How Does it Feel?
An Antiquary on Rock and Roll
Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone turns 50 in 2015. It’s perhaps gathered a little moss over the decades but seeing as the original lyrics recently sold for $2 million dollars, I’d say it’s still rolling merrily along in our minds. A song that remains vibrant while collecting a patina is, to borrow from another Dylan song, something of a “walking antique.” Perhaps we don’t think of songs in that light but they are every bit as much a relic of their era as a Chippendale chair. I’d venture to say that Rock – in its myriad forms – has stylistically defined the latter half of the 20th century. Like Picasso’s Desmoiselle d’Avignon, Dylan going electric expressed the same iconoclast “I’ll take your rules and throw them in your face” spirit even while culling an eclectic past for inspiration. Warhol and Jagger were as much miners as mavericks. The music and the music-makers changed the way we listened, dressed, danced and thought. The history of the West is as much born of the Beatles as it is of Bach. Is the cover of Abbey Road any less iconic than Rembrandt’s Three Trees? Holding the first pressing of that album in my hands recently, I was struck not only by what the music has meant to millions but how the album itself shaped the totality of the experience: the cover art, the liner notes, the actual itness of the vinyl, of listening through, of flipping it, of taking it all in. For an antiquarian steeped in the music of the era, these increasingly scarce remains are like Rock reliquaries, portals to a past that still resonate. Hey, I know it’s only rock and roll but…