Quotable Greil: Survival

“I became especially interested in the new application of the word [survival] in the domain of rock ‘n’ roll, mainly because it appeared everywhere—as a justification for empty song-protagonists, washed-up careers, third-rate LPs, burnt-out brainpans. (This is not even to discuss the use of the word in current fiction, where it has become a surefire way to make vaguely neurotic, white, middle-class characters seem heroic in their depression, inadequacy, and cowardice.) I grew obsessed with the phenomenon: it seemed to me to speak for everything empty, tawdry, and stupid about the seventies, to stand for every cheat, for every failure of nerve. I couldn’t get away from the word: week after week, it arrived in the mail. Grand Funk’s Survival. The Roll­ing Stones’ ‘Soul Survivor.’ Barry Mann’s Survivor. Cindy Bullens’s ‘Survivor’ (a great recording, and ruined). Eric Burdon’s Survivor. Gloria Gaynor’s cheesy “I Will Survive.” Adam Faith’s I Survive. Randy Bachman’s Survivor. Georgie Fame’s Survival. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Street Survivors” (the only band made to pay for the conceit). Just a couple of weeks ago, the Wailers’ Survival, and then the band Survivor. Every time a performer covering himself or herself with glory (just as novelists continued to celebrate their hapless autobiographical characters and their lack of anything worth saying). So I railed against it all; I wrote about the word every time I came across it, tried to kill it.”


from “Rock Deaths in the 1970s: A Sweepstakes,” Village Voice, Dec. 17, 1979; reprinted in In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-1992 (a.k.a., Ranters & Crowd Pleasers)


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