the gods of rawk

I recently spent three days in a car with classic rock on the radio, and it gave me a lot of time to think. About opening the door and hurling myself out of the car.

But no, instead I kept my hands and feet inside the moving vehicle and quietly turned questions over in my mind. So many questions. Questions like:

Does some FAA regulation require that classic rock stations play at least one Led Zeppelin song every half hour?

Dear Boomers, was Three Dog Night really that great the first 100 times you heard them, let alone the last 3,496?

Is this our collective fate? Is this just some predetermined condition of human nature? Do we all inevitably hit a certain age when we realize we can no longer connect with nor understand the Music of Today, so we run back to the comforting and familiar arms of the Songs of Our Youth? Is there a future radio market waiting to capitalize on the memories of aging Gen-Yers that will play the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” and MGMT’s “Kids” on endless loop?

My best friend Kim and I promised each other this would never happen, that we would never become one of those people who fixated on the tunes of their teens and twenties, but then again we also promised each other we would 1) never become our mothers and 2) never get old, and look how well that’s working out for us so far.


If you’re like me, you’ve never actively sought out classic rock. Classic rock simply knows where to find you. It’s ubiquitous. Endless. Humming from the portable radio of the dude painting the house across the street. Spilling out of the open windows of pickup trucks. Blasting from the massive speakers of sports arenas. Reverberating from the guitar your arrogant ex-boyfriend is brandishing. I’m fairly certain classic rock is a union regulation. I think they might pipe classic rock into the hospital bassinets of newborns. “Here, babies,” the white-clad nurses whisper, leaning over their tiny beds. “Listen up. You’re gonna need to memorize this shit.”

And that? I think that is what set me up to trip off the mental edge, somewhere in the middle of Day 2 of our trip. They were playing all of the same songs I’d heard since before I can even remember first hearing them. And I’m thirty-fucking-one years old. I began to suspect that some great invisible hand pauses classic rock when you stop listening and presses play when you start again. It’s like stumbling upon a musical Groundhog Day where NOTHING EVER CHANGES. And if anything EVER DID CHANGE, it would probably cause some kind of tear in the lining of the universe, and the tear would explode outward from its center, and with a deafening David Lee Roth-like yelp all would be turned inside-out and sucked into a massive black hole.

And your ex-boyfriend would look down and wonder why his guitar was, quite literally, weeping.

At the rawk show.

I really do think I began slipping somewhere around there, on Day 2, because I started hearing things I’d never really before heard in classic rock songs. Specifically, PENISES. A penis here, a penis there, EVERYWHERE A PENIS. Classic Rock Radio Land is so chockablock with penises that if you were to play classic rock backwards, all you would hear is Angus Young repeating the word “penis” over and over. I mean, consider the opening segment from AC/DC’s “Thunder” alone:

PENIS! paaaayyyaaayaaaaaanissssss PENIS! payayyyyaayyyyaaaanissss PENIS!

Based on my own casual research, I estimate that anywhere between 82 and 136% of classic rock lyrics either directly or indirectly involve penises. “Scientists” will try to tell you these statistics don’t add up, but then again 419% of scientists are men who listen to classic rock. LOOK IT UP ON WIKIPEDIA.

Let me tell you, once you’ve heard a penis in a classic rock song, you cannot unhear it. Gradually it became a strange game; a personal challenge: Spot the Penis(es) In the Classic Rock Song. Which made me, of course, listen to the words more closely. Which in turn brought me fascinating insight into the male/female classic rock dynamic. Allow me to present my findings!

The men of classic rock are:

  • Playin’ in a rock ‘n’ roll band
  • Partyin’
  • Chasin’ tail
  • Totally fuckin’ awesome
  • Prone to droppin’ the hard ‘g’ at the ends of words

The women of classic rock are:

  • Sexy
  • Crazy
  • Strippers
  • Muses
  • Cruel heartbreakers
  • Sexy crazy stripper muses that cruelly break a man’s heart

Yep. There it is. According to my research, the women of classic rock aren’t even permitted to play the music. I mean, Janis Joplin is sometimes allowed to air on classic rock radio, but she didn’t play so much as sing, plus she was weird-looking and definitely crazy. She’s like the Kid Sister to the Gods of Rock, the one who shouted into a hairbrush in the living room as a kid for attention and then cried a lot and drank too much Jim Beam and died tragically young.

