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The Wall and the Aftermath

Last weekend I went to the Roger Waters’ production of The Wall.  I worked with Roger and with Pink Floyd for 20 years while at Columbia.  I have a lot of great anecdotes about both, that I will save for another time.  This was my first time seeing The Wall.  I came to the label right after the original tour.  For some reason I always felt that any band not on my label was the enemy.  I was very territorial back in those days.  As a result I probably deprived myself of a lot of fun.   There was one other performance, at Brandenburg Gate, shortly after the fall of the USSR.  I remember trying to talk my boss, Paul Rappaport, into going.  But I was unsuccessful.  After the show he came to me and said, “we should have gone, shouldn’t we”.  Uh….yep.

This is really not about the show.  Though it was stupendous.  I was lucky enough to have seats very close to the stage.  The way the show is designed, there are projections on the Wall.  As a result, there is not always live close-up video of the performers.  I understand people at the other end of the stadium were too far away to see the performers.  Sort of a throwback to the 80’s.  Before  live HD video of the bands at shows, became a regular thing. 

What occurred to me while I was sitting in Yankee Stadium was that I was probably seeing the last event of this nature.  I cannot imagine anyone putting on a huge production such as The Wall ever again.  Probably the main reason is that the album is dead.  Think about it.  What was the last brand new album you listened to end to end?  I am not even talking about a concept album.  They don’t exist any longer.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last new album I listened to end to end.  Who has the ability to focus that long on any one piece of music?

My generation is unable to appreciate anything that takes more than five minutes. The generations that have followed, NEVER had the ability. I don’t know about you, but when I am in my car, with nothing else but traffic to distract me, even if I try to listen to an entire album on my iPod, I can’t do it.  I find myself involuntarily skipping ahead on the album, or switching away.  This is music I know and really like.  Even if I try, I can’t get through an entire album of new music.  It is like torture.  My finger just wants to hit the remote to move onto the next track, to see if there is anything better on the disc.  This happens even if I am enjoying what I am listening to.

What the hell have we done?  I feel like someone lamenting the demise of radio dramas back in the 50s.  Music played a big part in the lives of my generation.  Not that music is unimportant to my kids, but people their age and younger use it differently.  They merely use it as entertainment.

To us it was like a religion. We ate up every word, every beat.   When I hear certain songs on the radio I can “FEEL” the song that came next on the album that it came from.  We were not all about hits.  The artists we listened to when we were kids taught us about life.   Dylan taught us to be cynical, distrusting and keep our eyes wide open.  Bruce Springsteen taught us it was alright to be just a normal guy. Elvis Costello’s early work made Dylan look like Polly Anna and his later work has showed us what it takes to be a true artist.  I am leaving out the Beatles, who taught us everything, if not through their music, through their lives.  The protest singers helped stop the Vietnam War and showed us just how a large group of single-minded people can literally change the world. We didn’t get to these places on our own.  Artists took us there.

In this hit-driven, sound-bite world we live in we have lost our cultural leaders.  Who out there is really teaching us anything?  Do you care what Katy Perry has to say?  You could argue that Radiohead is a torch-bearer, but it’s not the same.  The biggest acts of today are Pop Conglomerates.  It is not primarily about the art.  It is about getting rich.  Whether it was the Beatles, Dylan, U2, Springsteen, The Doors, or any one of a hundred other acts,  at the beginning it was not about getting rich.  It was about the music.

We can’t blame today’s stars.  There are talented people out there, that due to a number of reasons, mostly financial restrictions, we will never hear about. 

The remote control is  probably the single most detrimental invention since the Atomic Bomb.  It has changed the way we watch and listen to everything.  MTV and ESPN have merely fed the machine.  But the original cause for the our distracted existence is the remote control. 

As a result, we have driven the album artist out of existence.  We have the attention span of moths.  We have lost out on a lot of pleasure.  Big business, financial constraints, greed, egos and technology have essentially obliterated the music business.  We pretty much find ourselves in the same place we were pre-Beatles.  Back when one-hit wonders and singles ruled the world. 

