Legendary popular music critic Greil Marcus talked about his book Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century at the Columbus College of Art of Design April 11.
Marcus talked about demonstrations in churches in France in 1950 and by a female punk rock band in Russia in 2012 leading to arrests of the band members. This seemed fascinating to Marcus.
What’s more fascinating to me is Marcus wrote about the Beatles and Bob Dylan in the past. He did compare the Sex Pistols song “Anarchy in the UK” to the revolutionary sentiment expressed in these political demonstrations.
Marcus seemed to see rock as an agent or a reflection of radical social change. I think it’s more intriguing Pete Townshend kicked a demonstrator off the stage at Woodstock.
The concept of rock as an instrument of social change is one with many adherents. I find myself in the camp of wanting the music to provide escape from the difficulties of the day.
The music should be fun. And it often is. Whether it’s Chuck Berry singing about buying a luxurious car or The Beatles traveling in a “Yellow Submarine” or the Eels hiding from Jehova’s Witnesses. There’s room for humor.
I’d rather laugh than wonder when the next radical protest is. Didn’t John Lennon warn about the futility of such sentiment in “Revolution.”
For me, criticism isn’t ideally a forum for political statements. It’s a chance to make consumer recommendations. It’s unlikely political views won’t ever seep in, but this isn’t the overarching objective .
Marcus had an interesting point about how criticism needs to state why something is liked or not liked. Though it’s unrealistic to have to flesh out every viewpoint, sometimes elaboration isn’t needed. I don’t need to explain in minute detail, why I’m not enthralled by Simple Plan.
I’m happy to offer an explanation. But some realities don’t need to be explored. Some music it is understood can be readily enjoyed while other artists can be pushed aside.