Dr. Robert Helps Us Get A Grip On Cock Rock

There is no other genre of music that has enjoyed so many ‘sub genres’ as Rock. Think about it. What began as ‘Rock n Roll’, and which we now simply refer to as ‘Rock’, has taken on an endless variety of permutations. There’s ‘Hard Rock’, ‘Pop Rock’, ‘Country Rock’, ‘Prog Rock’, ‘Alt Rock’, ‘Soft Rock’, ‘Classic Rock’, ‘Latin Rock’, ‘Jock Rock’ and even Bach Rock (Hey, who else remembers The Left Banke?). And if you grew up where Dr. Art and I did, ‘Eagle Rock’ (so sorry).

However, there is one sub genre that is the most controversial, least respected and unfairly maligned. Notoriously over exposed, endlessly parodied, and now nearly forgotten, COCK ROCK is the cultural storm that once shook the ‘moral majority’ to their core. And yet, even today, COCK ROCK can still conjure up lascivious and raunchy images with its more than two decades of dominance that blended both manhood and sensuality in one confident yet somehow unsettling package.

But where did COCK ROCK come from? It can be hard to place a specific date as the beginning of the phenomena which would reach its peak in the early 80s – and yet I would hazard that its true origin lies in the new emerging trends of musical and sexual freedom that took root in the 60s. This week, we’re fortunate to welcome to SMS an old friend / resident expert, seasoned Rock scribe and Music Historian, who happens to be uniquely qualified for handling this very question. Dr. Art Robert! So, without  further delay,  please welcome’The In Sound with Dr. Art Robert’ to take it away!

Google the term  “cock rock” and in less than a heartbeat, you’ll find yourself with 177,000,000 separate results.  No, you haven’t accidentally landed on Vince Neil’s homepage – you’ve just gone over to the dark side and been transported into the final decades of the 20th Century.

A more exact definition of ‘cock rock’ you say? According to Webster’s – cock rock is ‘an aggressive style of rock music performed by male bands’. As definitions go, this one seems a little lackluster, doesn’t it?

Upon further research a more detailed description would include such keywords as “crude, explicit, boastful and misogynistic”, with suggestive-yet-disposable lyrics delivered in a throat-shredding, tuneless howl by a crotch thrusting singer who never met a mirror he didn’t like. Often accompanied by unintentionally humorous phallic posturing by a glam guitarists (or two…) whose haircut  defy gravity and can often account  for as much as 1/3 of their height.

Beginning in the 60’s a few of the Charter ‘members’ of the Cock Rock Club would be of course, Jim Morrison, Roger Daltry and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant! But no one deserves more credit for starting it all than Judas Priest.

Formed in 1969 in industrial West Bromwich, in the Black Country, Judas Priest’s leather clad, motorcycle riding lead singer helped define the burgeoning Cock Rock genre.  Indeed, when he officially outed himself (management didn’t want him to since they figured the band would lose its following) the group apparently lost no fans at all, showing just how far a bold aggressive style blended with taboo sexuality had begun to take hold in the mainstream. (Side note: a good friend of mine in NY was their tour manager. A gifted carpenter, one of his funniest jobs was building a road case for Rod’s Harley. Harley Davidson gave the Priest a brand new bike at the start of the tour. By the tour’s end, the Odometer had 1 mile on it. Apparently, Rod never took it on the street, just rode it from one side of the stage to the other!)

KISS have been thrusting their collective crotches for over 40 years,  yet it’s Gene Simmons tongue we recall. Come to think of it, why has the American South never produced a single memorable Cock Rock outfit? Black Oak Arkansas hardly counts. The South did however corner the market on “fugly” groups though (as in ‘fucking ugly’). I couldn’t pick various members of Molly Hatchet, the Outlaws or The Marshall Tucker Band out of a police line-up. David Lee Roth was “Hot For Teacher”, a cartoon study in spandex and chest hair, yet seemed too self-aware to be pigeonholed as a cock rocker (or ‘cocker’ if you prefer). Was Joe Cocker a cock rocker by default?

