In the beginning there was music. And it was mostly good. Except for the music that was bad. And you could decide for yourself what was what. So long as your mates didn’t find out you’d bought an Osmonds LP / Bros tape / Take That CD / One Direction download with your pocket money.
OK, further back than that was rock and roll. It deserves capital letters. It’s a proper noun.
Rock and Roll.
And I have to tell you that it’s dead. When the latest Bon Jovi release sounds like the last three, and he somehow looks younger than David Bowie in the opening cameo to the Snowman (children of a certain generation will know exactly what I’m talking about) you know things aren’t as they should be. Really, it’s not that bad if you want to be a musician, but if you want to be “popular” and “successful”, those terms now need a little more definition before you start.
I used to play in a blues band. It got busy and they’re really rather good and fancied a shot at something bigger. I can’t walk that road. I have a mortgage and wife and children who need me more than I need to live that dream.
Last year I got signed. Reading the small print, Any And All Records promise to give me little in return for taking nothing. No way will my profits and royalties disappear up some young starlet’s nose. More importantly, I’m not urinating on others to get to the top, and that’s assuming the top is still where it always was. Because the thing is, popular music now appears to be whatever Simon Cowell tells us it is, and unless you can see the guys live, from less than 20 metres, and see their hands moving, you can’t even be sure it’s them playing. Milli Vanilli this ain’t. Backing tracks are for pros, not no-shows.
All this comes from observation of twitter comments from different people, some connected to each other and others not apparently even following each other. Then I had a long conversation with someone who did get signed by a traditional label. Then I had a long hard think about what I do musically and why and what it means to me. Then I agreed to write a song for a children’s church service. It premiered on Wednesday.
And finally, just as I was beginning to get a handle on this, Steve Lawson goes and re-releases Rock and Roll is Dead. It’s sweary and hairy and features people I recognise even if they’re fictional, and it’s left me wanting to do what the guys in the story do. So, it’s that good a read. I’m seriously thinking I’ll buy The 360 Deal when I get paid. That looks like interesting reading too.
And the good news is this – Rock and Roll may be dead in the formal, label-driven, mass produced sense, but there are enough of us out there who care enough and are good enough to do things live that make people close their eyes (in a good way) and let the hairs on the back of their neck stand up, and that’ll do for me.
PS. Would anyone like to start a live improv group with me, and does anyone have a delay/looper pedal I could borrow? I have half an idea. May be not even that much…