Rock and roll

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An expression of teenage defiance and rebellion against authority, coupled with its link to a film about juvenile delinquency, “Rock Around the Clock” was adopted by teenagers around the world as their official anthem. ~ Stephen Tropiano

Rock and roll is a musical genre and lifestyle which first originated in the 1950's and has since evolved in popular culture throughout the years proceeding.


Quotes are arranged in chronological order


See also: Rhythm and blues
  • Rock and Roll is a means of pulling the White Man down to the level of the Negro. It is part of a plot to undermine the morals of the youth of our nation.
    • Secretary of the North Alabama White Citizens Council (c. 1956), quoted in: Dave Marsh, ‎Kevin Stein (1981) The book of rock lists , p. 8.
  • Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music
    Any old way you choose it
    It's got a backbeat, you can't lose it
    Any old time you use it
    It's gotta be rock roll music
    If you want to dance with me
  • When I listen to this rock and roll and look at you kids, I don't think it's a whole lot different than the Charleston and the Varsity Drag.
    • Helen Kane, popular singer of the late 1920's, in a 1959 interview. [1]
  • The profound sacred and spiritual meaning of the great music of the church must never be mixed with the transitory quality of rock and roll music. The former serves to lift men's souls to higher levels of reality and therefore to God. The latter so often plunges men's minds into degrading and immoral depths."


  • We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first — rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
    • John Lennon, quoted in: Elizabeth Thomson, ‎David Gutman (1987) The Lennon Companion: Twenty-five Years of Comment, p. 72.
    • From an interview with Maureen Cleave first published in London's Evening Standard newspaper (4 March 1966). In the UK, it gained little attention at the time, but only became notorious when published in the US later in 1966.
  • Why should Americans, Negro or white, forget or deny where rock and roll came from, what produced it, why it is here? Especially when the English haven't forgotten and the French still remember. Cadillacs, juke boxes, heat, oppression, violence, happiness — who has that in England on such a scale as you do in America?
  • In truth, it has no beginning and no end, for it is the very pulse of life itself.
    • Larry Williams, quoted in: Nik Cohn (1969) Rock from the Beginning, p. 25


  • Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read.
    • Frank Zappa (c. 1970s), cited in: Dwight Rounds (2007) The Year the Music Died: 1964-1972. p. 231
  • Long live rock, I need it every night.
    Long live rock, come on and join the line.
    Long live rock, be it dead or alive.
  • If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.
    • John Lennon, quoted in: Lawrence, Ken (2005) John Lennon: In His Own Words, p. 107, from 1972 Mike Douglas show
  • It's only Rock and Roll but I like it.
    • Rolling Stones (1974), quoted in: Gert Keunen (2002) Pop!: een halve eeuw beweging, p. 75
  • I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll.
  • I'll tell you about punk rock: punk rock is a word used by dilettantes and, uh... and, uh... heartless manipulators, about music... that takes up the energies, and the bodies, and the hearts and the souls and the time and the minds, of young men, who give what they have to it, and give everything they have to it. And it's a... it's a term that's based on contempt; it's a term that's based on fashion, style, elitism, satanism, and, everything that's rotten about rock 'n' roll.
    • Iggy Pop Iggy Pop, punk pioneer, on Peter Gzowski's 90 Minutes Live (March 1977)
  • Rock and roll is dead, and we don't care.
  • In fact rock, rather than being an example of how freedom can be achieved within the capitalist structure, is an example of how capitalism can, almost without conscious effort, deceive those whom it oppresses....So effective has the rock industry been in encouraging the spirit of optimistic youth take-over that rock's truly hard political edge, its constant exploration of the varieties of youthful frustration, has been ignored and softened.
    • Michael Lydon, "Rock for Sale"; quoted in The Sociology of Rock, Simon Frith, 1978, ISBN 0094602204
  • Rock and roll music ... is not rhythm and blues music; it's not country and western music; it's not jazz; it's a combination of these things.
  • In fact rock, rather than being an example of how freedom can be achieved within the capitalist structure, is an example of how capitalism can, almost without conscious effort, deceive those whom it oppresses.... So effective has the rock industry been in encouraging the spirit of optimistic youth take-over that rock's truly hard political edge, its constant exploration of the varieties of youthful frustration, has been ignored and softened.
  • No matter how long you play rock and roll, songs might change just as long as the balls are there, the rock balls. And that's what's important to us
    • Bon Scott, interview with Record Review, 1979; Quoted in: Jeff Perkins (2011) AC / DC - Uncensored on the Record, p. 70


