The Ten Rules of Rock and Roll

September 3, 2012 4:40 AM

Erstwhile Go-Betweens guitarist/singer and hair product expert Robert Forster has written a book titled The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll. Here they are:
  1. Never follow an artist who describes his or her work as ‘dark’.
  2. The second-last song on every album is the weakest.
  3. Great bands tend to look alike.
  4. Being a rock star is a 24-hour-a-day job.
  5. The band with the most tattoos has the worst songs.
  6. No band does anything new on stage after the first 20 minutes.
  7. The guitarist who changes guitars on stage after every third number is showing you his guitar collection.
  8. Every great artist hides behind their manager.
  9. Great bands don’t have members making solo albums.
  10. The three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression

  11. I think (10) is pretty arguable but I'm on board with the rest. Care to add some?

posted by unSane (40 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

"6. No band does anything new on stage after the first 20 minutes."

No, rule 6 is "The last song of the main set is the band's current hit single."
posted by Ardiril at 11:58 AM on September 3, 2012


As to #9, the counterexample is The Church. But they've been active as a band for a long, long time, so maybe they're a permitted exception.

And I, too, take some exception to #10 because Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles.

That said:

11. If you are the bass player, you should probably stand still so you can hold down the rhythm.
12. The only people who care about guitar solos are guitar players.
13. If you're not the lead singer, remember that nobody will think you're cool unless they think your lead singer is cool. Do everything you can to make the singer look and sound better.
14. There is no good reason to trash talk your bandmates. Trash talk and public in-fighting only hurts you. See, e.g., The Police, Van Halen, Oasis.
posted by The World Famous at 12:06 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


15. Punk rock sounds really refreshing, exciting and new for about 3 months every decade or so.
posted by dobie at 2:34 PM on September 3, 2012


16. It's the mistakes that make it music.
posted by unSane at 3:15 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about (10) and actually I think he's right. He doesn't say the 'greatest', he says the 'purest'. And I think that's totally true. One bass instrument, one harmony instrument, one rhythm instrument, one melody instrument (the lead vocal). As soon as you take away one of those it isn't rock and roll any more. I guess a four piece like U2 basically count as well.
posted by unSane at 3:18 PM on September 3, 2012


If we're going for "purest," I'd just put this out there.
posted by The World Famous at 4:11 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would disagree unSane. Guitarists, bassists, and drummers can all sing and play at the same time. Hence the purity; You don't need Bono.
posted by dobie at 4:43 PM on September 3, 2012


two guitars, bass and drums - that's the classic configuration right there - less, and you really need great musicianship to fill in the space - more, and you've really got to be careful not to overarrange

the beatles, the stones, the kinks, neil young and crazy horse, thin lizzy, aerosmith, the velvet underground, ccr - sure, they added other instruments at times, but they were basically 4 instrument bands at heart

3 instruments might seem "purer", but i have to note that damn near any 3 piece band, when you get them in a studio, overdub a second guitar some of the time if not most of the time

and ...

17. it's the songs - period
posted by pyramid termite at 5:44 PM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


by the way, what's the challenge for this month?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:46 PM on September 3, 2012


Good question. I enjoyed being the guy handling the Radiohead challenge, but I don't have time to continue as the challenge guy.
posted by The World Famous at 5:48 PM on September 3, 2012


Sorry, don't know, have lost track of who's responsible! Is it Dubold?

Re 3-pieces, I played in a 3 piece for a couple of years (guitar, bass/vox, drums) and it's bloody difficult to pull off... the guitar has to fill so much space. I'm always in awe of bands like Dino Jr and the Jam, and others who managed to fill the space with one guitar. We tried it recently with Sportswriters and it didn't work at all. As soon as we added another guitar, it all started to happen.
posted by unSane at 5:50 PM on September 3, 2012


I'll put up a September challenge but I'm also out of time until xmas, so will need to hand over.
posted by unSane at 5:50 PM on September 3, 2012


Oh, bugger, I just posted to Talk (this one) so I'm out of posts for a week. Can someone else post it please? Either choose something of your own or use my idea, which was:

