I grew up mostly in the suburbs of Columbus, and then Pittsburgh, places where classic rock was the standard in supermarket radio play. Styx, Bryan Adams, and “Rock On” were always mixed in right next to The Beatles and Zeppelin. Rock’n’roll was not played in my home, however; that was Gilbert and Sullivan and Appalachian fiddle music. I had to seek it out, and weave my own web of long-haired white-dude history through my weekly Borders CD purchases, on which I used all my allowance.
Ultimately, the walled-in utopia I created for myself by holing up with my CDs and, in high school, poring over record buyer’s guides of various sorts, kept me remote from all the ugly realities of Rock’n’Roll in that macro, mythical sense – the gospel according to Richie Sambora. When I (thankfully) came back to a more openminded, we-the-people view of pop music universe a few years later — in the later ‘00s — I walked into a world where rock’n’roll was all but passé, where the style of rock (the “indie” variety) was growing into pop music, and vice versa, but both parties loved coked-up Bowie, disco, and the ‘80s. It was a better world, with more possibilities.
So it’s always fascinating to see what that Rock’n’Roll ideal I chased is for others. In the last few months, it’s been instructive to get some insight into what the creators of the FX’s half-hour comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll think it is. At least, it’s helped me to try to tap into a narrative and part of the human psyche I never knew existed.
Maybe in the process of going there — to that seductive dystopia where all classic rock is supposedly made in the image of Aerosmith, but the songs sound like Train and Melissa Etheridge — and now, coming back — the final episode of its first season aired last night — I’ve left something of myself in that alternate dimension. It’s one that corresponds to nothing on Earth, or that ever has been, and now, I can’t go back. At least, for a while.
This is a world where The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli is an absent antagonist in every episode, where a guitarist in his late 50s has had sex with Lady Gaga, where a rockstar Denis Leary strums acoustic guitars and wears iguana skin pants, where “normcore” is a musical genre, where Sub Pop will sign bands that sound like Five for Fighting and a glorified Poison. S&D&R&R’s a strange world, one more fanciful than the great fantasy literature of ages past, from Michael Ende to Madeline L’Engle to R.A. Salvatore.
And what a world it was. Will it return? That hasn’t been confirmed yet. Probably not, because I’m still amazed it aired in the first place. But we’re left with a cliffhanger: Rehab and Bam sold a remix of an Assassins song to a vagina perfume commercial (of course) so now Sub Pop doesn’t want to sign a deal with the band. It’s that good old 2006 idea of selling out we know and love. Flash and Gigi broke up, but Flash is still pining, trying to win her back. It’s revealed that Flash and Ava hooked up (when?) and that’s spread around at the end of the EP by a devilish band advisor, who seems to be trying to secretly break them up…? Does he want Gigi to go solo again? What the hell is happening?
Literally nothing wraps up. There’s just a mostly black-and-white photo montage of the band during the “good times,” times which we literally never see on the show. And all that to a Vanessa Carlton-ass jam with the word “mystified” used a lot.
And that, my friends, has been the Denis Leary comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, the kind of weird-ass TV that goes under the radar of all you prestige-TV obsessed, normcore-ass hipsters! Johnny Rock would be disgusted with you! Rock the fuck on! Also, thanks for reading — I’m blowing you a kiss.