A Love Letter to Rock and Roll

People are surprised when they learn I listen to rock music. Is it because I’m blonde? Or because I don’t have tattoos? Is it because I look like your average, twenty-something white girl who’s supposed to be listening to Taylor Swift? Sorry to disappoint. I own band t-shirts that make my mother cringe.

My long love affair with rock and roll has a clear origin: I have this memory of sitting with my Dad in his home office when I was about 7 or 8 years old. We were downloading music from Napster (that should date this article) and Dad started blaring Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” We danced around the room, singing and laughing, and I can still remember the sheer joy I felt when listening to that song. I’d never heard anything like it before; it was loud, fast, exciting, funny. 

That was my beginning. 

The next clear memory I have of rock is when Good Charlotte released “The Anthem” in 2002. I was 11 years old, and I remember someone at school showing me the music video online. That song hit me with the same force as Aerosmith. I burned a copy of someone’s The Young and The Hopeless album and played that thing on repeat in my bedroom for hours and hours. (I still have the whole album memorized.)

My formative years were smack in the middle of the 2000’s when pop punk and emo culture started to filter into mainstream music tastes. Everyone I knew had at least one Evanescence or Fall Out Boy song on their iPods. In the next six years, I’d graduate from bands like Good Charlotte and Sum 41 up to stuff like Senses Fail, AFI, Rise Against, and Linkin Park. I wanted more screams, heavier riffs. There was something about rock and roll that tapped into that primal part of me. The kings of the scene like My Chemical Romance became my solaces in the confusing world that was high school. 

But I plateaued at some point. I returned to my classic rock roots by junior year. Lots of Queen, Billy Idol, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and Poison followed me through the end of high school. Pop punk and emo was dying out and I was on the horizon for change, too. College was looming. 

I shipped off to Tennessee for college in the fall of 2009 and everything changed. My decade of rock was over. Glam pop and country pounded through the frat house walls as I navigated through adulthood – the alcohol, the freedom, the allure of “going out,” the breakups, the stupid mistakes. But by the time I graduated and was sick of everything, rock was there waiting for me.

In the summer of 2013, I started my manuscript, DESCENT, and it never occurred to me to put Orpheus in any other music genre. To me, he was always a rock star. But as the plot developed, I realized that this wasn’t just about writing a modern-day Orpheus tale. It became a love letter to the music scene of my youth. 

Rock these days isn’t what it used to be. The gritty bands playing on Warped Tour aren’t played on Top 40 stations anymore. But people say that music is a cyclical trend. And maybe it’s true – bands I haven’t heard from since the early 2000’s are making comebacks now (Good Charlotte, anyone?). Maybe there’s a chance that the music closest to my heart will make its way back up the charts again. In a world where trends fade all too quickly, maybe my manuscript will remind others of the music generation that’s passed. Maybe someone else shares my nostalgia. 

As for me, I’ve followed my own cycle back to rock and roll again. Music became a crucial part of my research and writing routine for DESCENT. I revisited the bands of my past and discovered what else I’d missed since 2009, but I also started branching out further. My scope of rock and roll hits all corners of the map today – everything from post-hardcore to symphonic metal. I’ve been to more rock concerts in the last 3 years than ever before. 

I may not look like it on the outside, but I’m still that little girl dancing along to “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” I can’t forget my 14-year-old self who listened to Hawthorne Heights and Sharpied her fingernails black. Rock and roll still owns my heart. And I hope that never changes.