In your new book you sort of explain it when you say "Humanity has a difficult relationship with time." I mean, 50 years, 200 years, five years, we don't really know what these spans mean when we listen to music, especially when it has to do with the pull of nostalgia.
Well, rock and roll is supposed to be about newness, a momentary trend. In the beginning of rock and roll, there's so many songs that are like "Rock and roll is here to stay." It's a real adamant sentiment; there aren't a lot of cha-cha songs that were like "Cha-cha is here to stay"! So rock and roll was at first a thing for very small children, and they had this obstinate idea that "This is now the paradigm." And it makes sense, because rock and roll is hard to define - and for all of its conventions, the form is so plastic, you can do anything with it. If you go to the rock and roll section of a record store, the records have very little to do with each other, it isn't really a genre. So you think "Well, what is it?" And the thing you always hear is "It was stolen from black culture." But rock and roll is so universal, this ritual music, and it's perfect in the way that cave paintings are. It's just expression, it's just expression. And it was introduced through African-American culture in this country, but it's also this really universal idea, it resonates with people all over the world.
But at the same time, and you talk about this a lot in The Psychic Soviet, rock and roll is in a sense just part of capitalism and planned obsolescence, with the obsession with newness as just a way of making people feel that they need to buy new things all the time, under the guise of a people's cultural rebellion.
If you've read Soviet propaganda about rock and roll, you see that they recognized rock and roll for what it was. I mean, if you read the propaganda about Elvis Presley shaking his hips, you'd think that people hadn't had sex before, that it was an introduction to sexuality. The claims to rock and roll are so absurd and insane! In a sense, rock and roll introduced a more repressed sexuality. The Twist is a good example, all the rock and roll dances where people danced apart. Before that, like say in the Jazz age, you'd dance with a bunch of people and couples would close-dance and it was a very sexual thing. With the Twist and these mechanized post-industrial people-acting-as-machines, it's a real repressed sexuality that rock and roll proposed. It's funny that the conceit of rock and roll is sexual liberation, but in a certain sense it was the opposite. It's actually this weird - it's almost like the boom of strip clubs in the age of AIDS.
Right- you talk in both books about the differing sexual appeal of the Beatles and the Stones, and how the Beatles were almost beyond sexuality. Which makes sense if there was a time that dancing was a gateway to hooking, and the shift to rock concerts changed that dynamic to be a room full of people focusing their sexual desire to an unattainable artist on a stage.