Plastikman, Live at Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, 2011.06.24. Part one.
|—||Greil Marcus, “Real Life Rock: The First Wave" (New West, December 1981)|
1st image: 1967 Newark Riots
2nd image: 2014 Ferguson Protests
3rd image: 1964 Harlem Riots
4th image: 2014 Ferguson Protests
Still, there hasn’t been a clear definition of rockism, and I’d like to propose one—a very narrow one, to keep its meaning from bleeding too far out. Rockism, let’s say, is treating rock as normative. In the rockist view, rock is the standard state of popular music: the kind to which everything else is compared, explicitly or implicitly. So, for instance, it’s a rockist opinion that pre-stereo-era blues and country are interesting less in their own right than because they anticipated rock, or that Run-D.M.C. and Alison Krauss are notable because their virtues are also the virtues of rock, or that Ciara’s Goodies isn’t interesting because it fails to act like rock.
… Most of all, rockism is programmed into the way people write about music. The basic DNA of popular-music criticism came from the people who wrote for Rolling Stone and Creem in the ’60s and ’70s. They were the first to write about pop interestingly and at length; they loved rock of that pop-historical moment’s Beatles/Stones/Dylan school more than anything else; and their language and perspective and taste have been internalized by pretty much everybody who’s followed them, even people who’ve never actually read their stuff. That’s the foundation for our house. Note, for instance, that anybody who writes about popular music is a “rock critic.”
Is rockism a bad thing? Well, yeah, it is, and nobody’s free of it; I’m sure not. But it’s pernicious because it makes it harder to understand any other kind of music on its own terms, and it chains both artists and their audience to an ideal rooted in a particular moment of the past, in which a gifted lyricist is by default a “new Dylan” (not a new Charley Patton, not a new Bill Withers, and especially not herself), in which the songwriter and the singer and the main instrumentalist are all on the stage and preferably the same person, in which any instrumentation for performance other than guitar-bass-drums-vocals-and-maybe-keyboards is some kind of novelty, because that is what’s normal. Writers don’t think this way because “19th Nervous Breakdown” is our favorite song; we do it unconsciously because it’s the language we all internalized as pop-magazine-obsessed kids. And it trickles down to everyone who reads what we write.
Douglas Wolk, “Thinking About Rockism" (Seattle Weekly, May 4, 2005). Naturally, this completely calm, well-reasoned argument made people mad because, you know, how DARE anyone suggest that very POV wasn’t the center of the universe.