Back in 1980, singer-songwriter Billy Joel was already railing against the stratification of rock & pop music.
In “It’s Still Rock ’N’ Roll To Me”, a single off his Glass Houses LP, Joel put forth his opinion succinctly.
“Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout the new sound
Funny, but it’s still rock and roll to me”
The lyrics are meant to be humorous with a tinge of commentary on music and fashion and the whole issue of categorising music under ‘genres’.
“Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk
It’s still rock and roll to me”
There is a cynical edge to the bridge aimed directly at music journos and magazines trying to make something new out of nothing.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter what they say in the papers
‘Cause it’s always been the same old scene.
There’s a new band in town
But you can’t get the sound from a story in a magazine…
Aimed at your average teen”
This has been a recurring issue throughout rock history and we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a couple of significant instances where labels have been placed on a certain band and their music but in the final analysis, it was necessary to sing along with Joel – “it’s still rock n roll to me!”
THE STOOGES | PROTO-PUNK
Classic example right here. The Stooges (viz. singer Iggy Pop, guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton, and bassist Dave Alexander) first came to prominence in 1969 and their brand of raw and primitive rock music have been identified as a precursor of punk rock i.e. “proto-punk”. Which seems a little silly because anyone listening to The Stooges will only think of rock ’n’ roll and nothing else!
DAVID BOWIE | GLAM
Glam rock was also considered a precursor of punk rock but essentially the name derived from the image of the artists and not the music itself. Seriously, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust incarnation was a rock ’n’ roll monster of the best kind!
THE SEX PISTOLS | PUNK
Which brings us to punk itself. Whilst the label “punk” was intended to differentiate the new bands – like the Pistols – from the dinosaur rock bands (like Pink Floyd, for example), especially in terms of attitude etc. The reality is that the music itself is a throw back to 60s upgrade of rock ’n’ roll.
THE CARS | NEW WAVE
Joel actually called out “new wave” in his diatribe and certainly, The Cars fit the bill. Listening to the discography of this quite popular 80s band it seems ridiculous to consider The Cars anything but a rock ’n’ roll band!
… still there’s more …