The Cycle of Life

The other day I was listening to this interesting podcast from Keven Grace and Kevin Steele, two hosers from some place called “Canada.” Both had careers in the media and now they don’t, presumably due to the local blasphemy laws. I’ve listened to a number of their interviews I found on YouTube. For those interested in hate-think and the haters who founded hate-thinkery, their interviews of Gottfried, Sailer, Taylor and others are a good introduction to the hate. They ask good questions and get good answers.

The podcast on music is interesting if you enjoy thoughtful discussion of the business side of popular culture. If you are under the age of 80, you just assume that pop music is a feature of society. It’s hard to think about a time when there was no such thing as pop stars or hit songs played on the radio. The music business did not exist a hundred years ago, at least not in the way we think about it today. It was after the war that cheap radios, cheap record players and a prosperous middle-class birthed modern pop music culture.

If you read a book like The Wrecking Crew, you see that much of what we think of as rock and roll lifestyle was manufactured. The early years of pop music were dominated by old experienced guys from the jazz and big band scenes. They wrote the music, recorded the songs and made the hits. The acts that turned up on TV and radio were often just front men, hired to be the face of the act. From the very beginning, music was a business designed to make money, not music, for the people who owned the music business.

One of the things I found interesting from the podcast is that the music industry, the people involved in the business end of things, is about half the size it was at its peak. A couple of years ago I did a post on the state of music. Per capita music sales have collapsed from their peak 15 years ago. That peak was largely a bubble created by the advent of the compact disc. Everyone went out and repurchased their music collection in the new digital format. A lot of old stuff was remastered for the new format and that boosted sales too.

We are now in a time when selling songs is no longer very profitable. Often, bands will put their new releases on YouTube free of charge. The song itself is a form of marketing for their live shows. In my youth, the opposite was the case. Bands went on tour to promote their latest album. The tickets to the show were often cheaper than the album. Now, anything you want is on-line so trying to monetize the songs has become a lost cause. As a result, the focus is on making money from the live shows.

In many respects, pop music is back to where it was before the great wars of the 20th century. In the 19th century, sheet music was the item of value in the music business. Many of our intellectual property laws, in fact, come from efforts to protect the owners of sheet music. The main source of income for musicians, however, was the live act. They went around performing for customers. It is where the expression “sing for your supper” started. Often musicians were paid, in part, with a meal.

There are some important lessons in the history of pop music. One is that cultural phenomenon have a life cycle. They come into existence, blossom and then die off. The music business is never going to go completely away. There’s still money to be made marketing acts and managing the production of recorded music, but the boom times are over. It is, as they say in business, a mature sector now. It’s not a business attracting wild men looking for adventure. Instead it attracts MBA’s moving through the corporate system. “This is Josh, who came over from the petro-chemical division.”

Pop music’s impact on the greater culture is also largely over. There will never be another Beatles or Rolling Stones. That’s because “American culture” is over. Prior to the two great industrial wars of the 20th century, America did not have a unified national culture. It was federation of regions. New England may as well have been a different country from the Deep South or the Southwest. The South was very different from Appalachia. There was no unified “American” culture to which all the regional cultures submitted.

The great national project of conquering Europe and Asia opened the door for the flowering of an American culture after the war. Into it was drawn anything that could be sold as celebrating this new world power. It is why what we think of as American pop culture blew up after the war. In music, for example, producers scoured the land looking for authentic American sounds to package up and sell, in order to meet the demand of this new growing thing called Americana. It even went global, in search of spice to ad to the mix.

Like the music business itself, the great unifying national culture that blossomed in the 20th century has run its course. America is, to a great degree, falling back to its natural, regional state. Just look at the popularity of movies and TV shows by region and you see old weird America emerging again. Live acts now setup their tours to reflect the fact that they have greater appeal in some regions than in others. If you are a country act, for example, there’s no point in booking a lot of dates in the north, outside of the one-off festivals in the summer that feature a variety of acts.

That’s another lesson from pop music. The past is the actualized, the present is the actualizing and the future in the potential. Culture is that middle part, standing on the past in an effort to realize the potential that lies in the future. Once culture attains its natural end, it dies. What’s left is what it created. The grand unified pop culture of the Cold War era is now like an old factory building that has been renovated to be lofts, shops and boutique restaurants. It’s influence on what comes next is purely utilitarian.


