Correction to This Article
A photo caption with a Nov. 14 Style article misidentified one of the Thomas Jefferson High School students with Ian Anderson of the band Jethro Tull. The student at left was David Zeke.
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'Hey Jude'? Duude.

Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson visits with Thomas Jefferson High's classic-rock club, including David Zeke, left, John Sigman and Tom Smilack. (Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

There's also this: The ever-impatient and hyper-consolidated music industry doesn't appear to be developing significant, sustainable mass-appeal artists the way it once did. Corporate radio's ever-shrinking playlist and MTV's wandering eye haven't helped.

"This music is countercultural again," says John McDermott, catalogue manager for the Hendrix estate. "Kids don't think it's their parents' music; they just view it as cool music that's not sold to them by MTV. And it's not nostalgic, like something out of the '50s. It's still fresh. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and the Doors -- they're generation-free to these kids."

Says rock historian Dave Marsh: "These kids are looking for something that directly relates to their kind of life but that they don't perceive as being available to them in today's music. It's become increasingly hard to disagree. Who are they going to listen to, the White Stripes? The White Stripes don't provide that. If the merchants of mass marketing in the record business have a function, it must be to help create a vital mass culture in music. And it seems to me that they've failed. And they've failed badly."

And now for the dissenting view, from Ahmet Ertegun, founding chairman of Atlantic Records, the lifelong home of Led Zeppelin. He acknowledges -- and even applauds -- a time-warp trend in rock. But Ertegun also says: "It always looks like the current crop isn't up to the masters of the past. However, sometimes what we overlook in the current crop may emerge as masters of tomorrow. In their prime, Led Zeppelin was not considered a serious band by rock critics. The rock critics generally put them down as a passing fancy. It took time to realize that the music was of lasting value." In other words: Maybe the Atlantic act Death Cab for Cutie really is a neo-master. (But maybe, and probably not.)

"The music industry has turned into a factory that's just churning out stuff," says Zeke, who's dismissive of most of the current crop. Some of it's okay, he says, citing Bright Eyes and Wilco. He has Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers posters on his bedroom wall, and Interpol and Yo La Tengo on his computer.

But the rest of it? Feh.

Emo? Lame-o! "We make fun of our friends who listen to that," Zeke says of bands like Dashboard Confessional and early-model Jimmy Eat World.

Says John Sigman, a 17-year-old senior from McLean who serves as the classic rock club's veep: "It's just good music."

Banding Together

Zeke, Basques and Sigman are in a band together. Zeke plays the bass; the two others are guitarists. The group has performed at school, and a particular highlight, apparently, was a 20-minute version of "Freebird" built around a verse, a chorus and three decades' worth of solos.

They're called the Johnson Logging Company. Or not. "We don't really have a name," Sigman says.

They also don't have a mutually agreeable artistic direction.

"Everyone likes classic rock," Zeke says. "But we're all in different corners of it."


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