Another in a 2014 guest column series which builds on the one in 2009 where 50+ had written about how science/tech has evolved their hobby/interest.
This time it is David Deal who helps companies and people build their brands. I first met him in 1997 when he was at Accenture and knew him as a diehard baseball fan. Actually, as he writes here he is even more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll fanatic.
In the 1980s, savvy radio programmers created the "classic rock" format in order to pander to the increasingly affluent Baby Boomer demographic. But for me, classic rock is a passion, not a music format. And digital technology has helped me enjoy and share that passion in ways that were not available to me back in 1975,when I was bowled over by the power of Led Zeppelin's classic rock masterpiece Physical Graffiti.
Classic rock generally refers to rock music created after the emergence of Bob Dylan in the early 1960s and before the second British invasion of 1983, when synth/pop and early forms of rap began diluting rock's influence. I cannot pinpoint the moment I became a classic rock fan any better than I can recall the first time I explored the Bible. "Stairway to Heaven," like the Sermon on the Mount, has always been in my life. Certainly some childhood memories stand out, like exploring the album cover for the beautifully ugly Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) by the Rolling Stones, an LP that belonged to one of my older sisters; or hearing Jim Morrison sing the "The End" during the opening credits of Apocalypse Now.
In 1979, as I sat in a dark theater watching Francis Ford Coppola's magnum opus about Vietnam,I didn't know I was listening to a form of music that would some day become content programmed for a demographic. I was lost in John Densmore's crisp percussion, Ray Manzarek's eerie organ tones, Morrison's mournful voice, and Robby Krieger's mystical guitar notes. I was having my mind blown.
Decades later, the Millennial generation consumes music as little digital snacks on their smart phones instead of being overpowered by music as I was. I prefer to enjoy my classic rock (or any music,for that matter) by listening to albums played at home on a high-fidelity stereo, much as I like to read books in paper format. I am a digital junkie in many ways, but there's no way you're ever going to convince me that The Dark Side of the Moon can be experienced properly through a scattering of disjointed MP3 files on my iPhone.
And yet, even as many classic rock lovers like me cringe at the way digital has distorted the beauty of the music we love, digital has also deepened my appreciation for classic rock in two ways.
Classic rockers have not always warmed up easily to digital. The Beatles were not available on iTunes until 2010, and the Led Zeppelin catalog wasn't available on Spotify until 2013. But rock and roll is a visual as well as aural medium, and fortunately visual media like YouTube have unleashed a mother lode of memorable classic rock material to engage me, even if the legal status of the content is sometimes dubious. Even as I wrote this post, I got my creative energies flowing by hopping on to YouTube and watching John Lennon jam with Chuck Berry on the Mike Douglas show in the early 1970s:
Sometimes video makes it possible to replay history in near real-time. In 2013, I took my daughter and wife to see classic rock giants Black Sabbath blow away a horde of screaming fans at the Tinley Park First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre -- an experience akin to worshipping at the altar of the classic rock gods. Within hours I relived the experience thanks to amateur fan footage uploaded on YouTube, such as this.
Fortunately, even as some classic rock bands have faded, their histories are often well curated professionally, too. Led Zeppelin’s legacy has been well preserved by those who documented the band in its day, an example being the Live Dreams app created by photographer Laurance Ratner. And the Doors iPad app consists of a stunning treasure trove of images and notes about the making of the band's albums
Thanks to digital, Jim Morrison looks vibrant, sexy, and threatening today, even though he's been dead for 40 years. Maybe he'll visit us as a hologram,as Tupac Shakur did at Coachella in 2012.
Digital also makes it possible for me to share my own passion -- to give something back for all the joy I've gained from classic rock. The opportunity (for which I am grateful) to contribute to this blog series is one obvious example. I also write often about classic rock on my own blog, Superhype, which is devoted to marketing, entertainment, and technology. Within the past few years, I've assessed the impact of the Eagles' Hotel California, pondered the meaning of Led Zeppelin's fourth album, and shared lessons of creativity gleaned from the making of L.A. Woman by the Doors. And since we live in a visual age, I increasingly rely on visual media like Instagram, Pinterest, and SlideShare to express my passion for all things musical, including classic rock.
But sharing matters little unless you have an audience who will listen, read, watch, and share with you. I often take for granted the availability of social media platforms like Facebook as much as I do my own phone or car -- which just goes to show how even a relatively young digital technology can embed itself in our lives with frightening speed. When I discovered the work of renowned rock journalist Mikal Gilmore years ago, I never dreamed some day I might actually become part of his extended circle of friends,much less that we would occasionally comment on each other's musings. But thanks to Facebook, and Gilmore’s acceptance of my friendship request a few years ago,I'm blessed by his peerless insights and musical tastes every day.
And social can create unexpected kindred spirits: it turns out that my Facebook friend Eduardo J. Lopez-Reyes, a research specialist at the University of Connecticut, also shares my passion for classic rock. In 2012, Eduardo interviewed me about the power of Pink Floyd for the popular Floyd fan site Brain Damage -- something like my Oprah confessional moment, as I related Pink Floyd to my childhood and present-day experiences.
Is Rock Dead?
Much has been said about the passing away of rock and roll as a musical format amid the rise of more diverse forms of pop, electronic dance music, and hip-hop. (I've questioned rock's future, too.) But occasionally I'm reminded that rock and roll remains a powerful force to be reckoned with, even as we worry about who will emerge to inherit the mantel from the young turks who are now quite senior (such as Green Day and U2). Just recently I posted on my Facebook wall a photo of myself visiting Jim Morrison's grave in 2000. I received more Likes and Comments than I have for any other piece of content I've ever posted,with the exception of family photos and milestones:
I'm also encouraged by the endurance of Classic Rock magazine, a British publication launched in 1998. At a time when the magazine industry has been buffeted by turmoil, Classic Rock carries on quite well thanks to innovations such as the release of a solo album by Slash inside a special issue of the magazine. The publication of the special hybrid album/magazine issue marked the first release of an album in exclusive partnership with a magazine ahead of general release -- and resulted in the first time a magazine publisher ranked at the top of online album chart.
To quote AC/DC, "Forget the hearse 'cause I'll never die." Thanks to digital, classic rock and roll will never die.