To the editors:
Frank Youngwerth's letter in the September 17 Reader describes rock as an institution, but the best, most immediate cutting-edge sounds almost always appear courtesy of institutions. Mr. Youngwerth must realize rock and roll spawned from the earlier styles of music considered institutions by 1950s rebellious teens. As always big business exploited the success of performers by creating a more digestible music which subsequent musicians and fans found unappetizing.
Music created to make big money produces gagging, squirming, and cringing but also indirectly creates the new sounds by taunting unsatisfied people who can differentiate processed white bread from natural whole grains. Picture the naive adolescent in 1979 sucking in Foreigner's corporate scam who happened to tune in late-night TV to see the Clash calling London. This incident inspires a comparison of the sounds, and the teenager feels the urgency of the Clash fill the musical stomach while Foreigner is a doughnut with too many sweet calories that lack essential nutrients. The youth acknowledges the Clash, discovers the underground music scene, and starts a band like the Violent Femmes.
This reaction to institutions of all kinds cycles throughout the generations, driving the soul of creativity in music. We can say the '65 Stones + the Dave Clark Five = David Bowie or Roxy Music + the Partridge Family = Elvis Costello or the Buzzcocks + Journey = (your turn). Rock and roll is an institution, but an institution is where a rebellion begins.