82 thoughts on “The Cycle of Life

  1. Pingback: Affirmative Action And The Coming White on White Civil War | Fake News Registry

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  3. Frank Zappa wrote a great book back in 1989 . In one chapter he described the downfall of the music industry.

    He focused more on the development of new bands ( or lack thereof ). It seems the Heyday of rock and roll is behind us.

    The kids are listening to the same stuff we grew up on. Getting completely wasted and raising hell at a concert just doesn’t seem to be in their DNA.

    We had some wild times back in the day at the old Boston Gardens. Now kids sit quietly and politely clap like they’re at a tennis match or something.

  4. If I might add …. Part of the death of pop music is the sorry excuse for melody and lyric. Compare a swath of today’s pop hits with a swath from the early 70s … or even the late 60s or further back for real music. I listen to what’s on offer today and I hear shouting in a monotone … there is no melody to remember or hum at work …. The musicians are usually trained studio types as the garage band types are too distracted to find time to learn to play an instrument decently. And …. Choreography isn’t music, it’s dancing.

    Anyone who wants to enjoy the apex of pop music … you need look no further than the songbooks Steely Dan, Hall and Oats, the Doobs with Michael M, Eagles, BGS, Joni Mitchell … and many others of that vintage .. there were interesting chord structures and great melodies …. lyrics were more thoughtful than the crap of today talking about bootys and bitches and gangster shit.

    I was a road musician between 1961 and 1974 in the USA …. continued on part time until 1981. Then a real job happened. Now I am a retired hoser from the GWNorth. I do NOT listen to post 1980 music except for Steely Dan.

  5. What is interesting to me is how fragmented musical choice is today. When the record was still king, music was broken down into specific formats. Pop/Rock, Jazz, Country, Classical. Over time you had other categories inserted like Techno, World Music, Fusion, etc. I have a hard time categorizing contemporary popular music in this day and age. Let’s face it: Music is a young man’s business and the young drive it. Look at all the popular music you loved and the age you loved it at. It is still “your music”. The artists that played it had a shelf life. Their hits usually came when they were still developing their style. Once the style became formulaic and they were no longer original, they faded away, although they could always make bank with a nostalgia wave. And it was the young that had the disposable income to spend on music, so the industry catered to them. Sure, Classical music was always around but very little of any value was produced after the 19th century. Today’s internet makes it almost impossible for a group or a musician to have the exposure that used to be necessary and could make millions for those artists gifted enough to write a successful hit. Today, the public wants entertainers, not musicians. If you are not a song and dance person you will not have massive appeal. This was Elvis, but the present day entertainer dates from MTV, Michael Jackson, gossip magazines, and other mindless sources. Musicians no longer have the social power that they did. But, I never say never. Music may make a comeback. There have been many uncreative periods in musical history. There may never be a Beatles again, but there may be the Bphxxtqzssraps.

  6. I can’t get into the modern country music that’s played on the radio. I’m still listening to Tammy Wynette and George Jones.

  7. You haven’t lived until you listen to a Mariachi Band (Brownsville, Texas) play Horse With No Name.

  8. My five kids all discovered our extensive record collection in their middle school years and to today many of their favorite tunes are from the 60’s on. They “discovered” the really good music from “antiquity I’m told” and shared with their friends. My wife and I smiled. Oh, and the technology we’ve had to learn, 45’s, LP’s, 8 track, cassette, reel to reel, cd’s, MP3, downloadeds, streaming………I may be at the end. I think I am going to cue a cut on a favorite vinyl tonight and relax.

  9. The Ramones, the last America band that made this Englishman love America and when I found Johnny was that rare bird a conservative musician… I loved them even more.

  10. While the recorded music industry has seen better days, live music in many forms is thriving. In the last fifteen years years we have seen tremendous growth of the music festival. Not just mega-festivals such as Coachella and Bonnaroo but dozens of smaller ones, all over North America, in which many genres of music are represented. There’s also been the emergence of destination musical events on cruise ships and at tropical resorts. This did not exist last century.

