By Hans Ebert
We have to first switch it all off, take a deep breath, exhale and switch it back on. Switch off that television. Switch off those 24 hour news channels with their non-stop avalanche of politics and lies and deceptions and “world leaders” playing roles.
Switch off everything and everyone that has become a distraction to you moving from here to there for the sole purpose of progressing and evolving and building your own portfolio. There’s nothing wrong with being selfish. There’s everything wrong in being weighed down with unnecessary baggage.
Have we become so numb and so dumbed down that we can no longer see who’s genuine and who’s the plastic fantastic? Who are these people many listen to and believe that everything they’re saying is the truth? Anderson Cooper, Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly…Who ARE these people with a television programme as their pulpit and from where they spew forth their self-serving, sanctimonious agendas?
Is this the new church, mosque and temple? Is this another easy fix of cleansing ourselves of all the sins that us and only us have wreaked on ourselves? What’s the difference between them and some panel of celebrities and pseudo celebrities judging television karaoke competitions? Jennifer Lopez was once a judge on American Idol. And this was accepted, no questions asked. Even though we know Jennifer Lopez cannot sing or dance and is only really known for her booty and conga line of new boyfriends, which sometimes becomes even bigger news than what’s going on in Syria. Again, we allowed in mediocrity in tight jeans. We’re bending over and asking to be spanked.
Social media has a lot to answer for like all that handwringing yesterday about a very very stupid Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner and which the soft drink giant back-pedalled and pulled admitting they had made a mistake. Seriously now, who cares?But how can a global brand like Pepsi with all its high paid executives make such a mistake that it needs an apology? That’s just not good enough. It’s just another example of lowering of standards, bad management and ineffective hires. Adios, Pepsi.
Meanwhile, there’s an injured orange bear lumbering around thinking he’s still auditioning apprentices while play acting at being President of the United States. Every day, there’s a new episode with another cliffhanger.
How on earth was this allowed to happen? April 1 has come and gone, hasn’t it? How can anyone not see through his lies, his scripted sadness about “little babies”- babies are little, you evil old man- that he’s been forced to read out as a post script, while all the time never taking responsibility for anything. Deny, deny, deny.
Gawd knows what is going on in the background, where everyone is happily “crossing their red lines” and sucker punching all of us Bambis watching in disbelief and wondering what’s next. It’s stupid and more than anything else, it’s numbing and stunting and another puffy sausage line of excuses for not doing anything. And we, or them, allowed this clown posse that’s like a sitcom gone barking mad to happen.
On a much smaller level, but something inherited from all the power brokers running the world, the main reason why nothing is happening to many in music is them putting off for tomorrow what can be done today. And then they look around and wonder where the time has gone and why there’s nothing to show for it.
It’s up to each of us to make the most of every opportunity that comes our way at a time when opportunities are becoming a rarity. It’s been said often enough, but one can’t help those who don’t help themselves. There comes a time when you have to walk away from these people as they’re not only holding you back. Without knowing it, you could be becoming them- another nowhere person making nowhere plans for nobody.
Steve Lillywhite, one of the most successful record producers in the world, is now living in Indonesia and recording artists from that country, and distributing this music in a CD format through Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets. This form of distribution is something some of us have done when in music companies and before the digital revolution. CDs were sold through McDonald’s, Levi’s, Starbucks and even horse racing clubs.
Living and working in Indonesia, picking and choosing those he wants to work with in Indonesia and Asia might be a long way from his years producing U2. But at 62, Lillywhite is no doubt finding living in what is a fascinating country, and a very much overlooked music market, a welcome change of pace. It’s also a country not short of young investors always ready to back new business opportunities.
When at EMI, Indonesia, at that time a music cassette market, was our most profitable office in the region. There was and still is so much music being produced there. The viewership for television awards shows are huge. There were local cigarette brands with huge sponsorship dollars- there still might be- and there’s always been the passion and knowledge of the millions of music fans and the ambitions like those the country’s premier rock band at that time called Dewa.
