Is Rock And Roll Here To Stay?

Last Monday close to midnight, 500 white kids with pierced noses and ringing ears poured out of New York's Apollo Theater and onto 125th Street in Harlem. An hour earlier, inside the house that soul built, metal-rock band Korn opened a romp through its new record, "Issues," with a fleet of... bagpipers. Then singer Jonathan Davis took over, wearing knee socks and a kilt.

Rock and roll may be confused and disoriented, but make no mistake, it has a healthy pulse. Nineteen ninety-nine was supposed to be the year that rock died, and for eight months the prophecy bore out. Only one rock act, Limp Bizkit, debuted atop Billboard's album chart. By this Tuesday, though, "Issues" is expected to have sold as many as 700,000 copies in its first seven days, all but ensuring that a rock and roller will hold down No. 1 for the eighth time in nine weeks. (Nine Inch Nails, Creed, Santana and Rage Against the Machine preceded Korn.) To get there, Korn will have muscled aside some major hip-hop releases: Dr. Dre's first joint in seven years and Will Smith's fin de siecle think piece "Willennium."

"Every time the obituary for rock is written, it's exaggerated," says Billboard's chart guru Geoff Mayfield. Fairly or not, look for the obits to get rolling again soon. With rappers DMX and Jay-Z dropping new records, hip-hop will take Harlem back by Christmas. But for one blistering, bizarre hour at the Apollo, rock and roll ruled the roost.