    Parallel to this is the emergence of VIP options. As music fans have grown older, that generally means more money earned and saved, along with less desire, less energy, and possible overt health problems that make one wish to minimize the hassles that come with concert attendance. This has sometimes meant that good seating is not available for regular prices, and there’s been much grumbling about the whole phenomenon

    Here in the Bay Area there are many music venues of all types and sizes presenting acts of all kinds at the whole range of price points.

    Speaking of Ludwig Van and cover bands, there is a band called Electric Beethoven, a rock quartet led by the highly-talented classically-trained bassist Reed Mathis, that improvises upon the major symphonies.

    • I have been going on the KISS Kruise, one of the destination music cruises you mentioned in your post. This year will be my fourth and I can honestly say, nothing beats being on a ship with 3000 drunk (for the most part) KISS fans that are living life large.

  11. Can you read music? Probably not.
    We have changed.
    The sheet music business was busy in the 19th and early 20th century because most people could read music in those days? Outside of your high school band members, who do you know who can read music today?

    • I was told by my girlfriend’s mom, back in the day, who was in charge of the local high school district’s music department and also the area youth symphony, that she was quite aware that none of the music kids could actually read music, and that every single one of them simply memorized the notes. This was back in the mid ’70s.

      • I was in that orchestra. Not so. I don’t know where you’re from, but any bandgeek will tell you that sight reading is a cornerstone of any well run music education program, and it gets emphasized to this day in all that are worth a damn, and about half at least are still worth a damn.

        That crap you saw in the Drumline movie about reading music is a myth in a movie.

  12. Slightly OT, but go to YouTube and look up the movie “Get Crazy”. Not much of a plot, but more a series of vignettes around putting on a New Year’s Eve concert. From the early ’80s and a “lost movie”, due to music licensing issues. The manic and anarchic sex-drugs-rock and roll is so far beyond what you see today, but probably not far off from the then-reality, of course done up in a screwball movie production fashion. Written and produced by a guy who worked at the Fillmore East back in the day.

  13. I used to go to a lot of concerts. They were cheap and usually fun. One of the best shows I saw was the Ramones playing a small club in Portland. Frankly, the music is just so plastic these days. It’s overworked and nothing is spontaneous. I also think the popularity of rap killed popular music. Black music used to trigger the creative in white musicians. Rap is such a narrow field that it doesn’t. Country music is unrecognizable as being rural music, for the most part. Most of the new music I’ve discovered has come from services like Pandora.

    • I sense a cultural shift in the offing, but I don’t know how it will ultimately play out. I have a daughter in her middle teens, and her favorite music is the same new wave and punk that her parents listened to when they were young adults. And its not just parental influence at work – for her the question of whether the popular music of the late 70s and 80s is far more creative and rebellious than the music of today is not even worth discussing. I can’t imagine growing up in a world where you freely admit that the music of your parents’ generation is way cooler than that of your peers, but so it is for many of today’s teens. And behind it I sense an anger and contempt at the mediocrity of today’s popular culture and a desire for change. I think this so-called generation Z is going to start suprising people in a few years.

      • About ten years ago, I was at a client and some of the younger people were talking about music. I did not think much of it at first, until I realized that these kids were listening to music that was even before my time. They were into early 70’s stuff. I had to ask and the answer was, “modern music is all the same.” Since then I’ve run into this a few times. It’s a very weird thing and I don’t know how common it is, but it is common enough to notice. My hunch is that music may have lost its connection to a specific era. Especially now with YouTube and music services, everything ever made is available to kids.

        • OT

          You had post recently about Milo and whether “they” would let him on their stage. I think that
          this corresponds:

          “Now that CRTV has fired Mark and canceled The Mark Steyn Show, we thought you might enjoy this final CRTV SteynPost from yesterday, filmed just an hour or two before Cary Katz announced that “CRTV’s contract with Mark Steyn Enterprises has ended” – ie, they ended it, by tearing it up over four years before it was due to expire.”

      • My 23-year-old son makes fun of me for saying the ’70s produced the best music ever made — but I notice that his favorite bands come from the ’80s.

  14. Great post. I am amazed/impressed at how technical you guys get with music. When my grandson discovered music he threw himself into the tech part, tells me all the time how hopelessly ignorant I am about the fine tuning of my stereo.
    My first concert was a smallish gathering in Miami or Lauderdale in 67 or 68. I was sober and straight, and sat through Leon redbone, Blue Cheer, Frank Zappa and the Mother of Inventions, and a host of other wannabes. It finally got dark and a helicopter landed on the track and out came Jimi Hendrix. I had never heard of him but I never forgot how talented he was , for sure.
    Anyway, long live music, in all its forms….except for rap.

  15. I quit listening to pop music about fifteen years ago, so much of the discussion is lost on me. What I think is significant about all this is the idea that politics is downstream from culture. If we are witnessing the passing of an age of centralization and into one of a return of regionalization in culture, what implications does this have for the future of politics? Does this mean that we will see a return of old fashioned federalism? We are already seeing a president returning much of environmental enforcement back to the states. What’s next?

  16. When security guards pull a TSA and confiscate even bottled water, well, the concert scenes are pretty much dead zombies, only livened by a gang shooting.

  17. I watched the documentary on The Wrecking Crew. Probably not as good as the book but it had some great footage.

    • I’m a Millennial (sorry, it happens!) and that documentary blew my mind for one reason. They had beach shots interspersed with the music stuff and I finally got why older media talks about California girls as the most gorgeous girls in the world. If you grew up in the nineties and later, “I wish they all could be California girls” just does not match up with the reality around you.

  18. Interesting how much of Apple was built on music. And if you read the Jobs biography how much of his philosophy was pulled from pop music. Not sure if it was true or written to fit that agenda of the author. Lucky we didn’t have Jobs a follower of Gaga

  19. It’s not just the money side that has declined, it’s the enthusiasm. I don’t even know how to explain to my son the chaos and craziness of an 80’s rock concert. I can’t think of a current act that can generate the madness of many bands in the 80’s. Seeing the J. Geils Band in Massachusetts in ’83 was craziest party I’ve ever attended.

    Can any new band generate a spontaneous Nuremberg Rally with an arena-full of 20-year-olds in the middle of a song? I watch ’89 Metallica videos as much for the crowd shots as the music.

    • Every time I see someone mention a Miley Cyrus or some other “outrageous” girl act, I think of the Plasmatics. Much of what powered pop music was taboo breaking and once all the taboos were broken, a lot of energy drained from it.

      • That and so many other things to distract young people. AC/DC was a lot more exciting when we had 5 tv channels, pong video games, and no internet.

        • The ability to play in front of a live audience has declined too. AC/DC put on great shows because they cut their teeth doing live shows. I saw Tom Petty a couple of years ago and I was amazed at how professional it was. These are guys who have played a lot of live shows and they are good at it. They’ve always been good at it because they got their start playing in bars.

          I think what hurts a lot of the current acts is they got their start in an audition at the corporate campus of Music Inc. Half a dozen years ago when Justin Bieber was a big deal for teenage girls, a friend took his daughter to a show. He reported that his daughter was disappointed. She thought the show was boring.

          • My wife and her brothers grew up in Pasadena when Van Halen was doing high school dances. David Lee Roth lives around the corner from my wife’s childhood home. Can you imagine going to a dance where VH was playing?

          • there is a grainy video of them playing at someone’s party (in a private home) from around then…

          • I saw AC/DC the first time back in 1976 or 77 or ?? when they warmed up for Alice Cooper. You see their full shows imagine them all out for 45 minutes. It was one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. The whole set was loud and ferocious.

        • I think the driver for all this is the emergence of a dominant technology. Television emerged in the 50’s and became the dominant technology, and that allowed only a few to control information. In the 90’s the Internet emerged, and now there’s no control of information, so culture is fracturing. You can see this kind of reshaping of cultures by new technology all throughout history. The printing press, then the telegraph, telephone, radio, etc.

      • This.

        Not that your children will believe you. It’s in the nature of youth to claim that they are breaking new ground, but when I see the tame and staid concerts my children go to, all choreographed to within an inch of their lives, and think about The Faces concerts I used to go to in the early Seventies – think drunken, but deliriously happy mayhem, or the early punk bands in some crappy music pub in North London in ’76/’77, they don’t even know they’re born!

