Music historian leaves no detail of rock unturned

Music is used for many students as an escape from studies. For Barry Drake, music is his study. Is it possible to get a masters in “rock ‘n’ roll-ology?” There is no shame in a little self-promotion, so amidst the singer/songwriters portion of his media presentation (including Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, and Crosby, Stills and Nash), was video footage of a young, mellow Drake digging the 70s vibe. The Program Board brought Drake and his wealth of rock ‘n’ roll knowledge to UVM’s CC Theater Friday, Oct. 27 for a lecture called “70’s Rock: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” He considered the music of this decade not as backlash of the 60s, but instead as means of expression connected to the politics of the 70s. Beginning his lecture as the decade itself began with the disbanding of The Beatles, Drake shared samples of each Beatle’s solo attempt over a backdrop of photographs as well as interview clips from George Harrison and John Lennon. As Drake moved on to hard rock, his focus was primarily of bands generated in England like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who, accompanied by a clip of a live performance of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” a song of “political disillusionment,” according to Drake. On the other end of the rock scale were the singers/songwriters like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young. According to Drake, Young didn’t let his solo music status affect the manner in which he played his music. The key to playing good rock ‘n’ roll, according to Young is to “rock them as hard as you can till they’re almost at orgasm … then rock them twice as hard.” The 70s also saw the emergence of American Roots rock, Southern Rock and the androgynous Glam rock that, according to an interview with a young David Bowie, “put the sex back in rock ‘n’ roll.” The music of this decade was angst ridden. That’s where early heavy metal came in-primarily with Black Sabbath as an outlet-for the youth who were sick of glitter and glam. The art rock genre consisted of “classically trained [musicians] who decided to throw it all away to play rock ‘n’ roll,” Drake said. He included artists like Genesis, Jethro Tull, Electric Light Orchestra and Pink Floyd under this label. Rock ‘n’ roll, which started out as a subculture, turned into the mainstream. But what is a decade without its subcultures? Soon Reggae traveled up from Jamaica, though Drake only focused on Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff-only two of several artists in the immensely genre. According to Drake, what came next-but which is up for debate-was the conception of punk by the Ramones at CBGB’s. Drake considered this genre as an “anti-establish music scene” but failed to mention Iggy Pop, Lou Reed or Television. Instead, he focused, as so many do, on the eccentric Sex Pistols. It has never been agreed upon that all music within a decade has been good music, hence the “Bad” in the presentation’s title. For in the 70s, there was disco. Adored by dance club enthusiasts and hated by most other musicians, disco is a genre that cannot be forgotten or excluded from this decade. With the rise of the “faceless bands” and corporate rock as well as the “late 70s superstars” like The Eagles and Bruce Springsteen, came new wave music, which incorporated a “love and respect for traditional rock and roll,” Drake said. Elvis Costello, Devo and The Police brought their own individual spin on rock ‘n’ roll and continued into the 80s and the music video age. Many people forget that while the fans of these particular bands throughout this decade age, so do the artists. In an interview, a post-Beatles John Lennon explained that he was writing his songs for fans he had ten years earlier but who had grown up along with him. Drake didn’t let the size (or lack thereof) of his audience get him down. As an award-winning rock ‘n’ roll “campus-lecturer,” he is used to crowds of all sizes and backgrounds. How did Drake get all of his knowledge? He went to concerts and bought records just like the youth of other decades, according to his Web site. He was driven by his passion for playing the music as well as teaching others about it. If only classroom lectures excited students as easily.