The question is, what is the real music business.  Were the late 60s and the growth of the music industry through the 90s the real world?  Or was it just a bubble that has burst like so many others?  We have come full circle.  Maybe this is where we were supposed to be all along.

 

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About jimdelbalzo

As the former Senior Vice President of Promotion at Columbia Records and now founder/helmsman of the artist management company-Jim Del Balzo Entertainment, Jim has managed, consulted, and developed/executed the promotion and marketing plans for some of the planet’s most beloved musicians. He has guided the careers of artists/acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Alice In Chains, James Taylor, George Michael, Soul Asylum, and System of a Down; to name just a few. Jim also does consulting for labels and publishing companies including Columbia Records, Warner Brothers/Reprise Records, Hear Music/Starbucks, EMI Music Publishing and several other entertainment entities. Jim Del Balzo Entertainment clients include,  John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, LL Cool J, Burt Bacharach, City Sleeps, Buddahead and Since October.     Jim’s highly successful career and great service to the music industry has earned him a number of accolades and awards over the years. Namely, he was voted one of the Top 25 Most Important People in Rock Music (2000) and Promotion Executive of the Year (5 times) by Album Network—from which he also received a Lifetime Achievement Award. And Clear Channel twice honored Jim with the Executive of the Year Award while Friday Morning Quarterback and Radio & Records named him Top Industry Executive 7 times combined.   Today, Jim Del Balzo takes his talent to the microphone, adding voice work to his remarkable repertoire. His promotional expertise and attuned top executive instincts-combined with his richly unique sound- delivers VO that is truly somethin’ else.   Jim Del Blazo VO.  Like nothin’ you’ve heard. Like nobody’s business.   Jim lives in Saddle River, New Jersey with his wife Mary Beth, daughters Jessica and Julia, and their two golden retrievers.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “The Wall and the Aftermath

  1. Jim – While I would agree with most of what you have to say, of course with someone else’s opinion comes the exception. The passion and purity that you speak of regarding albums drills to the core, but then again, that was the core of the time. While I don’t have nearly the experience of working with musicians as you do, I do have a fair amount of experience in the areas of media and pop culture. And let’s face it, the media is what served as the dynamo for the pop culture juggernaut – if you couldn’t hear it or hear of it, you weren’t ‘in the know’.

    Let’s face it, once music became a business it was not just for the business people in the industry, but for the artist’s too – not too different from sports if I might say. While we may have worked in the industry because it was something we could relate to and look forward to doing everyday, could we have done so without a paycheck? The noble answer would be “Of course, I would”, but would that have paid the mortgage? As with so many things, given the opportunity, we try monetize our passions and then turn around 20, 30 years later and say, “What happened to its purity?” We could go on and on about this, but when we look for the fundamental basis as to why this may have changed, it boils down to one very simple thing – human nature. It’s human nature to want more, whether you’re soemone who wants to be just like Dylan, but wants to live in a mansion; it’s human nature to want to be around something that we love, like music, but still be able to put our kids through college. It’s human nature to have so many media distractions (music, news sports, hollywood, etc…) beset upon you and fall victim to want to know it all, splintering your attention span to that of a gnat. What suffers? The purity of course – the art. In a simple diagnostic test, just ask someone under the age of 25 to actually write something with a pen – 10 times out of 10 it will come out looking like it was written with their toes during a seizure. The world has gotten a whole lot smaller, Jim – about the size of a smartphone.

    Posted by Peter Nawrocki | July 11, 2012, 3:16 pm
    • I agree with everything you have said. What I am wrestling with is are we seeing a cultural revolution or de-evolution? Is the fact that is it so difficult to penetrate the marketplace for artists eventually going to scare the best away? What will be left with the best marketers or the best writers and performers? We don’t write anymore. We can’t spell.We don’t have to remember anything. We really don’t have to know much, because whatever you don’t know you can look up in seconds. Time marches on and technology has given us so much. But in the long run will it be in our best interest. Is this what the 70 year old man said when he saw the first automobile. Finally we have to think about the value of living in a culture that is starved for art. Could that be where we are heading? Thanks for reading the blog and weighing in. I hope you are well.

      Posted by jimdelbalzo | July 11, 2012, 5:19 pm

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