thumbing its nose at the idea of growing old gracefully.
So if grandpas these days can be rockers, maybe our associations of rock = rebelliousness = youth have collapsed altogether. Or perhaps we have actually become accustomed to the idea that “youth” is an attitude, not a chronological stage in the human life cycle. From that point of view, a rock & roll pose of “sticking it to the man” is available to anyone, even “the man” himself.
While the spirit of rock & roll lives on in lots of teen subcultures and inspires many new bands, it’s also true that kids who grow up rocking out alongside their parents think of this music as … well, old.
If you play Metallica to your baby in the cradle, he might grow up thinking of “Enter Sandman” as a nostalgic song that brings back sweet memories of bedtime.
The recent rise in child stars who rock out note-perfect versions of Van Halen guitar solos and Keith Moon drum ...
The Rock Hall's award-winning education department debated, arm-wrestled and ultimately high-fived their way into answering one impossible question: what song is each 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's definitive track? A tall order, to be sure, but here goes it:
Deep Purple – "Smoke on the Water" (1972)
Seriously. That riff. Who can't hum it? Formed in London in 1968, Deep Purple embraced the sounds of progressive rock, psychedelia-influenced blues and heavy metal, but the group of musicians always fit squarely within the hard rock genre that they helped solidify. Back to that guitar riff – a distinctive, repeated melody with a driving rhythm that builds a song's energy. The opening to Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is arguably the most famous riff in rock history. All credit to guitar extraordinaire Ritchie Blackmore, who took four simple chords and transformed it into a monster of a melody. But it wasn't just the notes. The rhythm of the riff is equally important: Blackmore mutes—or forcibly stops—the chords strategically to highlight the song's backbeat, which anticipates Ian Paice's drumbeat. Add a liberal dose of distortion to Blackmore's guitar and boom!: hard rock history ...
Metallica looking very metal in 1986 / photo by Ross Halfin / via metallica.com
As a child of the 80s, my first intro to Metallica came via MTV's Headbangers Ball, specifically the video for ...And Justice for All's epic metal anthem "One." Shot mostly in black-and-white, with scenes and dialogue from Johnny Got His Gun interspersed with the group thrashing in an abandoned warehouse, the video was intense, creepy, brutal – and all the other superlatives that inspired shock and awe in my impressionable young mind. I was hooked with full-on Beavis & Butt-head excitement. Like any enterprising adolesccent metalhead, I was soon fully immersed in Metallica's first three albums: Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. To the chagrin of my parents and their eardrums, the latter became my favorite. On the 30th anniversary of its release, listening to Master again took me headbanging down memory lane.
Master of Puppets not only pushed the limits of the metal genre in terms of sheer musicianship and creative force, but also redefined the paths to success and critical acclaim.
Metallica's meteoric ascent began in earnest with the release of 1983's Kill 'Em All, introducing the band ...
When Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock" dropped in 1982, it was nothing short of a revelation. In its cool grooves, the Bronx and Manhattan collided with a message for the citizens of One World. The lyrics were upbeat and utopian: "Party people, can y'all get funky!" The music – based around the rhythms of Kraftwerk's 1977 Krautrock hit "Trans-Europe Express" – was electronic and, in fact, funky. Hip-hop's first self-conscious art record suggested just how far this new musical sound could go. This was the Star Trek take on science fiction: harmonious, multicultural, with technology connecting people rather than alienating or threatening them.
And its rhythmic core? The Roland TR-808 drum machine, a hugely flawed, relatively inexpensive piece of early 80s technology that forever transformed the modern musical landscape of many styles – hip-hop, electro, dance, techno, pop, rock and industrial, among others.
808 The Movie tells the story of this unlikely musical hero, and I caught up with producer Alex Noyer to get the inside story on why he and his crew were inspired to make the film and the surprising stories they heard from the likes of Bambaataa, Phil Collins, Fat Boy Slim, the Beastie ...