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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hydraulic License Rock (Slight Return)

[Editor's Note: This originally ran 18 months ago. I'm shocked the YouTube video is still available. I imagined it would have been pulled and resulted in 45 lawsuits by now.]
{Author's Note: There is no editor, and he's really starting to bug me.}

The quality of this YouTube feed is better than most. The quality of the music is too:



That's Cream re-united and performing "White Room," probably their best known song. I've watched it many times. It occurs to me that it explains a lot about rock music.

Those are old men. Eric Clapton, playing the black stratocaster, has his hair mussed just so as a sop to youth, but they're old farts. Old farts playing rock music are lame. Cream is not. Here's why:

The term rock music has been twisted and stretched to cover just about any set of noises organized to sell discs. It's as if forty or fifty years ago a religion was founded, and you had to get the A and R rabbis at the record companies and radio stations to announce you were kosher, ie: rock and roll, to be consumed.

If there's anything lamer than old, bald men in spandex still yelping about the discontents of teenagers as if they were still in junior high, I haven't seen it. "Hope I die before I get old" only stirs the blood if the blood doesn't require Geritol. You're not allowed to pick that gauntlet back up and complain about your backache while doing so, too.

Performers used to acknowledge that their shelf life as young rebels "fighting the man" was short, and if they wanted to keep performing afer it expired, they'd have to become part of the nostalgia industry. Listening to Peter Frampton in 1976 is excusable. Listening to Peter Frampton to remind you of 1976 is excusable. Listening to Peter Frampton as anything else is kinda silly.

Cream is a part of a tradition of adult music. they listened to music from America's black musical tradition, where it is was plenty acceptable to be an adult, and consider adult themes. When they were young, they were striving to be old. Now they are old, and need not strive.

I watched them, and knew that I had seen their like before; but not where you'd think. They were operating their machinery, and I had seen men operate familiar machinery before. I've known many men, skilled in the rough arts: masonry and concrete finishing and excavation and demolition and blasting--men past their physical prime, but still tough as nails, and wise; and able to leave any three youngsters in their dust.

They sit in the chair in the excavator, and their knobby hands move the levers just so, and they move the bucket with the delicacy of the teaspoon. They wake up tired, and yet they never tire while working, because they husband their energies where the young and strong and dumb flail away and drop out.

They stand in the shade whenever possible, and rest when it is offered, but do not flag.

They smile at one another at the end of the day's work, exactly the same smile exchanged at the end of this song; a knowing smile among those who have earned the respect of a fellow adult man.

And the young men watch them and learn.

4 comments:

Gerard said...

True enough, but the present day recording lacks the whip snap and the boost of the original.

Ron said...

No, no...I've seen worse. The nadir plus ultra, if I am allowed this coinage, is seeing Roger Daltry on an infomercial with Fluffy McBimbohead hawking a '60's greatest hits package. This is to ensure that, like the Homeric hymns, the castrato warblings of 1910 Fruitgum company shall be recalled evermore, no doubt!

And when told the price of this collection, Mr. Daltry looked right into the camera and said, "I call that a bargain -- the best I ever had!"

...and six feet under the loamy soil, the zombie voice of Don McLean, croaked out "Okay, I was wrong...this is the day the music died!"

Sam L. said...

They rose to the top, and went away. This rises to the top, too.

Think about old blues players and singers. They keep on keepin' on until they stop getting hired, or die.

Youthful rebellion has a shelf life, but rock, as rock, doesn't have to.

Thanks for the vid.

gus said...

The smart young men, the ones worth watching in the next forty-odd years, watch them and learn ... at least an equal number look and see only an old fart on a backhoe, and go back to whatever important thing they were doing before they were disturbed.