Pauly D. makes an interesting point tonight:
...the mystery, the drama, the stories, the huge concert tours, the wild groupies, the freedom and the wildly independent feel has been all but squashed by Corporate America. Look at bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, Journey, The Kinks, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and even 80's mega bands like Def Leppard, U2, INXS, Duran Duran, etc, etc, etcetera!
Before the 90's, America had decades upon decades of huge bands with huge personas with huge concert tours with huge fan bases... All of it contributed to this grandiose and majestic feel that accompanied the world of rock 'n roll. But today?
I am pretty damn sure that the Internet has killed the majesty of Rock 'n Roll.
Just today, I was reading a page of Rolling Stone's top 10 lists by some of their editors. John D. Luerssen had this on his list:
1. U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Interscope): It's official: U2 are, without a doubt, the biggest and best rock band in the world.
A decent album, notwithstanding, (aside: While I think "Atomic Bomb" is leaps and bounds better than "Everything You Can't Leave Behind", I'm not quite as sure it is the monumental release that many other seem to), it does say something about the state of music today when Rolling Stone, the "paper of record" when it comes to music is forced to call a formerly great band resting on their past formulas the biggest and best thing happening in the scene today.
To Pauly's point that the Internet has taken away the distance between the fan and the artist, making them more familiar and, thus, removed the majesty, I would argue this is an issue with celebrity in general today, and has less to do with the internet and more to do with the country's fascination with the human failings of our icons.
For instance, what did it take to push the Asian Tsunami off the front page of People Magazine? Brad and Jen breaking up. One of the top grossing movies (and on several top ten lists) of this past year was a documentary on Metallica, a film which detailed the band's personal, day to day struggles, and the tour in which they were accompanied by a "performance-enhancement" coach to help them get in touch with their feelings and make them stronger as individuals and as a band. In fact, the biggest tabloid story of the year was able to halt two juggernauting careers, as their relationship merged from an interesting pairing to a nausea-inducing spectacle, as we were force-fed detail after intricate detail.
We are no longer interested in keeping our celebrities on pedestals. We are more interested in their demons. And while, in the 60's, you knew the larger than life exploits of The Beatles, Zeppelin, The Who, or Dylan, it wasn't until much, much later that you cared about Yoko and John.
Then, there is the inevitable fact that it was much easier to get caught up in the bands when the majesty of their personas were bested only by the genius of their music. You could be fascinated by The Who, even if you didn't understand their actions, because when Townsend cranks it up, I don't care if it was 1960 or 2005, you know you are listening to something special.
Today's pop icons are not geniuses, they are marketing phenomenons. The true talents are lost on today's consumptive public, who remain content to listen to unchallenging, formulaic drivel (Yeah, yeah, we get it, Britney. You are SO toxic. You do realize that is a BAD thing, right?). For all the bluster and news-play the idea got at the beginning of the war, the neo-protest song never really took off in 2002, did it? The really important music that actually says something has to be hunted for, and no longer has a workable counter-culture whereby it can be proliferated.
At any rate, the internet has certainly contributed to the loss of the album as an art form, and the immediacy of detail that it provides certainly takes away the mystery, but we hardly needed an on-demand technological advance to destroy the majesty of rock 'n roll. Our flagellating culture, obsessed with deconstructing our heroes and destroying our icons would have eventually found a way.