  • Rock and roll is the hamburger that ate the world. Electric rock music creeps, like chemical seasoning, into everything. Rock and roll is mother's little helper on the housewife radio, plays across film sound-tracks and sells packaged goods.
  • My my, hey hey... Rock and roll is here to stay. Hey hey, my my... Rock and roll will never die.
    • Neil Young, quoted in: Filmcritica, Nr. 301-310 (1980), p. 208
  • We're just going to play rock and roll and not do anything else; we're going to stay in our rooms, and the world is a nasty, horrible place because it didn't give us everything we cried for.' Right?
  • [Rock music] is apparently the fulfillment of the promise made by so much psychology and literature that our weak and exhausted Western civilization would find refreshment in the true source, the unconscious. … Now all has been explored; light has been cast everywhere; the unconscious has been made conscious, the repressed expressed. And what have we found? Not creative devils, but show business glitz.
  • I'd like to live off the band, but if not, I'll just retire to Mexico or Yugoslavia with a few hundred dollars, grow potatoes, and learn the history of rock through back issues of Creem magazine.
    • Kurt Cobain As quoted in The Daily Of The University Of Washington (1989-05-05)
  • No change in musical style will survive unless it is accompanied by a change in clothing style. Rock is to dress up to.
    • Frank Zappa, quoted in: //Real Frank Zappa Book, (1989), p. 203


  • As I define it, rock and roll is dead. The attitude isn't dead, but the music is no longer vital. It doesn't have the same meaning. The attitude, though, is still very much alive -- and it still informs other kinds of music.
    • David Byrne in Rolling Stones magazine, December 13, 1990; cited in: Edward Cheung (2007) Baby Boomers, Generation X and Social Cycles, p. 49
  • "Tonight I am going to defecate on stage because I think that is the only way to express the nature of my soul according to rock and roll."
  • Hey kids, where are you?
    Nobody tells you what to do, baby.

    Hey kids, rock and roll,
    Nobody tells you where to go, baby.
  • Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law / Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore
    • Billy Joel, quoted in: Diane Ecker et al. (1995) Time travellers: exploring the impact of technology, p. 51
  • Rock and roll ain't no pollution. Rock and roll is just rock and roll.
    • AC/DC, Quoted in: Al Spicer (1999) Rock: 100 Essential CDs : the Rough Guide, p. 2


  • If you live in rock and roll, as I do, you see the reality of sex, of male lust and women being aroused by male lust. It attracts women. It doesn't repel them.
    • Camille Paglia, cited in Stephen K. Sanderson (2001) The Evolution of Human Sociality, p. 177
  • I like rock and roll, and I don't like much else.
    • John Lennon, quoted in: Maury Dean (2003) Rock and Roll: Gold Rush, p. ix
  • Rock and roll doesn't necessarily mean a band. It doesn't mean a singer, and it doesn't mean a lyric, really. It's that question of trying to be immortal.
    • Malcolm McLaren, cited in: Robert Andrews (2003) The New Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations, p. 1107
  • Ever since I was 12 years old, I've had to defend my love of heavy metal against those who say it's a less valid form of music. My answer now is that you either feel it, or you don't. If metal doesn't give you that overwhelming surge of power and make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, you might never get it. And you know what? That's ok; because judging by the 40,000 metalheads around me, we're doing just fine without you.
  • Rock and Roll: Music for the neck downwards.
    • Keith Richards, quoted in: Mike Evans (2005) Rock & Roll Facts, Figures & Fun, p. 102
  • If it's illegal to rock and roll, throw my ass in jail!
    • Kurt Cobain, quoted in: Noel Botham (2007) The Best Book of Useless Information Ever, p. 33


  • "Rock and Roll" is about me. If I hadn't heard rock and roll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet. Which would have been devastating to think that everything, everywhere was like it was where I come from. That would have been profoundly discouraging. Movies didn't do it for me. TV didn't do it for me. It was the radio that did it.
    • Lou Reed, quoted in: Richard Overy (2012) 20th Century, p. 193
  • The heart of rock and roll is the beat.
    • Huey Lewis, quoted in: Nicolae Sfetcu (2014) American Music, p. 49

See also

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