PRINT December 1995

Diedrich Diederichsen and Jutta Koether


With few interesting new things in rock, THE RAGE FOR HISTORICIZATION remained the best event of 1995. There were CD retrospectives ranging from the Velvet Underground (the schoolboy decadence on the previously un-issued pre-Warhol ’65 recordings was especially good fun) to the Beatles. On television, although the syndicated History of Rock and Roll regrettably failed to tell the whole story because it relied entirely on the outrageous views of musicians, PBS/BBC’s Rock and Roll gave us more to chew on. Particularly interesting (in a year when profits from Brit pop releases went through the roof) was the classic battle between the Americans and the Brits for status as the progenitors of punk. But the funk segment was by far the best. Series consultant Robert Palmer’s hard work and mania for details sustained his reading of the history of popular music as largely the history of black music. Alongside these archival efforts, revisionism was the rule when it came to the written word. Simon Reynolds and Joy Press’ The Sex Revolts reread the history of rock as largely a story of gender, a battle between two tendencies: protofascist rebel rockers and longing-choked mama’s boys (an interesting thesis in spite of its crude hermeneutics and vulgar psychologisms). The book’s universality and purposeful simplicity makes it now possible to theorize a genealogy explaining both the Nick Caves and the Steve Albinis of the world—a true feat of history writing.


The worst news was that the prayer for “no more Beatles or Stones” (first uttered 18 years ago by The Clash) still went unanswered. While the former talk reunion (minus John), the latter find themselves at the center of a ridiculous scandal in Germany. By digitally recording shows from the Stones’ German tour, journalists found several songs to be identical—to the nanosecond—strongly suggesting that the concerts had been prerecorded (even old Charlie Watts was never that precise). The Stones plead their innocence in letters to the editor and still plan to issue a “Live ” album to clinch the point. But THE ASININE DEBATE ABOUT AUTHENTICITY IN ROCK ’N’ ROLL returned like a medieval disease mistakenly thought to have been eradicated by modern medicine. The last victims of this virus, poor Milli Vanilli, are probably still looking for jobs in L.A. Maybe they can find work doing backup vocals for the Stones.

Diedrich Diederichsen is the author of Freiheit macht arm. Jutta Koether is an artist and critic. They live in Cologne.

Translated from the German by David Jacobson.