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Rock Quotes

June 25, 2007  |  12:00am
Rock Quotes

Note: Some of the 2007 quotes were reported by Jaan Uhelski and Brent Dey.

“For some reason people think that musicians have some authority. It’s just the way it’s come about. They must think that as our playing makes them feel good, then our talking will make them feel good, too. I think that if I was left to my wits as a politician, I’d fail drastically. We all would. All we really do is play.”
Bob Weir, Grateful Dead, 1971

“People can be influenced in ways other than being taken by the arm and led to some place. A good example of this is the general trend of pop music over the past few years. It’s been a feedback situation where the culture has shaped the music and the music feeds back into the culture. This then determines how you think, how you dress, how you smoke, what you smoke, what you shoot and what you sniff.”
Frank Zappa, 1971

“One of the reasons I think music will do it is because it comes straight at you whether you like it or not. If you create a sculpture people have the choice of whether to go and see it or not. Music has a better chance to get into the subconscious because it comes straight through your ears.”
Rob Tyrner, MC5, 1972

“I don’t care whether I’m farther out than anyone else as long as I entertain my audience. That’s my only objective. I never compare myself to Mick Jagger or Elvis Presley or any of those people. I just compare myself to: ‘Gee. Did I do a good show tonight or didn’t I do a good show tonight?’”
Alice Cooper, 1973

“A book doesn’t have the power of music. The power of music is far superior to the written word. It’s a finer substance, a finer set of rules. It can reach more places than the intellect alone. It can affect the mental, the physical and the spiritual. It has a magical power.”
Mike Pinder, Moody Blues, 1974

“In 1967 we thought we’d stop the Vietnam war in about two years and instead it probably took us six or eight years, but I think everybody felt that this was the first time that the American people had actually forced the American government to be responsible to us and to stop doing something that they very much wanted to keep doing. The initial get-off comes when we sing our music. Then, when we realize that the music has communicated to an audience and that it may have moved these people and even given them some catharsis, that’s the sweetest get-off of all.”
David Crosby, 1975

“All of our songs are social commentary. One of the new wars that has to be fought is over the space between people. That’s what causes a lot of those tank-game wars. It’s the space between people. You know, ‘I don’t like you. You’ve got more beans than I’ve got and I’ll thump you ’til I get them. So these songs are about personal changes, about how we adapt to our environment. You see something go down and you’re moved enough to write about it and then, after you’ve written it down, people come to you and say, ‘I know what you’re talking about. I’ve been through that myself.’ Immediately they are less alone.”
Graham Nash, 1975

“I’ve often said that rock is far higher than politics, and I know it sounds a bit pompous but I still believe that. The feeling that happens when you’re listening to a really great piece of rock music or that you feel at a really great concert is much higher that anything you’ll get at a political rally.”
Pete Townshend, The Who, 1981

“As the song says, ‘Rock ’n’ roll is my religion and my law.’ I believe in rock ’n’ roll. I can feel rock ’n’ roll. I’m involved in rock ’n’ roll. I get a great kick out of playing rock ’n’ roll and the kick I get is out of seeing all those people with happy smiles on their faces.”
Ozzy Osbourne, 1984

“The music that is being played on the radio every day damages people. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. I know it for a fact. It’s damaging their hearing. It can damage their thinking. It can damage you spiritually over a period. It’s very subtle. It’s not done so that you’d notice but over a period it’s damaging. If I listened to it for a couple of hours I’d be damaged. I’m sensitive to music. Maybe it’s people who’re sensitive to music who’ll be damaged.”
Van Morrison, 1985

“Music is a healing thing. I see it all the time. I don’t meet that many people so when I meet anyone who likes what Yes has done and who understands a little bit of the lyrical content and thanks me, I’ll thank them too. The world needs to spend its spiritual energies on moving up to the next thing. People say, ‘That’s a dream Jon. That’s Science Fiction. Stay on the ground.’ But I don’t want to stay on the ground while kids are starving in the gutter.”
Jon Anderson, Yes, 1985

“I’ve always found it weird that people take it so seriously. I don’t think rock music is silly, but I think it should be treated with the irreverence it deserves. I’ve constantly said that rock is one of the least important things on the planet but because I do it, it’s important to me. Taken in the whole scheme of things, it’s hugely unimportant except when it’s harnessed to something like this [Live Aid] and then it becomes endlessly powerful.”
Bob Geldof, 1985

