In the fifth chapter of his book, Lawrence Grossberg talks about rock formation, and it starts by making sure the readers understand Rock was born under a complex net made of structures of social and economic relations, aesthetic conventions, styles of language, movement, appearance and dance, ideological commitments, media representations, etc. So, only because a band or a singer perform in the rock scene, we cannot predict its political formation and position. Rock is not inheritely subversive, as we may think. Before judging any musical genre, we should look at the context it was created in. And I’m sure we can apply the same way of thinking to all social situations.
Rock culture was largely produced for and marketed to a youth audience.
Rock is perhaps the only musical culture in which the identity of its audience bleeds into the music. (P. 133)
In the next chapter, Grossberg describes how the american society was created, so it could give birth to rock and roll. Liberalism is a key word to this chapter, because according to the author it celebrates plurality as the condition of the country’s difference from the rest of the world. Americans can spend their money in whatever they want without having the government regulating this situation, for example. So this postwar context shaped the political possibilites of rock culture.
The 50’s, where everything seemed nice and perfect, wouldn’t that be asphyxiating for any youth?
Anyway, Grossberg goes on confirming this thought. Rock came out of a period of conservativism BUT it didn’t reject the domestic image of daily life that generally prevailed in the US, including the privileged position it gave to the man in both gender and sexual relations. As an example, professor Strangelove used “Under my thumb” by the Rolling Stones, which leads us to another fact about r&r, even when the rock community was politized, it celebrated things like sensuality and sexuality. Does anybody remember The Pelvis? Another important thing to mention, is that on its origins, rock and roll was actually pretty limited, because it was black music. So the genre existed within the racist ideologies that were all over the place in the US and it only became mainstream when white people performed it. So that shows that while being a way of expressing rebelliousness, it was also very conservative.
In conclusion, the author tries to question the “subversive” nature of rockandroll. Was it really subversive at any point? Or it was just the strategy that was used to sell it?