The most refreshing piece of music criticism is by John Strausbaugh in Rock 'til You Drop, though criticism is too soft a word for the sustained scorn he pours over all the baby-boomer rockers failing to grow old gracefully. Rock is, by definition, youth music, he insists, and “simply should not be played by 55-year-old men with triple chins”. It's not an ageist stance – he just feels that the Rolling Stones and their fellow colostomy-rockers have betrayed the revolutionary promises they made back in their day, and that instead of rocking, now they're just peddling nostalgia. He's not saying anything we don't already know, but it's good to hear someone say it with this much passion and venom.
—The Sunday Standard (London)
This entertaining polemic has plenty of targets: corporate rock bands like the Rolling Stones; corporate rock magazines like, well, Rolling Stone; MTV; do-gooder rock festivals; and just about anyone or anything else who commodifies teenage rebellion and dyspepsia for immense personal gain.
—The New Yorker
Clever, angry and articulate, New York Press editor and longtime music critic Strausbaugh collects and expands his writings on “colostomy rock,” 1960s-era rock music and its current milieu: “Rock simply should not be played by fifty-five-year-old men with triple chins wearing bad wighats, pretending to still be excited about playing songs they wrote...thirty-five years ago. Its prime audience should not be middle-aged, balding, jelly-bellied dads.” Calling rock a music of “youthful energies, youthful rebellion, youthful anxieties and anger,” Strausbaugh says, “Colostomy rock is... the antithesis of rebellion: it's nostalgia. And nostalgia is the death of rock.” He skewers some easy targets: the Rolling Stones' “Steel Wheelchairs tour... was a stadium spectacle... more like a football game”; Jefferson Airplane and the MC5 “made the media look and sound more cool, the better to market their products and their advertisers;” Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner “seems to have stopped liking or understanding the music by the mid-'70s”; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame “is a multimillion-dollar monument to the sad fact that my generation has completely forgotten what makes rock cool or fun or even ‘important.’” Strausbaugh never bores, and his opening and closing chapters on general pop-culture issues and his abiding love for the music elevate this above mere anti-baby-boomer ranting... This intelligent, entertaining book should infuriate nostalgic boomers and delight anyone who cares about pop music.
Death to geezer rock! is the clarion call of Rock 'Til You Drop – an incendiary tome primed to go off in the faces of the wheezing rock icons of yesteryear. They, says author John Strausbaugh, have sold out to the money-men – plugging the same old grooves with as much sincerity, as, well, the average baby-boomer politician.
Here is an impassioned, yet brilliantly humorous broadside against the rock industry, which refuses to spare even the saintly Bob Dylan. “A Bob Dylan concert,” observes Strausbaugh, “is a zombie show that requires self-deception from both the audience and the artist”. I went along to the New York launch in a seething sweaty basement club in Manhattan's old garment district, the sort of place ageing rock stars would once have frequented, but would now avoid like the plague.
“All you need is cash,” says an unforgiving Strausbaugh. “How can you look at the once-svelte Stevie Nicks and not cringe to see her overweight and stuffed like a sausage into some girdle or corset torture device so constricting she literally can't move in it, her pancake makeup thick and hard as china, her hair a straw fright wig, her once fetchingly crackled voice a scary croak? Yeah, you can go your own way mama. Please.”
Yet Rock 'Til You Drop is rather more than a glorious rant directed at those who survived the sex and drugs to milk a new generation while still claiming to be hip and radical.
The early days of rock and roll in London give way to conversations with another survivor who, like Gomelsky, never surrendered. Strausbaugh's blast against the commercialisation of music is ably abetted by John Sinclair, once manager of the notorious MC5 band, who earned himself a nine-year sentence for smoking a spliff at the Democratic Party's 1968 Chicago Convention.
And then there is light entertainment in the shape of the comely groupie of groupies, Bebe Buell, recounting her fun time with Liz Derringer and Johnny Winter's razor: “We're tripping and looking at his white whiskers and going, ‘God, that looks like cocaine’. So, we wrapped it in tin foil and sold them for 20 bucks in MacDougal Street.”
Strausbaugh has received many letters from genuine rock chicks. “As a 17-year-old fan of the Stones,” writes one, “to say they are faking it is laughable... May Keith (Richards) have mercy on your soul”.
— The Evening Standard (London)
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