The 3-Chord Rock Song – In Praise Of

I have an enduring love for the three minute rock song. Or three chord rock song. Either. Both. I suppose I just mean that simple song with a basic melodic structure and a big heart.

Think Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’. That sort of song. A little riff, a little hook and a nice backbeat.

That song doesn’t have much (or any) of those in spades, but it works and I will not be dissuaded in this discussion.

I suppose it’s because I have a intuitive love of the blues and these songs are just an extension of that. I think it was Chuck Berry who said that the blues had a child and she called it rock and roll. But he was sweating in the arms of his underage cousin while crossing state lines for immoral purposes at the time, so that might not count. Or was that Jerry Lee Lewis? Or both of them? Who cares. Ancient history.

The harmonic structure of the blues is really, really simple. The delivery of a great blues song takes something else entirely. Something that is difficult to describe and even harder to do. Jimi Hendrix said that blues is easy to play but hard to feel. You going to argue with Hendrix? Sit down, pretender, Bieber will be on next.

Anyhow, let’s not intellectualize this thing. (Let’s also not assume that I have the skills to do that.) I suspect that good blues requires an infusion of the dark arts and superstition that surround it. The black cat bones. Mojo. A jumping left eye. This is what makes it so difficult. You have to touch its underlying aesthetic. (Oh, please let this be true.)

Ok. I grant you that Free Falling was maybe not the best example to use. Or perhaps it was. I’m not sure. It’s short and it’s simple and it does have some feeling about it.

You see, to be a good catchy song doesn’t mean it has to be the mindless, sampled, sterilized boy band shite that we hear every day on the radio. That stuff is just a dollar bill tied to a string edged enticingly across the floor by a man in a suit. And you’re the kitten enthralled by it all; until a leaf blows by and distracts your attention elsewhere. Whores, all.

Singers have to be beautiful these days to succeed. Ok, ok, it was always a benefit. But, bloody hell, today people take ANY celebrity and ascribe to them heavenly beauty because they MUST be beautiful. Paris Hilton? Really? (She’s recorded an album.) Paris Hilton is hot? You nuts? Blind? Blind and nuts? Don’t give me that beholder shit. Janis Joplin. Now she was beautiful. Beautiful for her fragility and her strength.

I’m not going to touch any other holy cows here in the form of female singers and will leave it at that. (In fact, I wouldn’t touch most of them with YOUR hands.)

I like the thought that a couple of people in a darkened bedroom or untidy garage can thrash out a semi-tune on a set of crappy instruments. I like the thought that they need three chords and a louder-than-fuck amp and while they’re thrashing their way through Smoke on the Water they can dream of stardom, fast cars, ample boobed Angels and screaming fans. No computers, standing in line to audition, having their teeth whitened or being told they don’t look the part or have no mass audience appeal.

David Guetta, over Christmas, cancelled a world tour because he lost the flash drive with all his music on it. So, tell me, you all gather there to watch a guy operate a laptop? Are. You. A. Moron?

All this falseness of Idols auditions and having some talentless bastard of a DJ criticizing the thing that contains and reflects your soul. No, screw that. The falseness of massive stages, backing bands, lighting displays, dial blah-blah-blah to vote for… No my friends, in rock and roll falseness is reserved for the aesthetic enhancement of ladies’ chests. Rock and roll is offensive. Live with it. It has changed the world. It, and by extension me, are unapologetic. So get into those bikinis and start washing my Trans-Am. Lots of soap now, you hear.

Something has just occurred to me. I haven’t thought about this before and it really is a epiphany to me. Rock, blues, blues-rock has a rich aesthetic. It has a look, a feel, a taste. It is a sensory thing. No other form of music challenges it at that. It is a real falseness. Witness Bruce Springsteen. It’s an act, a show. But within it is a core of hard, hard truth. That which he has created has come from and reflects his soul. On stage he is naked. He offers his soul to you.

I am humbled by this.

So, what was I saying again? Oh yes, I like short and simple rock songs.

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