John Mellencamp the latest to declare rock music’s demise

Count John Mellencamp as the latest musician to declare rock music to be a dead (or dying) genre.

Mellencamp recently participated in a session of the Direct Connection interview and storytelling series produced by McIntosh and Republic Records, during which he declared rock music has had a good run but that its heyday is over.

Via Sound and Vision (h/t Ultimate Classic Rock):

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“We (boomers) grew up in a different time,” Mellencamp said. “Music was everything to us. I don’t think it is so much anymore with young people. I’ve got two boys, 22 and 21, and I don’t think they ever sat down and listened to a whole album in their whole life. They like songs. I read just the other day—I think it was Ray Davies—that rock and roll is going to come back. It’s not going to come back. We’ve seen it. It happened…It’s like we had a 50 year run of a particular type of music and history will tell us that…

“I’ll give you guys a good example: Before rock and roll there was big band music and it was as popular as rock and roll. People loved it. They were jitter-bugging in Harlem to it. Every kid, every adult knew Glenn Miller, this one, that one. Okay, here’s a little test for you: Name four of those bands and then, if you can, tell me one of those songs. Things have a lifespan and then it goes away. I’ve been saying for years, the further we get away from the original rock music—and I hate to sound like a cranky old man, but I am—the worse it gets. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t great songwriters out there. There are. But we’re never going to experience them the way we able to experience them in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. We’re not set up for that anymore.

“When I first started making records, there was no MTV. Guys in rock bands were little pictures on albums and every now and then you’d hear them on the radio. Then MTV came along and catapulted them to the world and rock became so much bigger than it ever would have. MTV was a huge thing. I hated it myself because I didn’t want to make those videos…So rock has really morphed and changed and is so far away from what it started as that I don’t believe we can find our way back. Plus, there’s no business model to get it back. What, streaming? You really think that’s going to catapult a 22-year-old songwriter into the national spotlight. Look at me. I’m a fucking average songwriter, average singer but I was at the right place at the right time. And there were others guys like me…but because we had a look or were at the right place at the right time, we were catapulted into this huge arena. Where is that arena today? It doesn’t exist.”

It’s hard to say rock music is dead given the market there still is for it — just look at the numbers generated from the ongoing Guns N’ Roses tour for example. There’s plenty of interest, although Mellencamp does have a point when he points out the change in the platform for getting rock to the masses. There’s good rock music being made, but it might not be finding as many people as it used to among all the clutter out there today.

As always, it’s food for thought.

Photo by Martin Overstrom (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

4 comments to “John Mellencamp the latest to declare rock music’s demise”
  1. Mellencamp is starting to sound like the old farts (and I’m over 50, so don’t get all pissed off at me, OK?) who thought The Beatles and everything from the 60’s and 70’s was garbage. Perspective, John: get some.

    I like most of his music, seen him in concert a couple of times back in the day. But his comments, while worthy of consideration, are as uninformed as those of our parents who hated our music.

    There are some good artists out there, and they are finding a way to make it through to their audiences without the music industry stranglehold over artists that existed 25 years ago. And BTW John, my college-age son listens to a lot of good music, and even took some of my old LP’s with him. Rock isn’t dead, it’s just just some of its audience that is losing its perspective. Lighten up, Little Bastard…..

    • which current bands even compare to the oldies? Im asking because I really want to know a few. Im so sick of this auto tune Brittany Spears shit.

  2. Thank goodness an “average” singer and songwriter like him can’t get catapulted into the national spotlight any more. Or can they?

  3. Using Guns n’ Roses ticket sales as a example that Rock still has a pulse doesn’t fly. The band is living off one record that they released in ’87 with a rather mediocre follow up

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