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Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Classics Rock! Exposé: Highway 61 Revisited Revisited


One night not long ago Elton John awoke in a cold sweat, shaken from slumber by an alarming revelation: his 1976 song Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word got it all wrong. In a moment of crystalline insight, Elton realized that the hardest word is, in fact, "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis." He vowed to correct the lyrics and record a new version of Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis Seems to Be the Hardest Word later this year (for a free download, visit www. pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.com).

A few days later, Paul McCartney heard Live and Let Die on his car radio and was "stunned" by the lyrics. "All this time I thought it was 'Live and Let Live,'" said McCartney, who has been performing the song for the last 39 years. "'Live and let die' is not the kind of message I want to send to young people today," he told friends, who assured him that young people don't listen to his music. But he was dumbfounded when pressed about the Beatles song Happiness Is a Warm Gun. "You sure about that?" he said.

Meawhile, Paul Simon was at work updating his 1973 hit Kodachrome. "The advent of the digital camera has rendered it an anachronism," Simon said. "I'm changing the title to 'Mem'ry Card,' so now the fade-out goes:

Mama don't take my mem'ry card 
Mama don't take my mem'ry card 
Mama don't take my mem'ry card awa-a-a-ay 

"I'm still stuck for a rhyme for 'pixel,' though."

These incidents, seemingly unrelated, proved to be harbingers of an inexplicable and disturbing trend that has shaken the music industry to its core, as growing numbers of veteran rock stars rethink, rewrite, or renounce their classic songs.

Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss, was next. Simmons was studying his tongue in a mirror when it occurred to him that the band should stop performing their signature tune Rock and Roll All Night (and Party Every Day). "Such a schedule is unrealistic," he said. "It doesn't allow for sufficient sleep, an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Nor does it leave time for other rewarding activities, such as reading, gardening, and spending time with friends."

Bob Dylan came forward to reveal that his classic album Highway 61 Revisited is a lie. "I've never even been on Highway 61. It's all been a sham," Dylan told Rolling Stone. The magazine, being inanimate, just lay there on the coffee table and didn't respond.

Considered individually, these incidents don't amount to much. When viewed as part of a larger pattern, it becomes clear that the cumulative effect is potentially devastating for rock and roll.

"This type of second-guessing is typical of artists in middle-age," said Dr. John, Counselor in Residence at the Mr. Mojo Risin Center for Getting Your Head on Straight, Man at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. "It reflects an unconscious desire to remain relevant--to be what Freud called 'hep' and what Jung referred to as 'with it.' B.F. Skinner preferred 'fly,' but these are merely clinical terms for what you and I would call 'cool.' Underlying this desire, of course, is a repressed fear of mortality."

This last theory was borne out by a panel of aging rock stars who appeared on "Piers Morgan Tonight" to discuss why musical icons would disavow their own work.
  •  • Blue Oyster Cult's Eric Bloom told Morgan why he no longer performs Don't Fear the Reaper: "I'm a lot older now. Man, I'm terrified." 
  •  • Roger Daltrey expressed similar sentiments about the Who standard My Generation: "I never really wanted to die before I got old. Also, I don't stutter." 
  •  • Bruce Springsteen admitted he had second thoughts about his iconic hit Born to Run: "I get winded pretty easily these days, so I’m reworking it as 'Born to Mall Walk.'" 
The program offered no easy answers, and concluded on an ominous note when Robert Plant explained his decision to retire Led Zepplin's The Song Remains the Same: "Obviously, it doesn't."

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