Friday, June 21, 2013

Musical Manifesto

Today’s music sucks.  I know I’m not the first guy to say this and I’m sure many of you disagree with me.  I also understand that there are generational differences and differences in taste.  You younger people are probably sick of us old farts spewing our admiration for Clapton, Hendrix, U2, The Specials and so on,  But I have to say to you young people today, you deserve better than what you’re getting.

Let’s contrast the differences.

I think it is pretty safe to say that lip syncing in concerts today is pretty widespread.  But these “artists” manage to maintain their celebrity.  If this had happened in my day, the marketplace would have shunned these charlatans with extreme prejudice.  If they appeared on a stage again, broken bottles would have been thrown at them.  Nowadays, the lip syncers get their faces on the cover of Rolling Stone.

What about the concert itself?  Almost every band from the mid 60’s to the early 80’s put out a live album.  The concert meant something because the live performance was not an exact duplicate of the studio songs.  It often had more energy and there was improvisation.  Today’s artists seem to lip sync each two and a half minute song from their latest boring CD, collect the gate receipts and head off to party with their posse.  

Another difference between today’s rock concerts and yesterday’s rock concerts is the attitude of the performers.  In the past, the artists were like the hosts of the party.  We all somehow felt we were part of the show.  Today’s artists act like royalty.  The rest of us are just the serfs who should be enthralled with the good fortune to be able to pay $100+ for a ticket to their show.

I would encourage anyone to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “Live at the Sands” or Bobby Darin “Live at the Copa” or The Doors “Absolutely Live.”  Listen to some concert recordings from Frank Zappa.  These artists engage with the audience.  They make jokes about people they see in the audience.  They have banter back and forth with the audience.

What ever happened to the lead guitar?  Musicians of the past were virtuoso’s at their instruments.  Everyone would talk about who their favorite guitar player was.  Was it Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix or a more obscure guitarist like Tom Verlane of Television?  It was the same with drummers.  Who was better, Keith Moon of The Who or Ian Paice of Deep Purple?  Who was the better bass guitarist, Jack Bruce of Cream or Jack Cassidy of The Jefferson Airplane?  Today’s bands seem devoid soul.  Their idea of a guitar solo is to strum wildly and jump up and down.

Today’s bands are not very dynamic.  For virtually every band out there, each song sounds exactly the same—only the lyrics are different.  They have the same tempo, same volume, same timbre, same rhythm and the same bushy bearded dingleberry strumming an acoustic guitar.  It’s boring and monotonous.  In the past a band could show several sides.  Sometimes they were loud and fast, other times they were soft and slow.  Other times they were low down and funky.

Today’s artists seem far more focused on what Frank Zappa called, “going for the blow job.”  Basically what he meant was that today’s artists are focused more on their celebrity than they are on their art.  They want to be in People magazine, get invited to all the big Hollywood parties, date the Playboy playmates, blah, blah, blah, etc.  Now sure, that’s stuff’s great for them, but what’s the byproduct for you and me?  Pop pablum.  

Neil Young’s mid-80’s MTV hit, “This Notes For You” put the whole attitude of the time in perfect perspective.  Today’s artists are all too willing to go for the blow job, sell out and play for politicians.

You younger people are probably thinking that I am full of shit by now.  However,  I think you feel exactly the same way but you just won’t admit it.   And I think I have the proof.

Less than a week ago, I saw a TV news story about a survey that said most people who pay hundreds of dollars to attend huge music festivals don’t go for the music.  They go for the drugs, the booze and scamming for sex.  Clearly every time I ever went to a rock concert, the concept of getting loaded and getting laid was a big part of it.  However, the music was one of the top two reasons to go.

As an example of the way things used to be, I want to share this live recording of a Tubes medley recorded in Buffalo, NY.  They play their original, "Proud To Be An American" from their 2nd album.  That is followed by a fantastic Fee Waybill imitation of Tom Jones and then they rally with a roaring rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun."

1 comment:

  1. I know they are not a band any more, but these guys are the antithesis of what you are saying. No lip syncing, awesome lead, great attitude, and awesome concerts.

    Check out Ween: