Rock ‘N Roll Reconsidered

July 20th, 2009

gigimage1.jpgFor years now, I’ve tossed around “rock ‘n roll” as an adjective.

Sure, it’s a popular musical genre that evolved in the United States after World War II that combines African American rhythms and blues culture, country and gospel. And yeah, its instrumentation is typically guitars, bass and drums (typically a boogie woogie blues rhythm with an accentuated backbeat). But that’s just academic.

I’m talkin’ loud, fast and out of control; unshaven, unshorn and uninvited; wrecked hotel rooms, Lamborghinis and lives. I’m talkin’ out all night, awake for sunrise with shots for breakfast. Rock ‘n roll is rebellion, indecision, and contradiction. It’s black and white and gray streaked blood red.

Rock ‘n roll is a beautiful mess.

I’m not sure I’ve ever really been very rock ‘n roll, though I’ve certainly endeavored towards it. I’ve been electrocuted by beer-soaked microphones. I’ve done bong hits out of contraptions nearly my height. I’ve taken anonymous horse pills from a nefarious studio engineer. And I’ve tried to live a semi-unconventional life, neither buying selling, nor processing anything bought, sold or processed — or repairing anything bought, sold or processed. You know, as a career. And I wear jeans and Chuck Taylors lot.

No definition is etched in stone, though. Times change. Perceptions shift. Context is everything. So before I knew it, rock ‘n roll wasn’t just Boone’s Farm Strawberry between sets, bottomless two-dollar pitchers and knock down, fall down finales.

It’s my allowance (or acceptance) of this evolution (or eventuality) that found me ordering two dozen, egg-shaped shakers from Musician’s Friend last week, and hand-crafting a Benjamin Wagner Songbook — part sing-a-long, part set list, part clip-art coloring book — in anticipation of Saturday night’s all-ages, sippy cup and pint glass-fueled Rockwood Music Hall performance.

And it’s my allowance (or acceptance) of this evolution (or eventuality) that found me laughing my way through my own lyrics as my nephew, Ethan, intently colored a smiling dragon on the pages between “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Radio” bright green while his brother, Edward, gazed wide-eyed towards Chris Abad and Ryan Vaughn. Over Edward’s shoulder, their sister, Ella, projectile vomited a few ounces of fresh-brewed breast milk.

Later, as food-stained children, hipster friends and gray-haired parents alike joined guest star Casey Shea in his rousing cover of “Twist & Shout,” I thought, ‘If this ain’t rock ‘n roll, I’m just not that interested.”

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood Music Hall

5 Responses to “Rock ‘N Roll Reconsidered”

  1. Brian  Says:

    Great writing as always, Ben. I never bought into the rock and roll burn out Keith Richards deal anyway. Rock and roll is being true to yourself! That’s why you’re rock and roll dude!

  2. Benjamin  Says:

    Thanks, Brian. Wish I’d learned this one earlier, but better late than never.

  3. nicole  Says:

    love the say anything line. and glad you keep the rock n’ roll lifestyle, no matter how much the look of it changes.

  4. Tricia  Says:

    your priorites are so much different today then they were 10 or even 5 years ago. and that’s in large part due to the wonderful additions to your life: ethan, edward, ella, and of course, abbi. love and family can be pretty rock and roll, dude.

  5. Gerald M. McNerney  Says:

    Dear Benjamin, once again I found myself on your page because of something your Dad sent me. I found your comments on Rock and Roll interesting. As a 65 year old man I have always felt the younger generation used Rock and roll as an excuse for bad behavior such as drugs, destruction of property, lack of respect for the very institutions that gave them the liberty and freedom to engage in these excesses. Rock and roll to me is merely music, even at my age it can still make me want to sing along and dance a little. I still like to turn it up loud and I still like to fire up my Gibson es355 and bang on it for a while, although my fingers don’t work so well anymore, (buy the way I am going to take it ot Nashville this summer and sell it, my kids arn’t interested in it and just keeping it to keep doesnt make much sense. I have owned it since the60’s.) Anyhow back to the topic. Rock and roll never made me want to destroy anything or take drugs and it’s those kind of things perhaps defines the so-called generation gap. It does make me want to drive a little faster though. To me there are certain Rock and Roll classics that the current generation of musicians cant seem to replicate, Good Lovin, by the Rascals would be a good example. I think Rock and Roll survives in Country Western venues with people like Keith Urban. To this day I have never seen a guy that could play any better than Vince Gill. I think many of the songs on your CD are very marketable in the Country area especially your commentary on life type songs. Guys like Alan Jackson make millions and millions off songs like that. Anyhow those are some of my Random thoughts. Yours Truly Jerry McNerney

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