It never ends, does it? The young complain about the old, the old complain about the young. The Circle of Liiiiiiiiiiiife assures this pattern shall never end, as new asses are born everyday, ready to kick the old asses in their flattened saggy buttocks. It doesn’t mean the new asses are superior; they just are full of, well, their own assdom. I would like to take this opportunity to step into an argument, one of the classics: How Old People Can’t Appreciate New Music and How Young People Make Only Crap.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in this corner we have James Greene, Jr., Age 30, writing for the legendary Crawdaddy!:

Aaaaand in this corner we have Little Steven Van Zandt, Age 58, famous musician, recording artist, label owner, and progenitor of radio’s Underground Garage:

Do read both articles, but a summary:

Greene: Van Zandt, you are an old, rich, one-trick-pony who is out of touch. How dare you dismiss what you can’t appreciate in modern music. Dig your own grave now, Grandpa, you don’t know what you are talking about.

Van Zandt: Today’s popular music sucks because it is made by robots and poor musicians with little understanding of musical history and people who never paid their dues playing in filthy sweaty clubs. This is all probably the fault of MTV.

Oh, yes, I am going to step in here because I have no problem fondly knocking both their skulls together to say, “BOYS! BOYS! BOYS! YOU ARE BOTH WRONG!” And, “YOU ARE BOTH RIGHT!”

How do I know this? Because I am, more or less, in the temporal middle of these cats at Age 47. I have had the experience that Little Steven speaks of, living through most of rock music’s rich history and deeply delving further back into its blues, country, gospel, folk, and jazz roots. I have also experienced Greene’s frustration at the crusty whininess of the “Music Was Only Good When I Was A Kid, Man” people. I have always made major efforts to find, listen to, and love new music, and not just music that sounds like what I already know. I want to be surprised, I want to hear something clever and fresh, and I never fail even in the worst musical eras to find a bounty of talent. But most people, even by the time they are Greene’s age, have already given up on that. I know plenty of early-30s folks who already are pining for the good old music heydey of The Mars Volta and Soundgarden and good god, Slayer. This just seems to happen – people generally rhapsodize about and stick with the music from their youth. Glory Daaaaaays.

Both of these guys, I think, are misunderstanding some basic things. As I have often stated here on the ol’ DI, I am a huge fan of Van Zandt’s Underground Garage radio channel on SIRIUS XM. It is a total blast for me to have all that great old and new garage/punk/Brit Invasion/power pop music on call, because these are my most-favorite genres in rock. However, I probably split my time evenly between that station and SIRIUS XMU, which plays all recent indie releases. I will pop over to Alt Nation, Lithium, the 60s channel, 1st Wave, with occasional forays into hip-hop or old jazz or old country. No one thing is “it.” Van Zandt is just flat-out wrong when he states that there really is only one way to make “real” rock n’ roll: by studying others’ music, playing others’ music, working with others every step of the way, with industry “pros” who already know what is “good.”

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. And NO. It simply is not true. But of course he comes from this journeyman's perspective. He has spent most of his lifetime playing in Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street band; he is very well-known, but not the star. Bruce and the E-Street Band are known for putting on dynamic and lengthy live shows, very much designed to build and entertain an audience in a traditional way. Springsteen’s songwriting, taking the storyteller/working- class-woes paths of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, modernized and expanded those ideas by adding a saxophone and lyrics about cars and girls and New Jersey, and it worked. Recognizable and beloved, for sure, but innovative? No.

Van Zandt: “When it started, Rock and Roll was dance music. One day we stopped dancing to it and started listening to it and it's been downhill ever since.”

Now, I like to dance as much or probably much much more that the general public, but come on now. If you take this statement on its face, then “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles and "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab For Cutie and "Sugar Mountain" by Neil Young and "Leaving California" by PJ Harvey & John Parish and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin and “Karma Police” by Radiohead and “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver and “Fault Line” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the friggin’ “Star Spangled Banner” by JIMI HENDRIX are all “downhill” because they are not dance songs, they are listening songs. Rock n’ roll, yes, REAL rock n’ roll, is all of these things, and we are luckier for the full expression from these talented artists, some of whom didn’t play in bar bands and didn’t have slick producers to tell them if they were good or not.

Van Zandt bemoans the DIY nature of the changing music business. Well, this is the BEST thing that has happened in the business since Dave Davies slashed up his amp speakers or Phil Spector finally got locked up. How how how how can Van Zandt FORGET that DIY is the HALLMARK of rock??? The punk ethos??? It is no less legit for some musician to come up with a great song, alone, on a computer, than for a band to slog it out for payment in beer at crap clubs. Is everyone now who has access to a drum machine and the internet a great songwriter or star? Of course not. But I LOVE that they are DOING IT. Isn’t that the point??? To have FUN and PLAY and CREATE? If someone else likes it, great, and if they don’t, so what? Come on man! How could you want to deny anyone that? Unless all this flood of people now able to make and share their music cuts into your piece of the pie. Hmm.

Where Greene makes his misunderstanding is where Van Zandt was not really articulating his point fully. I am sure both men are in full agreement that what is truly loathsome is the vocoder-laden indistinguishable Disney-pap that has been littering the Top 20 for quite some time, made by non-musicians and their money-driven producers and some computer loops. It sounds soulless and bland because it is, but hey, people REALLY LIKE IT. Greene is correct in saying there has always been garbage rock n’ roll. There have been more creative and less-creative eras, but garbage is a constant. Yet my garbage is someone else’s fond musical memory in 20 years: “OMG Madison, remember when we got so drunk that one time and danced to Lady Gaga and you puked all over my car? That was so great! Music is shit now!” But Greene must also be wary of participating in the Too-Cool Pissing Contest for too long, because he will end up having to listen to a mélange of reverb-laden synth loops, car crash samples, and hiccups in 5/4 time as it is “innovative.” Like, "I'm so unbelievably musically forward that I only want to listen to bands that aren't formed yet." I think I saw that on a t-shirt.

Greene is failing to hear Van Zandt’s basic message, which is that he feels the beating grand heart has gone out of music to a large degree and has been replaced by nerds and charlatans with Garage Band. Van Zandt is failing to admit that rock n’ roll, yes, REAL rock n’ roll was always made up of many, many things, a mutt music. It was never just dance music for working-class kids. It has survived in popularity so long because it is music to dance to and listen to and to rejoice or cry to, to strum a wicked air guitar to, or to take you out of your comfort zone. It is music for everyone, even middle-aged women who have been knocked stone-cold OUT while “All Day and All Of The Night” was being performed, and who also have Garage Band and use it. Heh.

Greene should know that there is a limitless wealth of fantastic music for him to discover from history, and that cool is timeless. Van Zandt should keep his rock n’ roll heart, but allow that others love rock just as much, but in different ways and in different styles.

You silly asses, you. Let's dance.