Or How to Rock in General

Never forget that rock n’ roll is almost always at least 1/4 bullshit. Not bullshit as in some worthless, offensive waste, but bullshit like a mystical and unidentifiable effluvium that frustrates all that seek but cannot find it. There is an ever-present pseudo-"Emperor's New Clothes" element at work here. While you can objectively determine a smoking guitar solo, or a bad-ass drum break, or the perfectly pitched '80s hair metal scream, you could have all these elements in a song that sucks major ass. You can have none of these things in a song that rocks for the ages.

You'll hear old blues men say time and time again, "You gotta pay your dues if you wanna play the blues." This is the perfect adage to explain blues music. The blues is perhaps the simplest musical style there is, all notes come off a pentatonic scale and all chord changes fall along the lines of 1-4-5. Despite the incredible simplicity of the form, not just anyone (and in fact very few) can play the blues well. This is because the most important ingredient to the blues, and what makes the blues so great, is the feeling. The soul. The mojo. The whatever. Don't try to describe it, you'll lose it. But whatever it is, you have to know heartache, misery, despondency, depression, every color and hue in the rainbow of pain to get it.

Rock n’ roll is blues-based, almost exclusively. We're still pickin' on the pentatonics, we're still bangin' out the 1-4-5 progressions, but now we're saying to ourselves, what if it's not all about the bad times? What if it's about the kick-ass good times? There are a million blues songs about drowning in the bottle after losing your girl, your house, your dog, your truck... but what about those times you drown in the bottle at the most ragingest party of your life? What about that time you snorted enough coke to kill an elephant and ended up in bed with the Swedish Bikini Team? What about that time you got in a guitar solo contest with the Devil Himself and scorched his ass so bad he had to wear diapers for a week? Rock n’ roll made the blues celebratory.

But so even though the focus has shifted a bit, the key ingredient is still the same: the feeling. You cannot play rock (physically) if you yourself do not rock (spiritually). And you will never rock (spiritually) until you rock out (physically), preferably on a semi-regular basis. In the Marine Corps there's a saying that goes, "False motivation breeds real motivation," and as stupid as it sounds, it's the truest thing I've ever heard. If you just say, "Fuck it, I'm gonna get excited about this stupid, menial task even though I hate it so bad and enjoying it is the most ridiculous thing I can imagine. I’m too good to let this bullshit get me down. I'm going to like it to spite it," then you start to have fun with it, because it's fun to be spiting this task that you hate so badly. Then everyone around you starts to have fun with it. Pretty soon you've turned something that makes everyone miserable into something that everyone's having a great time doing.

This is not to say that rock is a chore, but that faking the funk will, 9 times out of 10, lead you to the light. In other words, if you're not a rocker, have no fear. Pretend to rock, attempt to rock hard, and you will rock soon enough. Consider some of the people who have rocked before us:

  • Axl Rose. Think about Axl on stage, wiggling around the mic, doing a Stevie Wonder impression with his head, jumping around like some maniacal pogo stick…. He should’ve been totally ridiculous, except that it rocked. Do you think that stuff would’ve been considered rocking when he was just a pimply-faced teen without Guns n' Roses shredding behind him? Yet he didn’t just start rocking once they were playing behind him, he had to attempt to rock before he truly rocked.

  • Angus Young. How many of us would be caught dead in a schoolboy outfit? And if you do have the balls to wear one, do you think it would rock? Angus did not just rock in a schoolboy outfit, he made the schoolboy outfit rock. Again, this did not happen by magic. Angus had to work hard to be rocking himself before he could rock the schoolboy outfit. His band said it perhaps better than anyone: “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll.”

  • Lemmy Kilmister. This man is ugly as sin. Seriously, take a good look at him. He could’ve been a double for the Elephant Man. Is this the first thing people think of when Lemmy is mentioned? No. Why? Because what stands out far beyond his looks is his rocking. As with Angus’ schoolboy outfit, he didn’t just rock in spite of his face, he made his face rock.

This all goes to show that it takes balls, my friend, brass balls to rock. You don’t have to be special; you just gotta have the guts. You have to fearlessly rock in the face of failure and humiliation. Make no mistake friend, rock n’ roll is a religion, and if you seek salvation within its loving arms, you must heed the words of one of the seemingly un-rockingest men ever, George Michael:

You gotta have faith.