Sure, as a dyed-in-the-wool music fan, i enjoy the occasional dose of musical nostalgia as much as the next wistful person. But if still involved in being in music as a business and making music, being shackled to Yesterday and producing and producing, there’s always that inner voice asking, But producing for what? Where’s this tonnage of Whats leading? Down the long and winding road with all the other Nowhere Men?
Yes, the Beatles are timeless and there were some classic records made. But those Swinging Sixties and Woodstock and Monterey have often glamourised the pretty mediocre.
Was Woodstock really THAT great, man? It was probably the first music festival of its kind and this has glossed over the truth that much was about the mud, the acid and nymphets dancing naked to the music going on in their heads at Yasgur’s Farm.
Anyone remember Country Joe and the Fish? Why? Because it was cool, man, for them to use the F word? Their performance was an anti Vietnam War stance? Again, personally speaking, it was boring and time to inhale and exhale slowly and tune out.
There’s much that happened at Woodstock that was crap. Thank gawd for Cocker Power, and a then-unknown Santana where drummer Mike Shrieve competed for onstage musical heroics with Carlos Santana. Best of all, Woodstock had a great logo.
Far more important to me from a musical and social point of view was Sinatra- as a singer with that incredible phrasing for the material chosen and the arrangements of Nelson Riddle and Don Costa and the power and respect that made him go from being a needy “Johnny Fontaine” to being the man he was. Still is.
Let’s also not look at the Rat Pack as a group of goofy Hollywood pals. With Sammy Davis Jr part of the team, the Rat Pack played by its own rules set down by Francis Albert Sinatra. No one stood in their way.
No one messed with Sinatra and those he endorsed. He called women “broads” and used words like “dig” and hung out with Marilyn Monroe, Vegas mobsters and politicians.
Think JFK didn’t realise this? Think Bowie wasn’t influenced by Sinatra? Think filmmakers like Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Tarantino etc were not influenced by this one-time crooner who grabbed power the way he held a microphone and mesmerised audiences?
There was then the magic of Fred Astaire and those incredible one shot dancing routines filmed with Ginger Rogers etc. No editing. No short cuts. Pure talent. Pure magic. Think Michael Jackson wasn’t inspired by Fred Astaire?
Fred Astaire was one hundred percent talent. And he remained happily married to one helluva attractive female jockey in Robyn Smith.
There are all those thousands of wonderful songs from the writers in Tin Pan Alley. Have there been two more beautiful songs ever written than “Moon River” and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from the trippy “The Wizard Of Oz”? And what a brilliant movie that was. It’s stood the test of time. There’s been nothing like it though Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory” had its moments.
One more thing: Ever tried playing “Dark Side Of The Moon” as the soundtrack to “Oz”? It gets more trippy.
A few years later, the songwriters at the Brill Building- Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Boyce and Hart etc- came together to create something called Pop music as did a groundbreaking young producer named Phil Spector whose Wall Of Sound influenced and inspired so many then and so many now.
There was Buddy Holly, Elvis, Ricky Nelson and a number of pretty bland years comprising manufactured teen idols, Troy Donahue and Tab Hunter movies and some really bad television. Hello? “Dr Kildare”? “Dr Ben Casey?” “Dr Marcus Welby”?
Thankfully, Stax/Volt and Motown happened and which mended what had been the racial barriers that kept music from coming together. These labels and their Founders were smart enough not to follow the herd. They believed in their product- the artists.
Of course, much later, we’ve learned how many of these incredible musicians allowed themselves to be screwed over. Think that musicians today have learned from their mistakes? They couldn’t have. If they had, they wouldn’t be blinded by buying fake fame on social media and lost in the clutter of being Spotified. Daniel Ek?
What I’m trying to say is that not everything we believe to be good was ever really that good. Certainly not consistently. Not even some of the Beatles stuff. Those first two movies? Terrible. But maybe at the time some of us wanted to be Paul or George or…? That entire sequence in A Hard Days Night of a lost Ringo walking around aimlessly? The Monkees television series had better moments.