Other Cock Rock pioneers (aka “poseurs”) gave us piledriving poetry that resonated across the decades, from Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Lemon Song’ released in 1969, to “Lick It Up” from KISS during their heyday in 1983, to what was the last pure Cock Rock ballad to ever achieve truly mainstream success, 1990’s endlessly covered “Cherry Pie” by Warrant. However, in my opinion, no song summarizes the essence of Cock Rock quite like Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. Astonishingly released in 1969, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was so far ahead of its time, that a whole generation of performers and especially bass guitarists would grow up imitating its style well into the 80s. This was one of the first songs that could get you in trouble for listening to in your room.

What set Cock Rock apart from other varieties of aggressive hard rock? It would have to be the enormous confidence and ego that its most infamous troubadours imbued their performances with. Cock Rock wasn’t something you could intellectually analyze – and from a distance it is all too easy to mock. The true power of Cock Rock lay in how an oversized ‘personality’ could take over a whole concert with it with their screaming vocals and shamelessly masculine sexuality.

All kinds of legends sprung up around these men and their supposed excesses or conquests. In addition to the typical fare of either alleged homosexuality or depraved appetites for an endless series of pretty female groupies, such anecdotes became crucial to their identity. Mick Jagger almost cancelled the last Stones tour after Keith Richard’s autobiography “Life” was released, claiming that while MJ was large of lip he was the owner of a very “tiny todger” (A fact seemingly confirmed by the ironically named Marianne Faithful). More fortunately, British rocker and music video poster boy Paul Young was supposedly endowed with so much more than talent, that around the MTV office, he was ‘affectionately’ known by the nickname “King Dong” (editor’s note: SMS could not independently verify the truth of this nickname, though we doubt Paul Young’s publicist will be emailing to complain. Where’s Marianne Faithful when you need her?).

There’s one song in particular that epitomizes the rudely defiant spirit of early Cock Rock. 1970’s ‘Cocksucker Blues’, written by none other than Mick Jagger and Keith Richard. Initially unreleased and alternatively titled as ‘Schoolboy Blues’, Cocksucker Blues was written as their final single in order to get the Stones out of their unhappy Decca contract. They delivered it, along with the equally obscene “Andrew’s Blues”.

With such plaintive lyrics as ‘Oh where can I get my cock sucked? / Where can I get my ass fucked?‘ it worked.

Even more controversial than Cock Rock’s style and suggestive lyrics, can be deciding who to include or exclude as its founding fathers. What about David Bowie? Why isn’t Iggy Pop, the man who wrote “Cock In My Pocket” (a musical claim which is completely untrue) in the club? Having seen Mr. Pop perform many times throughout his career, the ‘member’ in question casts a massive shadow – especially frightening when accompanied by dramatic stage lighting – and is almost always out-of-pocket) known as “The Godfather of Punk” and never mentioned in the same company as Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Cinderella, Poison or scores of other interchangeable bands. In truth, Grunge probably sounded the final death knell for Cock Rock as we know it. When flannel trumped spandex as mandatory stage apparel, it was all over.

No Cock Rock article would be complete without noting the enduring parody of Cock Rock’s greatest performers as manifested in Spinal Tap’s diminutive bassist, Mr. Derek Smalls. His hilariously ridiculous concert rider requests, including a desire for ‘firm, fresh cucumbers’ will live forever thanks to the mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap”.

BIG SMS thanx to Dr. Art Robert for sharing his unique insights into the now underappreciated cultural phenomena of COCK ROCK and to you dear reader for allowing us to have a little fun with it.

 

4 Comments

    • Hey Miz D,
      The Andrew referred to in “Andrew’s Blues is Andrew Loog Oldham! Andrew was tThe Stones manager and producer from 1963 thru 1967!
      AND, just for you, Here is “Andrew’s Blues”

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