In hindsight, I think rock died in about 1975. Since then there have been some good albums and artists, but nothing truly novel, just iterations of settled forms and recycling of various genres. One might even say that the punk movement, which began in the mid-1970s, signified the full circle, i.e., returning to the primitive and unadorned roots of primeval rock. Some of the latter was great e.g. London Calling but it was nevertheless impossible to return to the spontaneous, artless and unself-conscious innocence of 1955, just as it will always be impossible for the jazz artist to return to the days of Louis Armstrong in 1926, when he was inventing the jazz vocabulary. One man’s open discovery becomes another’s closed dogma.
I was wanting to call Bob out on this one when it occurred to me that I couldn’t think of a post-’75 genre, save punk, that wasn’t at least somewhat derivative, and that pretty much all my recent favorite singles were in some ways throwbacks to earlier days. (You can’t tell me that if Ruth Brown were still around, she wouldn’t have a go at “Rolling in the Deep.”)
So rock just died, and Suzie went and left Elton for some other guy, so to speak. And while the Clash deserve their spot in the Pantheon, they managed to incorporate so many pre-punk influences that I’m tempted to declare the Great Divide to have occurred, not with London Calling, but with Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. No such discontinuity arises with Vampire Weekend, unless you’re a fan of the Oxford comma.