Cosmic Slop #112: The Guitar Hero Is Dead. So What?

By Shaun Ponsonby
Fri 30 June, 2017

After an article on the death of the guitar led to mourning from some, Shaun Ponsonby argues that it isn’t worth your tears. 

Last week, an article from The Washington Post popped up on my timeline pretty consistently. It chronicled the death of the electric guitar, and the comments surrounding it were mournful, and often full of the age old “X Factor has ruined everything” excuse.

In the article a number of facts are made clear; guitar sales are decreasing annually, the big manufacturers are in debt, there are no more guitar heroes (who was the last one? Slash? Kurt Cobain?). It sounds like a bad deal for the guitar industry.

But am I the only one who…doesn’t care?

It’s not that I don’t like rock music. All you have to do is look through the pages of Cosmic Slop to see that. I grew up with the guitar hero; Eddie Van Halen, Ritchie Blackmore, Pete Townshend. I have an affinity for the classic guitar hero.

But rock is dying. Kids aren’t picking up guitars because none of their heroes are guitar heroes. Their heroes are DJ’s and rappers. As much as I’m sure we’re all going to miss a gig being interrupted by a 27 minute guitar solo (I’m looking at you, Brian May), I feel I can say without fear of contradiction that nobody has ever looked at Luke Pritchard from The Kooks and said “I want to be just like him”.

I had this argument with somebody fairly prominent a few weeks back, and they said that people have been saying that rock is dying for decades, but it never really is. The difference between now and then is that there used to at least be a few rock hits during this so–called “rock is dead” period. The closest we have to a rock hit as I write this is Imagine Dragons at number 36, and they’re shit.

The album chart is, of course, the place to go for rock usually. There’s a few more peppered in there. You can’t say rock is totally dead when Royal Blood hold the number one spot there, but what you’ll notice about the album chart is how many more catalogue albums are making their way in there. In the Top 20 alone there is Bob Marley’s Legend, OasisTime Flies, The Very Best of ELO and Sgt Pepper. This might suggest that the age of the people buying Royal Blood’s album is significantly higher than those who are being streamed enough on Spotify enough to make their way to the singles chart.

Spending a fair amount of my time at a youth oriented radio station, I can say with some degree of certainty that da kidz just aren’t listening to rock music, or buying albums. But that isn’t a necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.  Times change, and they just consume things differently, with apologies to the people who feel old by that assertion.

Rock & roll is coming up on its 70th anniversary. That’s longer than some of the celebrated periods of classical music. The romantic period only lasted around 50 years. It’s about the same period of time that the classical era lasted. Could it be, possibly, that we are just reaching the end of the rock & roll era?

It had to end some time, and it was a good ride while it lasted. There are always going to be people who listen to rock music, and those who love it.

Or is it? The other side of the coin is that music is just more diverse now. The territorial attitude that went with music in days of yore is no longer present. So perhaps rock is dying quite the slow, violent death that we assume. Perhaps it is only dying as the prominent force.

What I can’t abide is the mourning from people who seemingly insist that everything was better in their day. Why is it a bad thing? It might be more of a struggle for young rock bands, but it’s less of a struggle for people in other genres. Why the arrogance to want to force how things were in your day on a generation who have made a different decision. If they don’t give a frig, why should you?

What the death of the prominence of rock, the electric guitar and the guitar hero says to me is that we are moving past the interminable period of time where the musical discussion was led by the boring white rock elite. The rockist snobs at Rolling Stone, and the people who use phrases like “proper music” when they compare a genre they don’t understand to some dinosaur of a Britpop band.

And that’s a good thing.


If my social media feeds are to be believed, Foo Fighters and Radiohead‘s audiences are literally polar opposites.

Ron Howard directing the young Han Solo movie? I’m guessing Han‘s best friend will be a talking pie.