        • My brother took me to see Ted Nugent in the late 70’s. He and his biker club were into Nugent at the time. I was still a kid and I was pretty sure that I was at the suburbs of Hell. You just don’t see stuff like that these days or for a long time. The last concert I recall having anything like a wild scene was the Live Aid show. That was still pretty tame, but nowadays, the scene at a show is something close to comatose.

          • Drake I can attest to that. Last May in St. Charles IL the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience was hosted. My date was upset nobody was standing. I agreed with her and supported her choice to stand. Some very unhappy campers behind her. I sat out of respect though. By the way they all nailed it!!…as they should have…it isn’t called “Experience” for nothing. I drum a little and always liked Jason. He is on my “to see” list every year from now on.

          • That still happens with festivals – Ozzfest, Lollapalooza, and regional ones put on by Clear Channel. Wild partying, and bands that actually sing (songs they wrote) and play instruments.
            You won’t see another Live Aid or Woodstock because events that big are too hard to keep from degenerating into mayhem:

          • I saw Ted at this huge festival outside of Atlanta Ga. I believe it was him Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet. Complete bedlam. Everyone was drunk out their minds. I think it was 4th of July. I remember this poor rat that someone somehow caught that they kept throwing around until it really bit the shit out of this drunken fool. There were ambulances going back and forth constantly. It was so hot I think a bunch of people fell out from heat stroke. The rest from people fighting. I can’t imagine anything put together so slapdash today. It was just a field hill side that they put one concession stand up and stage at the bottom. The whole thing was a nightmare as they little to no toilets, water, anything but…it was fun.

    • I think that a lot of the energy that drove the band scene of our youths has shifted to raves. A very different scene, but serves the same needs.

      • you may be onto something, especially given the amount of drugs used at raves. Ecstasy is a helluva drug <= Rick James quote, paraphrased

    • I have very fond memories of attending concerts and club shows in my musical playing and listen prime – from a sixteen year-old teenager who’d just bought his first car and stereo system to my mid-thirties or so. I lived in the Chicago area in those days, NW suburbs, so it was Poplar Creek Music Theater – and outdoor venue which hosted big-name, big-draw acts like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, .38 Special, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, and Stevie Ray Vaughn, to name a few. The atmosphere at those shows was something – and I think the performers dug it, too. I’ll never forget Donnie Van Zant riding out over the audience on a sort of zip line – while he sang. .38 Special were one of the finest live acts I have ever seen, and Seger and Petty were in the class also.

      Far as going down to the blues and jazz clubs, the fond memories of seeing Albert Collins and the Ice Breakers will always be there for me. In their prime, that band were the hottest blues band on earth – and Albert was a showman second to none. I loved his deal where he’d hook up his Telecaster to a 100-foot long guitar cable (no wireless in those days for Albert), and go outside the club and play to the traffic passing on the street while he worked his way through ten solo choruses on “Frosty.” For Jazz, can’t top live bebop and modern jazz at the Jazz Showcase. Tom Flanagan Trio, Johnny Griffin, Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrell, Cecil Payne, Harold Mabern with Eric Alexander, and the inimitable Lou Donaldson, who was as gifted a stand-up comic and raconteur as he was a jazz musician.

      Good time the likes of which we’ll never see again…..

  20. A couple or 3 years ago I had to decide when it was time to move on to a new position in the company. It was a latteral move but it felt like it was time since I had just beaten a hated vendor about the head and shoulders and got us into a better, first of it’s kind in the industry agreement with their competitor. I was a hero to all who hated the former vendor. The deciding factor was when I broke it down to two famous bands that you mentioned.: Who would I rather be…The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. The Beatles went out on top. Kings of their domain. When you think of them, people always think of them in their prime, on top of their game. But the Rolling fucking Stones? Sure they make lots of money, but look at them. They put out a bullshit record every 18 months as an excuse to go on tour and milk their aging fan base, who are also way past their prime. These are all shrivled, little old men in the 70’s who have refused to age with milligram of dignity. I decided I needed to be the Beatles. I put in for the transfer. Besides, the next step up in that position was in management and I’ll be damned if I let the company do that to me.