When was the last time the Stones made a great record? Probably not since “Let It Bleed” or “Beggars Banquet”. Maybe “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile On Main Street”. Maybe. Give me, however, the hugely underrated “Aftermath” where the Stones really were a band and the doomed Brian Jones its rightful leader. There’s so much going on in that record. It was way ahead of its time.
Nostalgia is about a time in one’s life. It’s about a combination of things like love and parents and teen years and growing up and dating and marrying and making up and breaking up and sometimes being a parent and trying to survive.
When, however, it comes to music and being with those in music still hanging in there and constantly bringing up places and people and what happened over twenty years ago, sorry, but it bores me. Sinatra is singing that the party’s over. And when this wistful nostalgia finds its way into what they’re working on today, count me out. It’s all been heard before.
The journey to Here isn’t about going back There. It’s about appreciating artists like the remarkable Hozier, James Bey, Tash Sultana, Billie Eilish…
There’s nothing wrong in all this thinking back to a very distant past that might have worked in another time and space. But trying to recreate what might have once been magic often clouds the future and defeats using the experience and influences and knowledge to work with a clean slate.
What about trying to figure out how and where to make money out of music without going over the same territory?
These days, I can’t help but think of the very very wealthy two Simons.
Does the world really need more seasons of dumbed down television karaoke competition shows where even if one wins, it’s only for that season? The only winners are the judges- one last throw at the stumps for those who know their best days are over and are out to make some extra bucks for being a celebrity has-been. It’s huge business even in China. It’s cheese.
As for the two Simons, what have either given the world of entertainment, forget music, recently? Anything other than talk about an Old Spice Women reunion? More cheese.
Simon Fuller, someone I still respect as an extremely successful businessman who helped my daughter see a side of the music industry she would never have otherwise learned, is a decent man with whom I think I remain friends. If not, that’s okay.
Most recently, he brought out a group called Now United. There was plenty of coverage about how they came together through a global search etc etc and much was promised.
What’s been delivered? A tour of India sponsored by Pepsi by one of those United Colours Of Benetton type poppy groups from the days of boy band Blue and before them, Fuller’s own SClub7. Now United looks like a bust. It happens. There’s an aversion to too much cheese.
Seeing incredibly wealthy and well-connected people in entertainment like these stumble and fail show that there are plenty of business opportunities out there- but only if looking and listening to everything with new eyes and ears.
It’s about embracing everything learned from the past, but knowing when to let go and change direction. Don’t go back for more. The second time around never works out. Love is never lovelier.
It will have to do with no longer spending too much time with those who don’t understand how high you’re trying to reach. That’s okay. It’s needed to move forward. It’s like still being a fan of Led Zeppelin, but not buying into Greta Van Fleet.
It’s like me having no hesitation in saying Bob Dylan made some awful albums. That I never ever liked Metallica, or Heavy Metal. That I never bought into the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Pearl Jam, Springsteen, Punk, Grunge and Nirvana and really have no time for Rap unless it’s something old or new from Eminem. All this helps me see what I need to do and where I want to go.
Yesterday, I wrote to Jody Gerson, below.
Ms Gerson is the worldwide head of Universal Music Publishing. I wanted to understand why her offices, at least those in the Asia region, sign up songwriters and their songs with no advances and then do nothing to market this music. It just sits there. And because you’re contractually bound and they own your music- for free- you’re left sitting around wondering how this is allowed to keep happening.
Writing to Ms Gerson and challenging the ways how music is bought and sold is where I want to go right now. It’s my career path. I’m no longer only a music fan.
Once comfortable that making music isn’t just about spinning one’s wheels while they’re stuck in the mud might be the time to look at working with the right team.
Nearly anyone can have a Number One record these days. There are enough of “charts” for every music genre and sub genre and sub genre of every sub genre. This is where a once respected trade publication like Billboard has lost its brand equity.
Many have lost their brand equity. But, as they say, when one door shuts, another opens. It’s about being smart enough to walk through the right door. Don’t be fooled by diversions. They lead nowhere.
#music #JodyGerson #artists #Spotity #musichistory #HansEbert #musicfan #progress #movingon #career #FredAstaire #Sinatra #Wizardofoz #PinkFloyd #SimonFuller #SimonCowell