Transgenerational musical evolution

My first thread on twitter:

It’s a stinking wet evening, I’m on the train on the way home after doing an extra-mural lecture, and I want to float some musical hypotheses as a distraction from my wet shoes.

Hypothesis #1: I’ve been listening to do Radiohead’s OK Computer again – it is still, by turns, dark, gruesome and wonderful, 21 years later. I also think it killed guitar-based rock music. There is nothing left to do after this album: it has everything, and more, and that’s it – rock music is done. (OK, the Chili’s and a few others have done stuff, but nothing revolutionary, and nothing bookending. And REM have given up, and U2 are listened to for their back-catalogue. Elbow are kinda great, but not epochal).

Hypothesis #2: Floyd did the same to prog rock; there was nowhere left for prog rock to go musically after The Wall. It’s dead now in terms of musical innovation.

Hypothesis #3: Hendrix killed the blues; there was nowhere to go in the blues after Hendrix, after he blended it with rock music. What blues music produced the last 30 years is really new and innovative and worth listening to?

Hypothesis #4: Miles Davis saved jazz by reimagining it totally on Kind of Blue, and reinventing himself and jazz multiple times afterward. There’s loads of jazz that’s new and interesting and innovative.

Hypothesis #5: rock needs a Miles Davis for it to become really interesting again. Otherwise, we’re left with Dadrock and back catalogues. Lucky I love electronica/EDM or I’d really have trouble with contemporary popular music.

Hypothesis #6: Europe (remember them?) were the final absurd killers of metal, along with Van Halen (no, GnR don’t count).

Hypothesis #7: old-fashioned rock n’ roll died in the 1960s on the set of some Elvis movie or other.

Hypothesis #8: punk died sometime in the late 1970’s. It just took a while for people to notice.

Hypothesis #9: rap is here to stay b/c it evolves and changes, samples and borrows, and cross-fertilises (it evolves!). It’s often forgotten that Debbie Harry’s Rapture, performed with Blondie was the first rap video broadcast on MTV in ***1981***.

Hypothesis #10: most of the above musical forms dies b/c they didn’t cross generations: rap is transgenerational, blending easily with other musical forms. Jazz is transgenerational; prog, punk, metal, rock have not crossed generations. To survive beyond back catalogue radio play, they need to evolve and be reimagined.

Extra note

Thread. I went on about Radiohead’s OK Computer yesterday. Today, now that it isn’t raining, I want make a fanciful suggestion about the structural similarity between Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (released in 1975) and Paranoid Android, song #2 on OK Computer (released in 1997). They are very different songs, but I’d argue that Radiohead achieved something with ParAnd that hadn’t been achieved in popular music for more than 20 years – a long, complex, darkly-lyrical song with humorous overtones. And like BohRhap, it was a single that topped the charts.

Structural similarities: Neither song has a chorus. Both songs clock in at six minutes plus. Both originally were several different songs, all bolted together with simple transitional bridges based largely around stellar lead guitar playing; both are largely 4/4 timing with variations; both owe a lot to prog rock; both have very dark lyrics (just listen to Rhapsody – seriously!).  Weezer’s version is fun;  Sia’s is great.

One dissimilarity: BohRhap has crossover appeal that ParAnd doesn’t seem to have. It will take a very knowing parody of Wayne’s World to get ParAnd into a comedy. Enjoy.

Author: Shane O'Mara

Neuroscientist, Psychologist, Writer

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