  21. A recent trend also is the move away from a dedicated music library. In my basement, I have upwards of 500 CDs. They’re all digitized now, and I have playlists for this and that. But the thing I’ve noticed lately is that, thanks to my Apple Music subscription, I don’t actually dive into my personal collection nearly as much as I once did. I can have a thought or a memory for 20 years ago pop into my head, remember a song, and ask Siri to play it – and the entire album – for me. I also don’t actually buy anything anymore because my Apple Music subscription lets me download whole albums and playlists to listen to later. Why would I actually “buy” anything other than the occasional single I want to put on my non-wifi player?

    In the car on road trips, my family and I play “Hey Siri” and we call out songs. (It’s a great way to learn about your kids, btw.) My kids like their music, but we can really elevate their game as parents. As concert violinists, they play wide varieties of classical music (and contemporary stuff, like “Pirates of the Caribbean”). But they also knew “Don’t Stop Believin'” long before it became a cultural “thing” on Glee.

    When I was a kid, my mom had a neat box where she kept her 45’s from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Quaint things like “B-sides”, which are often hidden gems from an artist that you don’t hear today unless you buy the “box set” (another anachronism). Anyway, the 45’s of her youth are the singles you can pick up on iTunes today. You buy what you like, and you ignore the rest. Then you go catch the band live.

    • This is a problem that pop music cannot address. In the prior era, there was a B-side. That was a way to advertise the act beyond the radio. of course, music companies bribed DJ’s to play songs. The change to on-demand makes marketing much more difficult. The narrowness of pop music is due to risk aversion and the cost of taking chances going up. If you are a music company, there’s no incentive to bet on a new act or a new sound.

      • There used to be albums. If I heard a song I liked, I might buy the whole album and listen to it start to finish. If the song on the radio was the only good one – that band went on my sh*t list.

        But sometimes, the rest of the album was even better and the songs that were never made the radio turned out to be my favorites. That’s the high we chased at the record stores.

        • That’s why I love the digital format. I used to have a “3 song rule”…if the album didn’t have three on it I liked (whether the radio played it or not was irrelevant to me), I didn’t buy it. Now I can hear a song I like, and buy it, and not waste my time with 11 filler songs. There’s a lot of great, classic, AOR music out there still, but it’s mostly legacy bands creating it. I’ll listen to entire albums to this day for new acts, but it’s rare that I find a cover-to-cover product with 8-10 songs on it that I’ll listen to from start to finish.

      • The shift away from radio to streaming will resolve some of that. For example, there’s a station I listen to which plays rock music, commercial free, and it’s all over the map in terms of the bands. They don’t play stuff on “heavy rotation”, but since it’s all digital, I can look the song up later since my phone remembers all the songs it has played recently.

        The big thing happening in music is the narrowing of the sounds and genres. Everything is starting to sound the same as the music companies target the octaves, harmonies, beats per minute, etc. necessary to get somebody to listen.

      • ”music companies bribed DJ’s to play songs.” This may surprise you, but still exists (and if done correctly, is legal) through two means: Under U.S. law, 47 U.S.C. § 317, a radio station can play a specific song in exchange for money, but this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be counted as a “regular airplay”.
        The other tactic is the station(s) don’t benefit directly. Record Company ponies up a sum of money/car(s)/motorcycle(s) to be given away as listener prizes. In exchange, their featured artists get priority.
        Pop music has come full circle from the 50’s, the latest acts are front men/women for songs written for them (95% of Elvis’ catalog were either covers or written for him). As noted, acts need to play live (or at least present the illusion they are) to make money.
        The biggest 60’s-70’s-80’s acts (Beatles, Stones, Zepplin, Eagles, ect) will live on long after all of them have passed away. Brittany Spears and her ilk are forgettable now.

    • depends on if you can hear the difference between an mp3 (as Apple uses) and full quality cd.

      • I totally can, but it doesn’t bother me much. My brother whines about this, and I just look at him and laugh as I push two buttons and pull up a great song we haven’t heard in 25 years. “Yeah, you go find that CD, I’ll be up here listening to the music.”