DIABOLUS IN MUSICA
The Diabolus in Musica is the interval of a flattened fifth (eg C to F#). September's challenge is to record a piece of music which prominently features the Diabolus. (Note that even a regular dominant seventh chord counts, since it had the interval between the third and the flattenend seventh, for example E and Bb in the C7 chord - but hopefully we can be a bit more adventuresome than that!)
posted by unSane at 6:06 PM on September 3, 2012


Prob'ly should also link to the Wikipedia page which states:

"It seems first to have been designated as a "dangerous" interval when Guido of Arezzo developed his system of hexachords and with the introduction of B flat as a diatonic note, at much the same time acquiring its nickname of "Diabolus in Musica" ("the devil in music").[19]"
posted by unSane at 6:09 PM on September 3, 2012


well, that sounds fine - i'll post it with the understanding i don't have to admin it, as i'm short on time these days ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:13 PM on September 3, 2012


The Diabolus in Musica is the interval of a flattened fifth (eg C to F#).

Can you link to some aural examples? - I'm musically illiterate and I don't quite know what you're talking about here unS.


(18) bands that decide to produce themselves (because, hey, that dude didn't really do anything right?) rarely succeed in bettering thier "producered" output

(19) Who needs perfection?

(20) performance is more important than sound quality

(21) Oasis is a tribute band
posted by MajorDundee at 2:02 AM on September 4, 2012


Hey, Major, it's just two notes played together or sequentially which are three whole tones (six frets) apart.

So C and F#, or G and C#.

It was thought to be a dangerous or dissonant combination at one time, so they called it the devil in music. Subsequently it became a staple of classical composers as part of chords which led strongly to other chords (eg dominant sevenths, G7 leading to C and so on). Then in the 20th century it became regarded as a stable interval on its own, so it didn't always have to resolve.

You find it buried in all sorts of chords. EG C7 (C, E, G, Bb) has it between E and Bb.

Cdim(C, Eb, Gb, A) has two of them (C to Gb, Eb to A) stacked.

Am6 (A, C, E, F#) has it too, and lots of others.

The Diabolus generally wants to resolve to something else, which is why chords like C7 and Cdim feel unstable. Typically it resolves 'inwards' which means the lower note moves up and the higher note moves down. So in C7, the E goes up to F and the Bb comes down to A, as it does when you play an F chord right afterwards (the standard resolution).

If you want to hear it clearly, just play alternating E and Bb power chords and pretend you're in a metal band.

I'll post this in the other thread too.
posted by unSane at 4:52 AM on September 4, 2012


Uh-hu... So....would the opening of this be an example?
posted by MajorDundee at 6:51 AM on September 4, 2012


oh and 12. The only people who care about guitar solos are guitar players.

So......Carlos Santana your early career was a figment of collective imagination.....

Joking apart, although my main thing is and always was guitar and soloing I tend to agree with this however reluctantly. I think the one qualifier I'd include would be that this holds more for self-indugent widdly widdly heavy-metal or jazz-wankerage or that kind of stuff (the sort of stuff I do!). I think the punters generally aren't interested in pyrotechnical fret-burning or by-rote oh-here's-the-solo-bit stuff, but they will respond to a good tune whether sung or played. People do connect with soloing that's tuneful (or groovy or both)and appropriate for the track - like Gilmour's work on Dark Side or the solo in Another Brick (which I remember my old man liking - and he didn't play anything except the fool) or (gasp!) stuff like Sultans of Swing - which I do think non-players appreciated very much. Primarily because it was melodic, simple and right on the money.
posted by MajorDundee at 7:03 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


And another thing young man (cue industrial-strength halitiosis and swivel-eyed buttonholing) - there's also the huge problem in guitar soloing of......cliches and tired tropes. Oh God help us. Most solos are crushingly boring primarily because they're just a set of cliches strung together. It's why I haven't actively listened to other guitarists since i was a teenager (sax players took over as my main source of inspiration - fewer cliches, although they were there).

