The Friday Morning Listen: The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (1974)

So I was poking my way through an odd discussion about classic rock on one of those Internet-type forum things. It started out with the question of whether Bruce Springsteen’s popularity — ticket and album sales-wise — had been hurt because he isn’t considered to be “classic rock.” I wasn’t particularly interested in the answer, seeing as how the subtext of the question is built on the too frequent “Oh, he’s washed up” meme that has become something of a dead horse. Things perked up when the discussion veered off into how classic rock is defined, with the sub-veer: why the hell would anybody listen to regular radio these days?

We ended up at this intersection of questions because people were wondering if Bruce got any play at all on classic rock radio. Anecdotes ranged from “I hear him all the time” to “Only Born in the USA” to “Never.” I tried to think of the last time I’d heard much Springsteen on the radio. Back in the 70s they’d play Born to Run though you were just as likely to hear Manfred Mann’s cover of Blinded By The Light. When The River came out, Hungry Heart got quite a bit of play. Everything changed though, when Born in the USA came out, which was all over the radio (and MTV) for a while.

Until very recently, I’d say it had been 15 to 20 years since I’d listened to music coming from the radio. There’s actually a lot of great stuff on many college and community radio stations, but the playlists on commercial radio have become so risk-averse that there little to no chance of hearing anything interesting.

Why did I give it another chance? Well, I do a fair amount of listening to National Public Radio, though over the past few years I’ve grown tired of the political and world events coverage. I don’t say this to prop up the constant right wing bray about how liberal the organization is because honestly, compared to outlets such as Democracy Now, NPR is pretty much milquetoast in that regard. No, it’s more that I’m just tired of the conflict. I’m tired of hearing about the latest: military upheaval in some eastern European country, interruption of the “Peace” process in the Middle East, dumb remark from a politician, etc. I’ve just had it. Enough!

There are just some days when my mind is tired enough that simplicity is in order. What I want to hear are some loud guitars and stupid lyrics about cars and women. Classic…friggin’…rock. And so maybe on the last 30 minutes of the morning drive I’ll switch over. It’s sort of weird because in addition to many of the usual suspects (The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger) they have added artists who were big in the 80s: Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard. I haven’t heard much of anything in the way of deep cuts but my expectations aren’t exactly high.

And I suppose I have no good answer to the initial question of why I’m listening, at least not beyond “It’s kind of fun and doesn’t ask anything of me.” Isn’t that enough?

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.