This was all fine, of course. I was weathering the musical conditions fairly well, all things considered; smirking from the backseat of the car at all the amped-up sexuality and idly wishing it was common for classic rock stations to play Bikini Kill. BUT THEN. The station played a clip from their morning show in which the disc jockeys shared their incredulity over a story of a rock god who was flashed by a very well-endowed woman at a concert and responded by noting that “Once you’ve seen one pair, they all start to look the same.”

Well. The DJs were flabbergasted. The rock god had been given a great gift! He’d been given the gift of a glorious rack at which to stare! And he’d nonchalantly shrugged the whole thing off! They were gonna have to call him and set him straight about those boobies!

Yes, they said “boobies.”

And it was here, on the third and final day of my trip, that I thought I truly snapped. I looked out the window and suddenly there were penises everywhere, raining from the sky. One crashed just to our left, narrowly missing the car. I yelled at the driver to pull over, PULL OVER, and I scrambled out of the car and took off at a blind run. I dodged and weaved between other cars as I peeled my shirt off and tossed it emphatically in the air, shouting something about pulling the trigger of my love gun as highway patrol officers chased me on foot. Just as they were closing in to tackle me I awoke with a startle, knocking my head against the glass of the car window.

It was just a dream. It was all just a dream.

The raining penises, that its. The classic rock was still disappointingly, tragically real.

But don’t bother trying to listen for yourself. Because you know what? Take my word for it:

Once you’ve heard one classic rock song, they all start to sound the same.

9 Responses to “the gods of rawk”

  1. Sister Christian, oh the time has come…

    (*love* this post)

  2. A few years ago, my favourite radio DJ (who is also the music director for the best radio station going) wrote a foreword to a book wherein he said he never wanted to be the guy who reckoned good music ended in year whatever.

    Me too, brother, me too. It’s why I always want to hear what new stuff sounds like. I don;t think there’s a use by date on creativity or genius.

    But yeah, just playing the same stuff over and over? Who wants it?

  3. One of the things that I discovered after moving back from California to Arizona was that no radio station in the entire state of Arizona has purchased a new album since approximately 1987. The radio stations simply “changed their format” so that what was once “new RAWK!” is now “Your Favorite OLDIES!”

    Holy moly, I LIVE in the place Where The Music Died.

    I am grateful for the Internets, where I can learn about new bands (also, even though I never did get the hang of embedding the music player thingy, I really miss our MixTape Masters Fridays so that I could hear what everyone else was listening to and add new music to my library). I am also grateful for my ipod app on my phone, where I can store many many hours of great music so that I never again have to listen to Pink Floyd, Led Zepelin, or Peter Cetera. See also, Red Hot Chili Peppers.

    • Yeah I’m pretty sure our (only) rock station stopped the clock around 1999. Every now and then they’ll break out of their 90s love fest to play some Nickleback. I would go crazy if not for streaming music sites.

  4. I feel like each generation keeps their own favorite music/music access type alive on their own. The people listening to radio stations are the people who grew up with the classic rock, so there you go. The alternative radio stations I listened to in Chicago and Cleveland have both been shut down in the last year, because people our age are listening primarily online.

    Down the line, I imagine we will be listening to online music streaming channels of electropop and indie music, while all the youngsters have like, computer chips installed in their brains that continuously play noises of lasers and garbage cans rolling down the street. You know, “future music.”

    Also, I love my Rolling Stones, and constant “Penis” is not only their lyrics, but also the background noise, cover art, AND the tourbus.

  5. Sounds like you found the station they used to play at my old office. I used to like classic rock, until I’d had that job for about three months. Our station threw in some Elton John, too, for variety- only as far as I could tell they possessed only one of his albums. Which got played in its entirety at least once a day. There was a “no Elton” rule for our wedding music. I still can’t listen to Zeppelin without trying to pull my own ears off.

  6. I once heard a stat (totally don’t know if it’s true or not) that the majority of people stop actively trying to discover new music after the age of 25. The majority of the music they will listen to after 25 will be the stuff they grew up with.

  7. I love this post. Do you follow All Songs Considered. It’s my favorite thing and their first listens are often Amazaballz.

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