May 03, 2018

Who Killed the Blues?

"There shouldn't be a rock and roll Hall of Fame." Agreed.

That acknowledged, Bill (not that Bill Wyman) Wyman has a go at ranking the Rock Hall "inductees", with capsule summations of each act interleaved with a surprisingly absorbing account of the Hall's farcical backstory.

Wyman is a great writer and as usual has lots of interesting, provocative things to say. What's the word for this elevation of the ordinarily irksome, boring, 100% inert "listicle" format? Transplendent. That's the word, transplendent.

You won't agree with all of his assessments. If you're the kind of person who is moved to anger by such things, you'll probably be moved to anger (and that will be cute, when you vent it on the internet.) Anyway, it's worth reading, which I can't say about all that many things that come across my window.

There's one bit I wonder about, though. In re. the Ramones, he says: "they pretty much removed the blues from a strain of rock."

I've heard people say this before, and I truly don't understand what it's getting at. Surely there's just as much blues in the Ramones as there is in any 1-4-5 pop-rock, going all the way back to the beginning of rock and roll pop songs. Is it just that there are fewer flatted thirds and sevenths in the melodies? (If that's even true.) Is it the "no guitar solos" thing (which is not even strictly true either)?

I'm willing to entertain the idea, but it sure doesn't seem obvious to me. At minimum, it requires some explication. Assuming removing the blues from "rock" is a thing that actually happened, why are the Ramones, per se, the culprits? Is there no blues in "Be My Baby"? Maybe Phil Spector is the blues-remover, then, not Joey Ramone. I'm not saying there's anything particularly or definitively "bluesy" about the Ramones, but rather that you can say that about a great many rock and roll songs that came before. Their compositional aesthetic was indeed based on such material. Is it simply a matter of driving the final nail in the alleged blues coffin, somehow, completing the work begun by Phil Spector, the Brill Building, et al.? Cynthia Weil, with the lead pipe, in the drawing room?

(On the other hand, I've heard people say that Metallica excised the blues from heavy metal -- or "freed" heavy metal from the blues -- which it wouldn't occur to me to question in the same way. That seems obviously true, and also: I"m against it.)

It hasn't moved me to anger, but only to a kind of puzzlement. Anyway, I'd very much like to read a transplendent Bill Wyman article articulating it. Get on it, Bill, wouldja?

Posted by Dr. Frank at May 3, 2018 04:14 PM