I don’t know much about shit, and rock and roll is definitely none of my business. In fact, Rock and roll is like self-actualization. I have no idea what it is, but I do know what it ain’t. And here’s a list. It’s by no means definitive, and like everything, there are exceptions to all these. With that in mind, here’s some shit that ain’t rock and roll:
Kids on album covers
Being a mom or dad is not particularly rock and roll. It’s a great thing to be, and being a parent doesn’t instantly make you un-rock and roll, but at the heart of it, rock and roll is insurgent youth music and, like it or not, dads, you’re the physical manifestation thing that rock and roll is pushing back against. That being said, having kids is cool, and the act of making kids is very, very rock and roll. SOOOO, this is where shit gets tricky. Oh, is your kid holding a beer? Did you dangle a cigarette from his lips? Neato. Wouldn’t that be a rad album cover, guys?! No. No it wouldn’t be a rad album cover, you dorky old dad. No one, save maybe your own parents, think pictures of your kid are even one one thousandth as cool as you do, so take your enthusiasm for that wacky picture of your daughter in the toilet, divide it by a thousand, and that’s a pretty generous take on what we’re all seeing. That shit belongs in a scrapbook, and there’s nothing rock and roll about scrapbooking.
Similar to children, but often given more of a pass because they’re not so overtly wimpy, quit with the songs about your fucking pets. Oh, did your cat die? Sad. Very sad. Have a kitty funeral and bury him in the yard and lovingly gather up the scratching post and all that and set it by the dumpster with a wistful sigh. That’s dead pets. Don’t write a fucking song about dead pets. It’s a cloying and desperate bid for emotional resonance. It’s the day-to-day version of writing a song about the holocaust or 9-11. Also, (and I don’t believe this needs to be touched on at all), don’t write a song from the perspective of live pets. Pet thoughts aren’t rock and roll. They aren’t. Pet thoughts are like “food food sleep lick the sticky spot on the floor food I’m shitting etc”. “But what about the weakerthans and jets to brazil (and whoever else)?” Uh, those aren’t exactly the most ‘rockin’ bands, dudes. Plus, those particular songs, even by Jets/weakerthans standards, are pretty dickless. I GUESS if Varg from Burzum had some wolves or something, that could be a cool exception. I dunno. Proceed with caution here, folks. (ed note: I am a big fan of both the Weakerthans and Jets to Brazil, so save it, nerds)
Sticking pills in your ass
Once, I was on tour with this band who came across a bunch of cool pills. I think they were percocets or something, butt that’s not the point. The point is, these dudes told me that they were going to stick the pills in their asses because “that’s the only way to truly get 100% of the effects of the pills.” I’m sorry, but there’s just nothing rock and roll about a bunch of dudes sitting backstage with their ankles over their heads stuffing pills up their asses. There just isn’t.
Any bullshit sentimentality
We touched on this in the ‘dead pets’ section, but generally, keep it to yourself. Yes, an emotional outburst can be awesome. You can wail in despair. You can (to briefly go back and defend a band I lightly weezed before) scream something like “you keep fucking up my life” like Blake from Jets to Brazil does at the end of ‘I typed for miles’ and it can be resonant as shit, as long as you’re not wallowing in that kind of gross sentimentality the rest of the time. You need to have a sense of humor that exists in your entire body of work before you are allowed to temporarily abandon it for flat out sentimentality and have that moment of soul-baring achieve the desired effect. Now, before you all start thinking I’ve lost my mind, there’s a big difference between being funny and having a sense of humor. Being funny is hard and it’s very overt and it often overshadows anything else that’s going on. Having a sense of humor just means you’re not dead serious and lame. Bleakness can have a sense of humor. Anger can have a sense of humor. Sadness can have a sense of humor. In order for anything to have true emotional resonance, it needs to have a sense of humor, so it can show the full humanity of whatever emotion it’s conveying. Just like you need a pinpoint of light to see how black something really is. If you’re operating without humor, chances are about 100% that your band is wack and you stink to be around. Also, chances are like 85% that you’ve worn pantyhose on your arms at some point.
If you’re at a comedy show, you have to be quiet. That’s the thing. Comedy is about timing and if you’re talking, you’re fucking the flow up for the comedian, who you’re ostensibly there to see. If you wanna talk, go to a bar or go to a fucking rock show. If you’re at a rock show and someone on stage tells you to be quiet because what they’re saying or doing is so very very important, you don’t have to listen to them because jesus fucking Christ is that lame. Here’s the rule of thumb: music is a visceral experience and you (‘you’ are in the band now, btw) should be able to hold peoples’ attention with your songcraft, your skill and your gigantic pile of speakers. If there’s some dick gabbing in the middle of an attentive audience, the audience will shut him or her up themselves (I’ve witnessed it many times). If you find that people generally just aren’t paying attention, however, it’s not really their fault. Sorry. You should be better at songs.
Picking on people weaker than you
This is the shittiest thing you can do in any situation. Don’t do it. If you pick on people who are weaker than you, you are an asshole of the lamest order. Well, it was great when MCA did that verse in Professor Booty where he dissed the dork from 3rd Bass, BUT, that was a kick ass exception to this otherwise hard and fast rule. Never pick on someone weaker than you. Not in rock and roll. Not in your office. Not at the bar. Not in the street. Never. Never. God. What the fuck is wrong with you?
Using the name of your genre in your song
Singing about “rock and roll” or “punk” is pretty dorky and if you’re gonna pull it off, you’d better be black in the 50’s or fourteen, respectively. The exception to this is metal, because there’s nothing quite so metal as when Manowar sings that they’re the kings of metal. Hard to argue that shit, bros.
Ugh. Keep your religion out of rock and roll. Conversely, do you hate religion? Good. Whuppity doo. That opinion used to be insurgent. In fact, ‘Halie Selassie Up Your Ass’ by Propagandhi is the only song I ever turned down in my room, because the repeated entreaty to ‘fuck religion’ seemed WAAAAY more out there to me, way more likely to bum out my mom than even 2 Live Crew singing ‘nibble on my dick like a rat does cheese,’ but these days, yawn. Everyone gets it. You’re kind of picking on the weak with this one, because let’s face it: if there’s a god, he’s such a fucking asshole that you KNOW he’s gonna laugh his ass off right in the face of everyone that wasted their Sundays in church and listening to Matisyahu while we were all getting high and having fun and listening to Judas Priest. Imagine that. You spend your life worshiping someone who’s so transparently an asshole, only to die and realize that, lo and behold, he’s an asshole. Oh, you don’t think god’s an asshole? Explain to me why people in Africa are covered in flies and eating dirt while people shoot at them and rape their kids while I’m over here looking at blue jeans online (and do it without making god sound like an asshole). See? But still, nothing rock and roll about Jesus either. Sorry Jesus.
Don’t beg. Don’t beg for love or forgiveness or fans or for people to come to the front of the stage or for people to dance or for anything. It’s lame. What are you, six? Get it yourself. You want love? Be nice, or fuck, write a kickass song that makes people love you. You want forgiveness, act like someone who deserves to be forgiven. You want people to come up and dance? Be a better band. Don’t beg. Begging is for babies, who, as we’ve already discussed, aren’t rock and roll at all. Well, begging is also for hobos, who, ironically are pretty much the most rock and roll people ever. Okay. That blows this whole theory, I guess. I don’t know. Like I said before, rock and roll is none of my business.
Happy thanksgiving once again.