If cliches in guitar solos were punishable by heavy fines or hand amputation (who's first....let me seeeeee), that might get us some way to the public taking more of an interest again. Don't forget - when those now- boring cliches were freshly minted (say in the 60's - lets not argue about blues roots here) at least in so far as the white record-buying punter was concerned, they lapped it up: Clapton, Page, Beck, Green et al...sold shedloads of records
posted by MajorDundee at 7:16 AM on September 4, 2012


Uh-hu... So....would the opening of this be an example?

Yeah exactly, the guitar against the bass.
posted by unSane at 7:43 AM on September 4, 2012


I was thinking about (10) and actually I think he's right. He doesn't say the 'greatest', he says the 'purest'. And I think that's totally true. One bass instrument, one harmony instrument, one rhythm instrument, one melody instrument (the lead vocal). As soon as you take away one of those it isn't rock and roll any more.

The White Stripes obviously breaks this mold, as does Local H, but there's certainly some great musicianship there to cover the missing third.
posted by davejay at 2:47 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So......Carlos Santana your early career was a figment of collective imagination.....

Back then, everybody thought they were guitarists, man.
posted by The World Famous at 2:58 PM on September 4, 2012


99. Keyboard players are the SEXIEST and should be treated with dignity and respect. If your keyboard player leaves your band will completely dissolve within a day or too (true story)
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:05 AM on September 7, 2012


98. Contrary to popular stereotype, drummers are usually the most conservative, reliable, best-organized and least alcoholic member of the band. Although watch out of they snap.
posted by unSane at 10:40 AM on September 7, 2012


100. Keyboard ponces think they are the SEXIEST and should be subjected to relentless sarcasm and piss-taking up to the point they leave having found out the lead guitarist is shagging their partner, at which point the band breathes a huge sigh of relief and really starts to ROCK!!

101 Don't trust unSane's advice about drummers.

102. Don't trust my advice about unSane'advice.

102. In fact, don't trust any musician's advice about anything.

103. Disregard criticism from people who have not themselves produced good work (this is a misquote of something Seamus Heaney says in a book of interviews with him by Dennis O'Driscoll called "Stepping Stones" - he was referencing someone like Whitman or Eliot I think - but I can't find the blasted quote now)
posted by MajorDundee at 12:16 PM on September 7, 2012


104. While lead guitarists are unbelievably cool and regard themselves, quite rightly, as the dog's bollocks, they can't count.
posted by MajorDundee at 12:19 PM on September 7, 2012


104.1. Yes, we can count all the way to four.
posted by The World Famous at 12:20 PM on September 7, 2012


Well, re #98, I know it's only anecdotal but out of the first dozen drummers I can think of who I've played with or know well personally this has been absolutely true. Mind you, they do seem to have this suppressed volcanic rage about them. I'm afraid to say any more because I know a couple of them sometimes read MeFi Music but there's definitely a bit of an axe murdering thing going on there.
posted by unSane at 12:32 PM on September 7, 2012


The drummers I've known have been a fairly mixed bag. A few fitted your bill re being organised and conservative. One was a total bullshitter - I mean a real Walter Mitty type whose fantasy world was quite entertaining, although oddly enough he was the best drummer I ever played with so why he had to do that is a psychological condundrum. And another one was very much the powder-keg type - you had to tread carefully.

Have to say that it was keyboard players that were/are my bete noir.....the ones that think they're "proper" musicians who can read the dots and know what a diminished 8th tastes like or whatever.....but I'm sure I've told all about that before so I'll not repeat myself.
posted by MajorDundee at 12:52 PM on September 7, 2012


There's a good chance that unSane's drummers have, more often than not, been Canadian, which throws the whole thing off.
posted by The World Famous at 12:54 PM on September 7, 2012


Ahh yes, of course. Although I believe his formative years were spent this side of the pond. They were probably Jocks (i.e. Scots) or Scousers (Liverpudlians) or Geordies (Newcastle) - those are kind of synonymous with Canucks really.... Or they might have been Welsh - if they had enough spare time from sheep-shagging...
posted by MajorDundee at 1:05 PM on September 7, 2012


Hm, well let's see... Welsh, English, English (West Country), American, Canadian, Danish, Canadian, Scottish, Scots/Canadian, Canadian and so on.