I’ve lost contact with the band, but they made a brilliant record before they broke up in 2011 that married their love for Western rock with Indonesian beats and instruments. It should have been huge, globally. But, more and more, we live in a more and more splintered world which makes music in different languages difficult to travel. Maybe we should all start recording in gibberish? After all, we hear it everyday from politicians and all those entertainment and news channels offering everything we only think we need.
The news about Steve Lillywhite also reminded me of just how much work we did- you know, actually working with musicians like Dewa in the incredible studio they owned, and the pure joy of mixing the music and seeing it released. It wasn’t just talk amounting to nothing. It was making ideas become reality, and then looking at making the next idea better. This commitment to taking an okay song and making it better is just not around anymore. Okay is good enough because maybe there’s a lot of okay music out there. There’s a lot of okay everything out there.
Thank gawd for artists like Tash Sultana, Maggie Rogers, Nilufer Yanya and the thousands of extraordinary talent still trying to be heard.They keep the fire burning. They send us greetings of hope.
Listening to Steve Lillywhite’s work with Singapore’s Sam Willows is inspiring stuff. We need all of this inspiration to kickstart ourselves. We can’t just continue by continuing to listen to what others have already done, then have a nap, read about someone else’s success and call it a day. And then what? Keel over and die?
Steve Lillywhite made the move. One day soon, I can hopefully sit down with him and understand what triggered this huge life change. It’s probably something very simple and not profound at all. It probably just sounded like a good idea at the time.
Life changes. Surely, like making music evolve, and any form of art grow, this can only happen when it’s honest, when it comes from the right place and for all the right reasons, and when we make a point to evolve as human beings? We don’t have to scream this to the world. We don’t have to share it. Like that Nike corporate ethos, Just Do It.
Choose carefully whom to trust as there are many chameleons out there skating on shallow waters. Everyday we come across examples of these parasites. Everyday we’re disappointed by those who don’t turn out to be whom you thought they would be. Shit happens. So does mediocrity. There’s no time for looking back at these time wasters and trying to help them pick up the pieces. Again. It’s not only draining, it’s become a boring chore.
Humpty Dumpty can’t be put together again. They’re not only lost, they don’t want to be found. Maybe they know this is the best they can be. Maybe this is playing for time with some tea and sympathy to get by for a few more years with false promises. Don’t know, don’t care. Time’s up.
As said here many times, in any art, there’s a need to understand and appreciate its history. In music, I cannot comprehend how musicians can even think about being “original” without being inspired by all those who came before. The Beatles needed the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard before finding themselves. Every great Rock artist needed a shot of Mr Berry. Led Zeppelin went back to the Blues and electrified it. Brian Wilson had the harmonies of the Four Freshmen and his own ideas going through his head, which led to the song cycle that’s Pet Sounds.
If you want to hear a musician so immersed in their work that it took almost everything out of them, read about the Pet Sounds recording sessions and how we never really got Brian Wilson back.
Better yet, listen to what is one of the greatest pop albums ever recorded and the work of someone who could have coasted making “surf music”, but decided to make waves instead. Pet Sounds was so BIG and BEAUTIFUL that it made someone no less than Paul McCartney scrap what the Beatles were recording and start again. What going back to the drawing board resulted in was Sgt Pepper’s.
Pet Sounds. It was years later that I got the play on words. That record deserved more than that cheesy album cover because Capitol Records never thought the record would sell. It didn’t at first. But all these decades later, it’s a classic.
These were Brian Wilson’s pet sounds. The voices and melodies in his head might have driven him crazy, but what a wonderful legacy he has left us. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time we each start putting together our own pet sounds as a multi media project to please only ourselves and see who we might like to join us and see where the journey might lead. It would certainly be more fulfilling than having a nap and getting back to whatever tomorrow. Spoiler alert: You might never wake up.