Rock is not dead...

Bent, curved rock on Bennane Head, South Ayrshire

It’s just bent out of shape a little

For years now, I’ve been listening to a fascinating, detailed and sensitive podcast called The History of Rock in 500 Songs by Andrew Hickey. The premise is that Rock, as a cultural and artistic phenomenon, exploded into our lives in the 50s, dictated our fashion and loyalties and politics through the 60s, 70s and 80s, and fizzled out in the 90s. Its seeds may have been germinating long before and its tendrils may still be coiled tight and hard, but Rock has a Beginning, a Middle and an End. Rock is dead. And its life can be documented.

Is it significant that Rock used to encompass Elvis and The Isley Brothers, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues and Procol Harum, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder, Yes and Genesis, AC/DC and Black Sabbath, Steely Dan and Jackson Browne, Rezillos and Ramones and, arguably, Funkadelic and Miiister James Brown? And that now, the label ‘Rock’ is slowly petrifying into one specific genre of distorted, guitar driven, hormone-fuelled music? Rock is not dead because ‘your band name here’ kicks ass!

In fact, like Jazz before it, Rock has become a mature, wide-ranging art form. Which is absolutely brilliant, because now anyone can play. There’s no Next Big Thing. There’s no New Wave sweeping all before it. There’s just a whole lot of intriguing, diverse and exciting music to be explored (or ignored). We don’t need rapacious record labels with recoupable advances. There are no gatekeepers or tastemakers. It’s just us!

To the beachside!

Which is why Ruth and I nipped down to the beach at Bennane Head when we realised my album was to be released in a week and we still didn’t have a cover image.

Bennane Head is known for a couple of things: the Sawney Beane Cave (skilfully written up here by Douglas Skelton) where the notorious cannibal is supposed to have lived, and Snib’s Cave which everyone visits hoping it’s the Sawney Beane Cave, because it’s so much more accessible.

But also down on that beach are some rare and remarkable geological phenomena, not least some rock that looks like it has been bent, folded and rolled. What better metaphor!

And so I was obliged to clamber and stumble across the rocks, while the tide was out, guitar in hand, on a sunny bank holiday weekend in May. Ruth looked cool with a camera bag, an SLR camera and a huge zoom lens. I tried to maintain three points of contact.

Tourists looked on, wondering if this made up for the fact that Snib’s cave wasn’t Sawney Beane’s cave. But mostly still thinking, why is there no chip shop in Ballantrae? And, how far is it to the chip shop in Girvan?

One wag, at least as old as me (but with less hair) shouted over from the safety of the pebbled beach, ‘Is this for the World Tour?’

Still, the best shot featuring me and the flexible rock just happened to make me look about 35 years old. Oh well...

And to the guy on the beach? Yes! Yes it is! This is for the World Tour!

images of James stumbling over rocks on the beach
images of James stumbling over rocks on the beach
images of James stumbling over rocks on the beach
images of James stumbling over rocks on the beach