Rock is Dead! Songs by Todd Rundgren, the Knack, Elvis Costello, others: Gimme Five

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To celebrate October, autumn and U2’s recent marketing fiasco, here’s a few songs about the death of everyone’s favorite bad penny, rock ‘n’ roll — unless they’re about something else:

“POP IS DEAD,” THE KNACK (ZOOM, 1998): “I wonder what they’ll say, years from now?” opens Doug Feiger’s pop gem from Zoom (reissued with bonus tracks in 2003 as Re-zoom). It was yet another attempt at a failed Knack comeback. More recently and more unfortunately, lead singer/songwriter/spokesman Feiger himself passed away in 2010. The song holds up well, though; even 20 years after their chart-topping album Get the Knack, it’s written and sung with all the happy power pop abandonment of their best work. It’s hard not to fall in love with the sing along chorus, “Pop is dead — bring your shovel.”

“THE DEATH OF THE ROCK AND ROLL,” TODD RUNDGREN (INITIATION, 1975): This cut from Initiation is supposedly about the critical reviews he received for his previous two solo albums. He makes his claim for artistic integrity with “I thought we was supposed ta be free, but we all got sold — it must be the death of rock and roll” and finishes with the eerily prescient comment on the state of the music industry nearly 40 years later: “Nobody paid, nobody played, nobody stayed … just my lonely guitar.”

“I AM THE WALRUS,” THE BEATLES (MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, 1967): The lads from Liverpool had a number of death-related songs (“Run for Your Life,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” to name a handful), but really, any Beatles’ tune can be included with the list of rock ‘n’ roll death songs just because of the whole Paul thing.

“NEXT TIME ‘ROUND,” ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS (BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, 1986): Here’s another upbeat, toe-tapping tune, cheerful — perhaps because of the implied second chance for a relationship gone sour, or on another level, an allegory for reincarnation as opposed to eternal demise. “You used to take the breath out of me; now I think you’ll be the death of me,” concludes the last verse in typical Costello style, and finishes most ambiguously on a chorus of: “You’ll be in some sputnik baby but I’ll be underground, the next time ’round.” Gee, Elvis — is that a good thing? And for whom?

“ROCK AND ROLL IS DEAD,” THE RUBINOOS (THE RUBINOOS, 1977): Clocking in at under three minutes, there’s not a lot of time to wax philosophical. So, it’s all pretty straightforward from the spoken intro “Turn it down!” to the final chorus of “Rock and roll is dead and we don’t care — ooooh!” Sometimes the end comes quickly, indeed.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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