By Hans Ebert
Saying 2016 has been a bad year for music- and this year ain’t over yet- is an understatement. So is saying it’s been a bad year for the world of entertainment and the world in general. Whatever’s in the water, it’s not helped that river of life to be smooth sailing.
No one lives forever, but to lose relatively young artists like Prince and George Michael along with the ageless space oddity that was David Bowie were bitter pills to swallow. Maybe we’re being selfish. Maybe they knew their time was up, or saw the future, and decided to leave for new pastures. We need them more than they needed us.
2017 will see others pack it in and leave. It’s like them telling us that their work here’s done. The question going through this head is, And now what? What about you and me? What’s the plan? Update Facebook profiles or whatever one does on Facebook, or any of these social media platforms? Most of the time, it seems like one big jungle inhabited by very angry people, or people living vicariously through the faked out life of pseudo celebrities. Is this healthy?
From what I remember, we did pretty well without social media, the explosion of new technology and the addiction to it. It’s the new crack. We actually worked at improving our individual crafts. If trying to get into music, we played real instruments. Wow! Real drums! What a concept! We got together for band rehearsals and to try and write our own songs. We tried our hand at many things to see what worked best for us. We weren’t manipulated. We didn’t need crutches. What some of us only needed was a set of Ludwig drums and somewhere to bang away and see what developed.
We dabbled in advertising, in movie making, in music, in design, in acting, even in marriage to see what worked best. And once we found out what this was, there was a focus to improve those skills. We were inspired. We were free to travel. We weren’t risk averse. We weren’t living in the past. We needed to have inquisitive minds if we weren’t to keep repeating ourselves.
As usual- and here’s the irony- now, more than ever, one needs to delve into the past for the inspiration to move forward. It’s up to the individual, but it could be revisiting the early work of great filmmakers like Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, Polanski, DePalma, David Lynch, Truffaut, Jean Luc Goddard, Antonioni. Woody Allen, and the brilliance of Sergio Leone.
It could mean going even further back to the movies directed by Hitchcock, Frank Capra, John Ford, and Orson Welles.
Where did all that creativity come from? Same with the Beatles. What a quantum leap from the simple roughness of a track like “Please Please Me” to the inventiveness on every track on Revolver, the White Album and Sgt Pepper’s.
Was it the drugs? Was it having to grow up fast? Was it their life experiences and the women who entered their world and inspired them- Jane Asher, Patti Boyd, Yoko? Was it all of the above? How on earth did McCartney pull “For No One” out of the air? Maybe love, or the inspiration that’s even behind a breakup was what was needed? She says her love is dead, but you don’t believe her…
Sad songs say so much about life and nothing lasts forever- at least not in a very real way. For musicians, those secrets almost always come out in song, and very often it’s what you wanted to say, but conventional politeness had you screaming “Help” inside until one day someone enters your life when you least expect it, and blows your mind and the cobwebs away.
Inspiration. Being inspired. These are the greatest motivators needed to stop getting into a formulaic rut. But where’s this inspiration going to come from?
Personally speaking, inspiration has got to come from those with whom you surround yourself. It’s what made the Silver Beatles become the Beatles. And with Ringo replacing Pete Best, something happened within the group to make them work together and keep evolving.
Into their inner circle came the guidance of manager Brian Epstein, publicist and overall creative guru Derek Taylor, below with George Harrison, along with the aural vision of record producer and arranger George Martin.
With George Martin, the Fifth Beatle, it was teamwork, and the far more experienced producer learning from these newcomers to a recording studio environment, and being inspired by their unorthodox ways of writing and creating music. It was the yin morphing with the yang and going into the studios knowing that tomorrow never knows where everything might lead. If only those walls at Abbey Road Studios could talk, what stories they could tell.
Theirs was, as we once said, a trip and a half, and with everything they did as a band in seven short years inspiring generation after generation. Same with the music of Prince and Bowie, and same with all our favourite movie makers and every role model from Sinatra, Shelley Berman, Stan Freberg, ad man John Bernbach and Dylan to Dr Martin Luther King.
From Hunter S Thompson and Ralph Gleason to Lester Bangs, the teenage writer for Rolling Stone, Cameron Crowe, who went on to write and direct the autobiographical “Almost Famous”, Greil Marcus, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammed Ali.
We need and feed on inspiration, but which today is in short supply. Where is it? Have we become so cynical that we can’t see it, or have we been burnt so badly in the past that trust issues refuse to not only let in the parasites, but perhaps slam the door too quickly on those who might have the inspiration in their goodness and their new slant on things needed to start creating- and DOING- again- not in a tired join-the-dots manner to keep the monthly cheque coming in, but in a way where, once again, everything is possible.
Perhaps it’s being the perennial romantic, but this only happens when the right woman enters your life- not someone looking for financial security and constantly doing the maths- but that someone who gives you the emotional security and confidence to never think it’s too late to change. How everything is possible. Yes, thinking young and growing older is no sin.
With her by your side, you can tolerate all those one dimensional people. For the time being, with one foot in the world of marketing horse racing to a new generation, there a drowning pool of these tiresome characters. But the same can be said of every other industry including what has become the music industry trudging along with its armies of Nowhere Men.
This is when you need that one person to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and just connect your feet to the sunny side of the street. It’s a constant search. Women, like players, they come and they go, because there was nothing more to give- on both sides. It’s no one’s fault. But like women keep talking about finding Mr Right, men are either too scared or uptight or busy being the men society wants men to be that they’re not only desperately seeking Susan and Fifty Shades Of Grey, they’re desperately seeking Ms Right. Sadly, Kate Beckinsale is taken.
Sometimes- very often- she’s the only inspiration and support and emotional rescue one needs. She’s living there in every great love song written. As for Kate Beckinsale, well…