“The issues which people are getting out on the street for now were less crucial 10 years ago. We’re in much greater danger from everything. Maybe we needed someone like Bob Geldof to galvanize us because he was almost made for that job. He’s got all this energy and drive. He was presented with this opportunity and he took it by the horns. I admire him for it. No-one else could have done it. I couldn’t have done it.”
Sting, 1986

“I’m doing what I do best which is to make music, and I realize that it’s all I’ve ever known how to do and all I want to do, but I hope that I’m making music that matters. In other words, I want to make a difference.”
Jackson Browne, 1986

“I’d like people to be lifted up by the music, sure, but not to be thrown against the ground the next minute. A lot of music seems to be like that. It’s like a drug. Maybe U2 music is a drug. I hope not. It would be the highest compliment if it inspired people to do something for themselves or with themselves. That’s pretty good. We came here [to America] on the Conspiracy of Hope tour and Amnesty International doubled its membership. There are now U2 fan clubs where they don’t just watch videos and listen to music. They write postcards for Amnesty. That to me is amazing.”
Bono, U2, 1987

“The music take people closer to everything which is good and in a very clean and proper direction. It’s the right music. It’s uplifting music. It’s music of convenience for every nation and color. It speak about truth and right. The bass is from creation. The heartbeat. Boof! On stage I feel nice. I feel strong.”
Burning Spear, 1987

“Music can act as an aural model for a way of thinking, or a way of looking at things. This has nothing to do with the words. The words are part of the scheme but the whole music—the attitude, the rhythm and the words—all function to make a model for living which either helps people or doesn’t”
David Byrne, Talking Heads, 1988

“At the time I became interested in rock music as something I might possibly get involved it was because this seemed to be the almost the central communication point for the culture. It was an exchange. Ideas were put through, got turned into music, then got taken back out by someone else and got turned back into action. This is what has always excited me about culture. That’s what culture does. It absorbs and it’s then available as a library of possibilities for further action.”
Brian Eno, 1988

“People don’t need us to tell them how messed up the world is, but that’s what we’re doing. The difference is that because I have faith and hope and am interested in love, it’s my way of walking through the world. But I think you’ve got to see it and stare at those devils. The way is not to turn your face from them. U2 is painting a picture of a bleak landscape but somehow there is some kind of sunlight there."
Bono, U2, 1988

“I don’t like to be perceived as another guy on a soapbox. I’m a musician. I’m an artist. That’s enough. That’s a humanitarian effort right there. It’s tough enough to be an artist. If I have a cause I’ll work for it, but I won’t get up and blow my horn about it. I do write about issues but I try not to do it as though I’m preaching.”
Billy Joel, 1990

“I have an ego and I have to satisfy it. At the same time I have to live with my inglorious past [as a member of Led Zeppelin]. The thing I’m most proud of in the work I’ve been involved with has been the fact that I didn’t care what happened to it as long as I cared for myself. It was very personal, very self-centred and very right, even if it wasn’t palatable.”
Robert Plant, 1990

“There are moments on the dance floor when I’ve felt complete transcendence—moments of ecstatic celebration. If we were having this interview two years ago I would have been very enthusiastic about it and would have thought that this experience was an integral part of the dance community. I would go to raves where there would be 5,000 people with their hands in the air all screaming at the top of their voices, each having this subjective experience but being part of the collective whole. I saw it as a very positive thing. People’s inhibitions were broken down—not in a way that meant they were all having sex with each other and looting and robbing but that their defences and barriers were being broken down. They were talking to strangers and hugging each other and it seemed to be a very positive thing. Now I go to raves, and people either sit on the floor or they’re defensive, aggressive or apathetic. It’s as if all the negative aspects of regular culture have become the negative aspects of rave culture.”
Moby, 1994

“At best I’d like [my music] to be something that starts a conversation in the sense of opening some kind of door or giving somebody an idea of doing something else, not necessarily with music but with anything. The best music to me was always the music that made me want to do something. It made me want to live a certain way.”
Beck, 2006

