Tonight, I got a chance to hear Andy Summers, former guitarist for The Police read from his book, One Train Later, at Powell's Books. It was an interesting reading: Andy Summers had, on one hand, the dry, self-depreciating wit of a literary man, and, on the other, the flair of energy that you would expect from a guitar god. So his reading was both nuanced and showmanlike.
I wasn't planning on asking any questions, since I am not too much of an expert on The Police, and I hadn't read his book. But a question that someone else asked prompted me into asking a question that I have asked many people of Mr. Summer's generation. The question before mine was an obvious question to ask someone who was involved in music across so many years: what Mr. Summers thought of today's music. His response, in brief, was that he had turned his interest more to the specific genres of classical and jazz music he was interested in, and didn't hear many of the modern rock bands, except in passing.
My question flowed out from that quickly: why is it, that in an era when many people in the US and in the UK were very unhappy with the general direction of the politics and culture, was there not the type of confrontation in popular music that there was in the late 60s? I would have liked to transcribe his answer, although it would have perhaps not been anymore clear. He spoke words to the effect that while the utopian ideals of the era were nice, they never really quite worked out as well as people had hoped, and that therefore people weren't even trying any more. Or words to that effect.
This is one of the most important questions of our decade. That the US government is somewhere between stupid, corrupt and insane is not a secret. That is kind of what happens to those in power, and it isn't even political. It is not surprising. What is surprising is that such a situation has not produced any kind of sizable discontent in the culture. It is a surprise that Mr. Summers couldn't explain tonight, but that to his credit, many many other people have also been unable to do anything about.