I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of music in eras. The melodic equivalent of how a Paleontologist thinks of the periods of man. Before the Beatles, things were chaotic. A lot of different music being made, but with the exception of Sinatra, the early jazz greats and the burgeoning folk movement, the rest was not terribly interesting. I love 60’s pop music. I love White Castle too, but I can only have it once or twice a year.
Herman’s Hermits circa 1965 “Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv8k0VI9tBc
The Beatles changed music and western culture. When the Beatles broke up the singer/songwriter era began. The Beatles still influenced this era, as the biggest artist of the genre, James Taylor was first signed to Apple Records.
The Beatles “Revolution” One of the first real music videos. I believe this and “Hey Jude” were premiered in back to back weeks on a show called “Hollywood Palace”. I may be wrong about that. I’d love to hear from a Beatle-phile about that.
James Taylor “Something in the Way She Moves” –This clip is amazing. Recorded in 1968 as a promo piece for James’s debut album on Apple. James once told me that George Harrison must have liked this song. Because he went home and wrote “Something”. Paul and George signed James to Apple.
Co-existing in this period with Joni Mitchell, James, Jackson Browne, et al, was the dreaded corporate rock. Foreigner, Kansas and others eventually gave way to REO Speedwagon, Journey and god help us all…Loverboy! This was music that paid the bills. Journey seems to be the only band from this era that has had staying power and credibility of any sort. We can also thank the Sopranos for that.
In general the early 70’s was a very “quiet” period in rock music. Then there was a tornado. Elvis Costello, The Jam, the Talking Heads and The Clash turned the music world on its ear with the emergence of Punk Rock. Hipsters call that emo shit that they listen to punk, but it is not even close. Real punk rock was visceral. Strong, angry and it had a huge impact on my life. No, I didn’t put safety pins in my cheeks and spike my hair, but my view about music changed in 1977. It became alive again!
Elvis Costello 1977 “Watching the Detectives”
The Jam “Town Called Malice”
Bruce released one of the greatest albums of all time in 1975, “Born to Run”. But he didn’t change music. Nobody could do what he did. Sure lots of people tried, but being called the “next Bruce Springsteen” was only the kiss of death for artists like Willie Nile. A terrific writer and performer in his own right, but he was no Bruce Springsteen. Bruce was one in a billion.
Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, brought the drug-laden culture of Seattle to our CD players and the “Grunge Era” was born in the late 80’s and early 90’s. These bands made hard rock music accessible and mainstream.
“Would” from MTV Unplugged-Unfortunately there is not much live Alice stuff on Youtube. They did relatively few live shows. This is one of Layne’s short-lived returns to live performing. http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgL3OogsvUw
Then came a musical wasteland, known as the first part of the 21st Century. Hard rock became harder, less melodic, less artistic and quite frankly, less interesting. Bands of this period were interested in one thing…getting played on the radio. I guess I am more than partially to blame for this. We had great success with these Active Rock bands on Columbia. They all tend to sound the same. How much Sevendust can you listen to really. These bands are faceless and I can’t think of a truly great vocalist or guitarist who has come out of this period. Modern Rock and Active Rock proved to be radio formats with limited sales potential and we are seeing the demise of those two formats now. Very few if any of these acts will be around in 2020.
Real heavy metal music has always occupied its own particular segment of the marketplace. From Motorhead to the current day heavy metal bands, the audience always seems to come. It has always been the place for the disenfranchised and unorthodox. This will never and should never change.
“Old School” rock music is to our children what “The Oldies” were to us. We were respectful of it and appreciated it. But from this day forward bands like Aerosmith, The Allman Brothers, The Who are truly museum pieces. Aerosmith released an album last year to the sound of crickets. Even Bruce released an album early in the year that got a good response from his fans, but died quickly on the charts. That is not to say these bands weren’t or aren’t great. They are just not relevant to anyone under 30. This is normal. What is not normal is to see men who are nearly 70 years old prancing across the stage in spandex. It boggles my mind when I hear people in their 50’s say they just saw the Stones for the first time and paid $1000 a ticket. What the hell were you doing in the 70’s…listening to Bobby Sherman?
I believe we are on the edge of a cultural abyss, looking over the edge and we SEE A LIGHT. Guitar heroes have been replaced by banjo players. Instead of staring at their shoes, vocalists are also playing kick drums and writing some incredible songs. The most exciting thing about the music is that the demos it appeals to are humongous. This music has fans in every age group from 15 to 70. It’s appeal is universal (at least for white people) and for now at least, it is refreshing.
Mumford and Sons and other bands of this ilk have made banjos, pedal steel guitars and mandolins part of the mainstream. Songwriting has gotten better. 15 years ago you could be a new artist and succeed if you had the right look and could write decent songs. Now, the emphasis is not so much on looks as it is on songwriting. If you are going to get noticed you need GREAT SONGS.
It is true, I did get a bit nauseous watching the Red Carpet for the Grammys. For pop artists like J-Lo and Taylor Swift it is still about dressing like a movie star. J-Lo is one of the most beautiful women in the world (so I will let her slide) and Taylor Swift will outgrow this crap someday. But there is no doubt there is something new and exciting going on.
The Lumineers “Hey Ho” from Conan May 20012
Calling this music new, is probably not accurate. But like most forms of music it has taken a while for it cross into the mainstream. If you want to see this scene in person head to Newport in late July for the Newport Folk Festival. The Lumineers and the next best new bands will be on hand. The festival runs for three days this year and may or may not be sold out yet. Believe it or not, there is good food, no drunk people bumping into you and no smell of marijuana in the air. This may not seem like a rock festival to many of you, but it is fun. Lots of great music in a terrific waterfront setting.
The Lumineers “Ho Hey” from Conan in May 2012
For the first time in a while I am excited about new music. In case you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have been talking about this genre for a while. But it has finally come of age. Let’s hope it has some staying power.