Rock and Roll is dead, at the age of 55. There are no ifs buts or maybes. It is laying in a ditch wearing Kiss make up, Alice Cooper’s pimp cane in it’s black fingernail polished clawed hand, sequinned cod piece swollen with yesterdays rotting cucumber that is wrapped in the burnt silver foil of a thousand dragon chasing sessions.
Slash’s top hat perched upon its balding pate, the Grateful Dead looking more and more like soothsayers every moment that passes as Rock and Roll’s bony face skull-grins back out of the Minnesotan ditch, Old Glory flares flapping around pearly white ivory skellington ankles, James Dean’s leather jacket zipped up to the neck, Lil Bastard wrapped around the nearest tree, the pages of A Season in Hell spelling out Rimbaud on the grassy banks of an English village green, an entire teacup full of secrets obscured by clouds in the coffee that I poured for the road. Just one more overflowing cup. Just one more sip of Jim Beam. One more line of cocaine. Rock and Roll has got no more connections: he is just no damn good no more.
There were earlier reports of his death: Chevys were driven down to dried out basins, toasts were made and murderous graffiti was sprayed onto walls, daubed in the blood of sacrificial mothers. Apples were shot off heads, wall of sound purveyors chased the Rabbi in the blue raincoat round recording studios as the peacenik gay howler intoned alongside the Poet in chief that no man should be forced to go home with his hard-on. The death of Rock and Roll was a way off in the distance. It didn’t happen when Buddy Holly or the Big Bopper went down in flames. It didn’t happen with the Purple great one hit up the Walgreens parking lot for his own junk and checked out of life instead of into rehab. It didn’t happen when the Lizard King hit the great reset in a Paris bathtub.
It didn’t happen even when the bleach blonde in the striped jumper drilled a hole in his head, not in tribute to his wife’s band, but in desperation and fear. No. The Watchers on the Tower could still observe the Nephilm body and soul of Rock and Roll thrusting his hips. The hound dog schtick wasn’t his to begin with, Big Mama Thornton was that hound dog tamer with the hips and the guitar chops, you can see her dancing on the grave of Rock and Roll who stole her groove. Take it away, Mama!
The ghost of Robert Johnson, dragging his hell hound on a leash, guitar balanced over one shoulder, no case, holding its neck in one gigantic paw, eyes flashing yellow, singing his Me and the Devil Blues, calls back over his shoulder, “Come on Satan! I believe it is time to go!” The animated corpse of Rock and Roll twitching in anticipation of a decent burial. There are lines of cocaine cut on the gothic coffin inscribed with every sister of mercy lyric ever mouthed along to by girls in fishnet stockings and boys in black eyeliner and bondage pants. The red velvet curtain is down, waiting to be raised on the final show. Chicago is the sweet home, the chariots are swinging low, the river is wide but we cannot cross over, not without a penny to pay the ferryman.
Robert Johnson. The man who started this whole damn mess, from bats heads being bitten off to the glory of the road. From the mythic lands to the delta blues devotion, which led skinny white boys from London to start sounding like they were from the banks of the Mississippi. His whisper and drawl echoed in the boxcars and the wild goose chases to Mexico, San Francisco and Colorado, through the tin walls of Furthur and drifting through the halls of the Hotel Chelsea and the pretty candy colored dolls houses of Haight Ashbury and the summer of love trip and fall into a state of perpetual tuned outedness.
Digging a hole, the bucket going down to the well, and rolling Mister Rocknroll into the grave: “Ashes to ashes, funk to funky” Johnson intones solemnly. “We had a good run, Satan, but we all runned out.” Picking up his guitar, sounding that sacred A chord, followed by that heavenly E, a touch of spicey D7, lighting a cigarette and pouring a slug of moonshine onto the dry ground and the parched bony jaw of Rocken’R extending his parched lizard tongue towards the wet and the profane, Johnson climbed down with the old goat, and started to sweep the graveyard dirt down on them both using his guitar as a scoop.
Walking past as the last of the soil sunk back into place on that crossroads hanging joint, I almost thought I could see the ground shiver.
A deep laughter came from the earth.
Rocknroll is dead. Long live Rocknroll.