Photo: C. A. Bridges
I was at a Jon Bon Jovi concert in New Jersey with my wife a month ago and he was talking about the next Bon Jovi album. The last one, “Lost Highway,” had a decided country tinge to it, but the new one was going to be back to basics.
“I’m tellin ya, you gotta trust me on this one,” he said. “You wanted a riff rock record,
you got a riff rock record. They wouldn’t let me back into Nashville so I had
to turn up the loud electric guitars on this one.” And the crowd of devoted fans went nuts.
One slight problem, of course, was that we didn’t know what “riff rock” meant. But we cheered along with the rest and planned to go home and look it up later. I could take a guess. I know what a riff is, and I assume a “riff rock” song would be one with a lot of riffs shoved in it. But the way he said it made it sound like it had an identity. Was it a specific genre, a school, a trend, a group name, a musical theory, what?
No problem! Interweb to the rescue! There were probably hundreds of sites devoted to answering this very question. The Internet knows everything!
Except, apparently, for this. Wikipedia has no “riff rock” entry, not at all. There’s a “riff rock” tag at Last.fm, but no explanation. Riffrock.com seems to think I should know already or I wouldn’t be there. Google listed plenty of pages and Amazon had several reviews where “riff rock” was being used descriptively, but none of them included a single definition. Ask.com said it didn’t know, dot com.
This staggered me. It has been years, literally years, since I casually reached out for information on the Web and came up dry. Had I walked outside, dropped a can, and watched it fall upward, I could not have been more surprised.
And that brought home how quickly the Internet has become our collective conscious.
It holds our memories, our
knowledge, our facts. “Google” became a verb almost overnight for a reason. I’m honestly surprised we even still make kids
memorize anything. Does anyone need to know the date of the Battle of
Hastings unless you plan to hit up Jeopardy some day? As long as there
are people out there with a) an intense passion for something, b) free
time, and c) a Web site, our pursuit of trivia will be rewarded. We’re
not quite up to building a hive mind yet, Twitter notwithstanding, but
we are building the hive mind’s long-term memory, and we’re doing it
Quickly enough to surprise me when I find a gap, anyway.
music reviewer, Rick DeYampert, told me what “riff rock” was: a song
composed mostly (or completely) of one distinct, repetitive riff, a la the Rolling Stones’ “I
Can’t Get No (Satisfaction).”. So now I know.
Maybe I’ll start a Wikipedia page about