I spent July 4 doing what many patriots did—listening to rock ‘n’ roll.
I had the enormous pleasure of watching a DVD of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry jamming with an amazing group of all-star musicians: John Mayall, Mick Fleetwood, Ron Wood, Carl Wilson, Bobby Keys, and members of Chicago, Three Dog Night, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
In their late 50s at the time of the 1985 concert, Bo and Chuck appeared ageless once the music started. Bo strutted and preened, reminding us that “Bo Diddley put the rock in rock and roll.” Chuck, with a mischievous (or satanic, depending on your outlook) little smile, said “I wrote this for the little children, but the adults got terribly upset about it” when introducing “I want to play with my ding-a-ling”.
All around them, guitars wailed non-stop, drums beat mercilessly, and backup singers swayed, pleaded, seduced, and celebrated. These weren’t tender love songs: “I’m a Man,” Bo swaggered. “Who Do You Love?” he growled.
You may remember all those terrible predictions in the 50s and 60s, that rock ‘n’ roll—and its cousins, “race music” and nasty blues—were sexually stimulating, libidinally liberating, erotically encouraging.
They were right.
Of course, this is the prediction about every new innovation in art or technology—whether about comic books, the car, VCRs, jazz, even electrically-lit downtowns (which allowed unchaperoned courting at night at the turn of the 20th century).
Let’s admit it—for the most part, they’re right. Yes, the moralists and the devout are good at spotting what will have sexual applications. They were right about the printing press and, almost six centuries later, the internet.
Is the sexual application of virtually all new technologies a problem? Is art that stimulates sexual feelings and behavior a problem? It depends on your perspective.
Looking at that stage full of mostly middle-aged men with broad smiles and artistic commitment, it’s hard to demonize the eroticism of rock ‘n’ roll. And it’s hard not to notice how sexually attractive these geezers obviously felt—and seemed.
As a sex therapist, I deal with people’s issues about sex and aging every week. Those men and women would love to ask how Bo, Chuck, John, and the others do it. Of course, one simple answer is that rock ’n’ roll keeps you young. And rockin’. And rollin’. So does being unafraid of your sexuality.
The film shows the huge barbecue Bo cooked for his all-star band and their families. We saw piles of food. Soul food. Sex food: not self-conscious aphrodisiacs like oysters, but simple food that appeals to the lusty appetite. You can’t be embarrassed and enjoy barbecue. No one says “Oh no, my diet won’t allow another spicy, saucy, rib.”
The DVD is available from Netflix (one of history’s great inventions, alongside the wheel, the polio vaccine, and pantyhose).
When Bob Seger demanded “that old time rock and roll” on his 1978 album—this is it. And it does go better with ribs and a little sex.