“To play music for a living provides a certain detachment from “the real world.” The real world is where you go and get a real job and a real haircut and face reality: nothing changes, no one cares about your songs, and you’re never going to get signed. So I suppose a lot of my friends and heroes in music don’t spend a lot of time in that world. They never really grew up all the way. They play music and get paid for songs! They still think that songs matter! That songs can change the real world!"
Jon Foreman, Switchfoot, 2007

“I suppose I have this picture in my mind of flower power and acoustic protest songs when I think about rock ’n’ roll changing the world. It can feel incredibly naive to believe that a song could change the world, but in my experience, I’ve never felt anything more powerful than a song. True, the songs might not have the longevity to keep the fire roaring for long but they provide an incredible spark—fodder for the fire. A real fire in the real world. And yet, in my opinion, the stage is a swollen place where we look for meaning. In my opinion, the most significant events happen off stage, behind closed doors. The spark of the fire that happens on stage cannot compete with the years of service needed for lasting change. The anthem dies away and the tour T-shirts fade and there’s a man sweeping up empty cups of beer from the floor of the arena. Mother Theresa could never be a rock star.”
Jon Foreman, Switchfoot, 2007

“[Music] does the same job it always did which is raising awareness, and we have some great examples of people who did that, namely John Lennon and Bob Marley. But how much has the world changed because of what they did? It’s undetermined, but raising awareness, certainly. A lot of people would not be hearing about a lot of the issues if it wasn’t for someone with a microphone up there writing and singing about it.”
Jakob Dylan, 2007

“I think [rock] has [changed the world]. To me, it speaks of freedom of thought and individualism. And when we’re all thinking, we can save the world. So in some ways, I think rock can save the world and in other ways, I think it already has.”
Paul McCartney, 2007

“I think of the Beatles. They changed America, and not many people can say they changed America. And they did it with music. Not wars. Not laws. Not guns—none of that junk. They changed America with music and that’s a pretty big deal.”
Marc Roberge, O.A.R., 2007

"Music documents and dictates our world. It records what has past and inspires our future. As such, of course it can change the world. Musicians are normal people in the fortunate position of having a voice. This is the same as politicians, without having to tow the party line. So musicians can voice their opinions rather than be limited by the politician’s thirst for power. I would like to change human nature. It seems we instinctively look out only for ourselves. If we looked out for each other, we’d be a team rather than a group of individuals. If we asked 'what does the other person need?' we’d be much stronger."
James Blunt, 2007

“We’ve had several generations of revolutionary rock ’n’ roll, and yet in spite of all the great music the world, we live in now is a dispiritingly corporate one, where the gap between rich and poor is wider than ever and politics is, by and large, still the same seething mass of amoral self-serving scumbags. So rock and roll hasn’t succeeded in changing the world very much in these respects either. Of course it hasn’t, it would be ridiculous to ever think that it could. [But] music has real potency. To unite, to give hope, to make you feel that you’re not alone, to inspire. From nowhere it can lift you up, fire you up and point you in a completely different direction. It glues our lives together, it glues people together, it crystallizes feelings that are beyond words. This is where it’s power lies.”
David Gray, 2007

“I want to know that what i do with most of my energy is in some way making a conscious effort to making the world a better place. There's nothing better than a group of people getting togther in a positive way with the underlying foundation of doing something good. When we come together for reasons bigger than just ourselves, we feel a part of something special.it gives us a true sense of ,direction ,focus and belonging.”
John Butler, 2007

“I think there’s essential authenticity that musicians have, and as artists, as creative people, there’s a soulfulness there that I don’t think a lot of people pick up from politicians. From politicians, we get the sense, whether it’s deserved or not—usually it is—we get the sense that everything they do is packaged and artificial and calculated and for their own benefit. But there is a sense I think that people get from artists and people who are creative, that they come from a place of authenticity when they’re speaking out. And whether it’s true or not, I think it’s true most of the time. There’s a truth there and a creativity, and a soulfulness there.”
John Legend, 2007

“The climate crisis is a global problem that requires a global response. That’s exactly what Live Earth is. On 7/7/07, Live Earth will touch over 2 billion people with 24 hours of live music across 7 continents and an urgent, hopeful message to trigger a worldwide movement to combat the climate crisis and successfully solve”
Al Gore, 2007

“Music is the most powerful thing on Earth for making us feel something, and that is at the heart of [change]—breaking through apathy and the modern affliction of detachment and lack of empathy.”
Neil Finn, Crowded House, 2007

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