Keyboard players I sort of count myself as that's where I started out. Basically you're always the nerd in the band. I mean, nobody but nobody wants to shag the keyboard player, amirite? I'm playing keys and bass in someone else's band right now and I've just gone right back to being he dorky one.

The harder you try NOT to be dorky as a keyboard player, the worse it gets.
posted by unSane at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2012


Apropos of absolutely fuck all, I just got me a Fender American Special Stratocaster in Candy Apple red. It's as sweet as a nut - Texas Specials, lovely fat frets in a maple board and a very nicely set up bridge/trem that actually stays in tune. "Gutbucket" tone controls that work pretty well. Cheapest "Made in USA" model. Highly recommended. I now have 3 strats - my missus is not amused.....and not convinced by my special pleading that "they're all different"....
posted by MajorDundee at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2012


nobody but nobody wants to shag the keyboard player, amirite?

Might be a female keyboard player...that would, in an unacceptably sexist way, be quite unremarkable in a rock band, whereas a female drummer would perhaps be seen as rather more of a credibility challenge regardless of ability (which for that reason alone would definitely make me prioritise having a female drummer provided I could find one that cut it musically)

Oh and a Danish drummer...Christ, that sounds very scary.....
posted by MajorDundee at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2012


Apropos of absolutely fuck all, I just got me a Fender American Special Stratocaster in Candy Apple red.

Outstanding. Strats are just so great. Every once in a while, there's one that won't stay in tune or doesn't quite have the right mojo, but a good Strat just works.
posted by The World Famous at 1:30 PM on September 7, 2012


Forget to mention that this one has the '70's headstock too - which intrigues me. There was a time when this larger headstock was considered to be outmoded and uncool. By me as well as many others. The smaller 50's/60's headstock was much sought-after. My other two strats are of this type (one's a pretty rare Ultra (with an ebony board) and the other's a Deluxe). But, oddly enough, I now really like the big headstock and think it's cool. Just shows how capricious guitarist can be. Anyway - this Special really kicks ass - it's the most stratty Strat I have - more twang than suspender belt....
posted by MajorDundee at 1:43 PM on September 7, 2012


I had a nice US Strat once years ago and I never got on with it. I don't know why. I've never lusted after one since. I just don't really like the sound of them that much, and I particularly don't like the trem. Weird, eh, since I'm a Fender guy through and through?
posted by unSane at 1:53 PM on September 7, 2012


I didn't like Strats at all, and I had played plenty, until I played a Bonnie Raitt signature model back in like 1995 that was just so perfect that I was instantly converted and had to have a Strat. Strats are just not all that consistent - you have to find a magic one.
posted by The World Famous at 1:55 PM on September 7, 2012


you have to find a magic one

Precisely what I was just about to say to unSane.

Probably the first "proper" guitar I had was a "hard-tail" '70's Strat (i.e. no tremolo). I hated it. Couldn't get a decent sound out of it. Sold it and bought an SG - that did the trick. But later I was working in a music shop and we started getting Tokai strats in. I found one of these that just....worked. I fell in love with it. There is something about a good Strat that is hard to put into words. A good one will "take" distortion/overdrive without sounding thin or nasty or "breaking up". It will sound rich and full and incredibly "alive" and twangy - almost breathing... Just listen to some of Hendrix's work - Band Of Gypsies being a good start point. It's one hell of a sound. But......as TWF so rightly observes.....you could play six others that just don't cut it.

Strats are very temperamental and not as easy to get a "sound" out of as Gibson or other humbucker-fuelled instruments. Out of 10 identical ones you'll get one awful one, eight ok ones, and one shit-hot stunner. I have far too many guitars. But if I was pushed against a wall I would reach for one of my Strats every time. There is nothing that comes close to the sound of a cranked up Strat - a good one that is.....

I kind of wonder whether the Strat's time is coming round again. They've been in the wilderness for a good few years.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:08 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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