By Hans Ebert
I was listening to a couple of tracks recorded by the Beatles today that are somewhat obscure- “I’ll Be Back”, “You Can’t Do That”, “Rain” with it’s brilliant false ending, and “I’m Looking Through You” as part of my ongoing “therapy” to stay true to music, and believe that there’s a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel that seems to be taking us where we honestly don’t wish to go. But having been mentally harpooned and force-fed glutinous amounts of bollocks, we’ve not only been blinded by the light, we’ve been so dazzled by bullshit, we are happy to go for a ride with no questions asked.
Don’t believe everything you read has become Believe Everything You Read Even If It’s A Tweet. And the more I’m on Twitter, the more I think, I’m on a more dangerous drug than acid. At least acid, aka LSD, fed your head, opened up and turned off your mind, and let you float downstream with the Tibetan Book of the Dead reassuring you that you weren’t dying. Twitter just turns you into an intellectual midget in 140 words or less.
As for the songs mentioned, there’s something extremely inspiring, and even liberating, about listening to music created and produced over fifty years ago, flippantly called “Pop music”, but which remains as fresh and relevant as when they first appeared.
Often, this “Pop music” gets a bum rap when one thinks of the extraordinary creativity that went into records like “Revolver”, “Pet Sounds”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Blonde On Blonde”, “John Wesley Harding”, and the groundbreaking work of visionaries and pioneers like Phil Spector and, before him, the genius of Les Paul, who laid the foundations for the creative revolution of the Sixties that was to follow.
These “music people” were game changers at a time when the world was going through incredible change- socially and politically with their music- this “pop music”- giving it and us and them and you and we are all together, a voice.
Where’s this voice today? Has it been silenced forever without us even knowing it? Has it been silenced by everything Bob Dylan warned us about through his jingle jangle musical poetry about those jugglers and clowns who did tricks for you, Napoleon in rags, and Queen Mary with her fog, her amphetamines and her pearls?
Her “fog.” What a great bloody description of where many of us are today- a deep fog that’s around us and clouds our better judgment. A fog where we’re everywhere and nowhere, whereas before, we at least knew our bearings, and that a foggy day meant we were in London Town, and how, as the song went, “It had me low and had me down.” Today we’re all fogged up by everything we read- and take as gospel. Visiting Google has become the new bible study class.
Last night, I read a dissertation on Beyoncé. Sorry, but I don’t get, nor wish to get, Beyoncé or Jay Z or their marriage and everything she’s supposed to be. Beyoncé is no Diana Ross, no Eartha Kitt, she’s no Billie Holiday, no Ella Fitzgerald, no Lena Horne, Tracy Chapman and no Lauryn Hill. Beyoncé is a Destiny’s Child who’s reached megastar status- but, for what? Where’s her body of work? All those “Single Ladies”? All those red carpet appearances and wardrobe changes?
Beyoncé and Jay Z appear to me to be faked-out power brokers lusting after more power with a sycophantic media adding more sweetener to the half-baked blancmange of false pretences. Either that or Beyoncé has become a willing puppet and a doomed character in a two-part play orchestrated by the illuminati.
Add the equally odd coupling of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian into the mix, and their lust for an onslaught of publicity along with everyone from Donald Trump and Caitlin Jenner to the serial train wrecks on channel E! and what we have here is a failure to communicate with no music giving it and us and everything in-between a voice.
When George Harrison warned us to “Beware Of Darkness”, he could have been singing about what’s surrounding us today. Fog, darkness, lights out upstairs, and with no direction of home. That’s where we’re at. There’s a loss of innocence that’s been replaced by a wave of anger- and it’s there in most of the music labelled as “urban”.
Surely, Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone and Marvin Gaye tackled these “urban problems” years earlier and when it mattered most without resorting to misogyny, and a misplaced sense of entitlement? “Brother Brother”, “What’s Going On”, “Everyday People” and “People Get Ready” articulated what was going down and how it should be without this need to seemingly always trying to up the ante in the Shock To The System Stakes?
Then there’s today’s “pop music” where, at least to me, if you’ve heard one Ed Sheeran song, you’ve heard the length and breadth of his songwriting skills and stories in song. To think, some thought Donovan, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and James Taylor were “sensitive singer-songwriters” and fobbed them off. Again, look and listen to their body of work over a three year period compared to the homogenised “pop” of Ed Sheeran. I don’t get it.
One Direction, I totally understand as Simon Cowell put together a better looking- and slimmer and taller Take That for the UK and which resonated with teenagers, globally. But Ed Sheeran? Really?
What’s really the problem is being happy with Okay, and little passion by many making music to really understand and appreciate what has come before when creativity was bursting at the seams- the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, The Mothers Of Invention, comics that went where few dared to go- Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman, and the tragic figure that was Lenny Bruce.
Then, there were the ways in which a brilliant film maker like Martin Scorsese worked with Robbie Robertson to create some of the most memorable moments in the history of film, the ways in which Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch used music in their movies…
What’s the reason for this creative menopause- this emphasis on superficiality over substance with one-time musicians more interested in their clothing lines or all their other merchandising businesses over making music? Has celebritydom been elevated to such a point that music continues to be devalued now that it’s in the hands of everyone from Spotify and Apple Music to YouTubers and Channel E! where mediocrity is elevated to an obscene level of false importance?
How else can one explain the channel’s series like Rich Kids of Beverly Hills- everyone speaks as if on helium- and- gawd no- the Philippines’ answer to the Kardashians known as “It Takes Gutz To Be A Guitierrez?
Where’s the music hiding? In our memories and in a distant past that needs to be revived and marketed for this messed up world. There’s a need to get back to the basics and start all over again by working from a clean slate to show this new generation what they’re missing out on- and how brilliantly it all worked when one only had heart and mind to tell us what we liked and wanted. It was humanised technology that clicked then and can double click again.