There was a time when one listened to the sound of a snare, or the way Hal Blaine tuned and recorded his toms and on all the records he played on, changing styles to suit the various artists and marvel at the talent of this legendary drummer. Many bought records just ‘cos Hal Blaine was drumming on them.
Many would listen to the Beatles’ harmonies on tracks like “Rain”, “Baby’s In Black” and “This Boy” and try and work out how all that magic just happened so effortlessly- and recorded on four-track machines. And how the group created “MTV” before there was a channel for showing music videos.
We’d listen to McCartney’s bass playing- that SOUND, how he played it like a lead guitar and how George Harrison filled in any empty spaces with his guitar and how unobtrusive backing vocals brought everything together.
There was Led Zeppelin and the sound Jimmy Page and Eddie Kramer would get- that BIG, FAT drum sound, the separation. And on a four-track. Same with Kramer, the SOUND engineer and his work with Jimi Hendrix.
There was Brian Wilson creating the masterpiece that was “Pet Sounds”, an album that makes me happy, sad and just FEEL.
This was Brian Wilson at his most genius level- and creating music using a four track- but two four track machines- and bumping tracks from one to the other to create whatever was going on inside his head and his one good ear.
The musical relationship and competition between George Martin, McCartney and Wilson is fascinating to think about and listen to and with rock musicians being so involved in every facet of the creative process and working so closely with their engineers and producers.
It was total team work.
Does team work exist today? Yes, but not nearly enough- and, often, with the “teams” the wrong ones.
When some of the work is left to someone else who doesn’t challenge and cannot add anything new, magic does not happen.
The “delegation of duties” is a Must Do in the corporate world.
Not when creating music.
The weakest link can fuck up a potential musical masterpiece.
But when it all comes together? Magic.
Mmmmmmm Mama Michelle!!!
I was once- only once- accused of being an “old fart”- which is better, I guess, than being an old tart- for thinking about “trivial things” like melody, sound and lyrics and was been told that “no one cares about the lyrics anymore today as it’s all about the beat”.
Sound, she asked? Who cares when it’s coming outta a computer or through a phone?
Well, if one were to follow this logic, no one cares about music anymore and any piece of shit produced with a beat is Okay.
Forget the music of the Beatles. Wipe out all of Tin Pan Alley and the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, Hoagy Carmichael, the genius of Les Paul and Mary Ford and what Mr Paul managed to create with the rudiments of musical equipment etc etc. Les Paul.
Man, what can one say about this musician and the wonderful music he created with Mary Ford.
Today, rightly or wrongly, the emphasis is on “social media” and apps and how to use all these new tools- Twitter, Facebook- YouTube is almost old-hat.
Often I have to wonder what crap is being uploaded and downloaded and Twittered and Facebooked about when there appears to be so little magic happening in recording studios?
And where is the LINK between recording studios and all this “social media”? It’s non-existent. And the chasm is probably one of the reasons music is suffering.
Are, for example, bands, especially, going into studios unprepared and, more importantly, with half-assed material and how exactly are they working with the engineer or producer- and where does all of this “meet” social media?
Is the tail wagging the dog?
What seems more important is about “getting the word out there.” And then?
What about getting the music right and making THIS the main objective.
Do this and OTHERS will get the word out for you and become part of your “marketing” team.
“Getting the word out there” or “Getting the name out there” also results in new “musicians” becoming way too precious and “Indie” minded when they are yet to earn their stripes or know their chops. It’s like some even worse form of premature ejaculation.
Legends in their own lunchtime need to be filtered out of all equations.
The problem is that when brought up on a steady diet of hype and surrounded by sycophants, kicking them out becomes problematic.
The Peter Principle has set it and music is being produced like company power-point presentations.
On the whole- before anyone “real” jumps down my throat- ‘on the whole- very few know fact from fiction and what is good and what is just plain musically obscene- many “musicians” and their audiences .
It’s like sitting in some “jazz club” and applauding every solo- no matter how dire and clichéd- like trained monkeys.
Why do this? It’s “the thing” to do?
So, if one sits in an audience and watches a guitarist grimacing and with bum notes flying off in all directions and his face moving faster than his fingers, this must be good?
To many it is ‘cos it LOOKS good.
Once in a long while, a new artist breaks through, everyone jumps on them and soon this artist is over-hyped to death and becomes passé.
Watch: Three months from now, there will be a “new Adele” just as there will be “the new Amy Winehouse” and who Duffy was once meant to be.
Where the hell is Duffy today, anyway? Yeah, yeah, yeah?
There is also a very similar sounding musical “thread” running through what passes off as “mainstream popular music” today- and which is a term shunned by the musical hoi polloi.
What is with this word “mainstream”, anyway?
That a piece of music or an artist has reached and touched more people than others?
If so, Elvis, the Beatles and Michael Jackson were the most “mainstream” artists in the history of music- and many saw and heard nothing wrong with that.
Today, there also seems to be a couple of different “camps” set up: The Hip Hop community “keeps it real” with “’tude, dude” and works as a community that knows the power of sticking together: Buy one album by anyone from this community and you get the whole family- and the dose is repeated and repeated until it no longer works.
By then, however, the artists have become sharply-dressed and savvy businessmen who LOOK and ARE successful and have brought out their own lines of cologne, vodka and various levels of “blingchendise.”
The music becomes part of the culture and their overall business plans. The suits become sharper and the music becomes duller and no one cares as it’s all about image.
It’s nothing personal; it’s all business and learning from the mistakes of the Black artists from the past who were royally screwed by “the man”.
Rightly or wrongly, the hip-hop community has succeeded- financially and image-wise- by playing as a team whereas [white] Rock bands have got lost and, sorry, with many looking like losers.
Who would you wanna be? Jay Z or a struggling bass guitarist with a Rock band pushing thirty or forty and looking for gigs?
There are then the “Indie” artists and many of these are losing themselves to self-delusionary thoughts about their importance.
Being “indie” is not just a term.
It needs to be heard in what you produce and how you make it on your own.
Don’t like the majors- and must we still call them “the majors?”- and want to “rebel” against working with them? Fine.
Show me the money.
“Getting the word out there” to a few mates is not good enough ‘cos that’s where it stays- with this handful of mates and who are also to blame for the Legends Of The Fall and the dreaded Legends In Their Own Lunchtime Syndrome.
Some will say, well, that’s how it’s always been- this division within the musical ranks: Rough and ‘live’ sounding recordings on one side and slick, over-produced Pop on the other.
But that’s wrong.
There was a middle layer: Simply put, “good music”- everything from, yes, the Beatles and the Doors to “Pet Sounds’ by the Beach Boys, the early work of someone like Prince, all the music of Michael Jackson etc.
Today, this Music Middle Kingdom does not exist.
Or has been shut out.
When was the last time Miss Gaga brought out a good record?
Sure, her output is great, but all of it needs “outrageousness” to hide the pock marks of songs we have heard before.
It’s all a bit like the American economy: We all know it’s shot to bits, but “they” keep trying to hide the truth from the people.
And “they” are everywhere.
Yes, even in music and where “they” will keep giving the world apps and saps and “music platforms”, “new distribution channels”. “social media” and bullshit like “gett the word out” as it’s all about “them” owning and getting content which we keep feeding them- for free- every day.
What happens? The music doesn’t just suffer. It lags behind and becomes a devalued add-on.