        Besides, when do I mostly listen to music? In the car, at work, etc. so I’m not going full blown audiophile often. I keep several AOR disks in the truck just so I can blow the doors off sometimes. But mostly it doesn’t bother me, and as the bandwidths increase and the storage capacities increase, the need for that level of compression is going to decrease…which means quality will continue to improve.

        • well, you can rip your cd’s into FLAC format and get the best of both worlds 🙂

  22. Another phenomenon, strange to me, is hte music video with bands or others doing all sorts of activities, often only vaguely connected to the lyrics.And the related spread of the ubiquity of music, or muzak, everywhere. Even as late as the early 1960s people did not take it for granted there would be a “soundtrack” for their lives.

    • Oh, I don’t know. In my head I hear the Imperial March by John Williams every time I enter a room…

    • Rurik- I’m sure you remember the Underbeats , The Castaways , Michael’s Mystics and the Trashmen, among others. Ever go to Big Reggie’s Danceland? I was too young, but when I was in college I was hitching back to St. Paul from St. Cloud and got picked up by Big Reggie himself! As Z says, more of a business guy than a music guy. THe Underbeats got some national run as Gypsy in the early ’70s.

      • Umma mao mao, poppa uuuu mao ma mao …..Don’t you know about the bird …
        How did you know I was your landsman. Teddy-’64, I was. I don’t remember Big Reggie or the Underbeats, but yes to the Castaways.
        Everybody knows that The Bird is the word.

  23. another interesting trend is the rise of cover bands. evidently there are few new rock bands of any import (U2 being the exception that comes to mind) so there are lots of cover bands doing big business playing the old greats. with respect to the geriatric (literally) lineup at Coachella this year, I would much prefer to see a young(ish) cover band than a 70 year old original.

    • A couple of years ago I was in a faux British pub in Massachusetts. Their live act was a Beatles cover band. They were all kitted out as the early Beatles, down to the haircuts and instruments. If you did not know better, you would have though you were back in Liverpool. It was a bit creepy too as they extended the act to talking like the Beatles between songs. Still, the patrons had a fun time. I later learned that this group toured all over the world, presumably making a nice living at it.

      • Dark Star Orchestra does the same, only they recreate Grateful Dead shows- they do not dress the part though. I I went to a DSO show once, I enjoyed it, but it was kinda creepy.

        BTW I love the Grace and Steele podcast- nothing better than two bitter old Canucks rambling on. They never mention hockey, though. Strange, that!

      • The best place I’ve ever found for this kind of thing is Singapore, or at least it was, 20 years ago. The market was cornered by Filipino bands, each of them covering different classic rock sounds, Beatles, Stones, and so forth. Go for a stroll along Clarke Quay and pick any nightspot – at the time there was a different band and sound for each one. The music and the lyrics were precisely mimicked to all of the old standards – and it was nearly impossible to distinguish the live performers from the original blockbuster recordings. Boggles the mind to think about how many times they repeated the damn thing to get that close.

    • That thing about cover bands actually makes me think. I wonder if that is what will stick around just for the next generation until we’re all dead. Because popular orchestras were always playing covers – that is, they were playing what was popular. I’m talking about the jazz orchestras and even latin orchestras, and perhaps tango orchestras also fall into this kind of thing: you play the hits, the golden oldies. You could say that Classical Music is just another version of a cover band, for those who have a taste for that style of music. Much like you can find jazz Big Bands that play occasionally, they are mostly amateurs who like to play it, a geriatric crowd, with a few young people mixed in who either like the music or like the dancing. Latin and tango bands don’t have this problem because the practice of dancing is socially passed down in their societies still. So perhaps cover bands will exist in 100 years for the golden hits of Rock N Roll. To correct one thing: Classical Music has fads and cycles – at the moment yes, Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner are some of the most popular composers; the German/Austrian composers are peak popular. But that means that there are whole other eras and cultural centers that are ignored and forgotten right now. I rest my case with Bach:

      “some eighty years after Bach’s death nobody in the public was interested in Bach’s music. Nobody wanted to listen to it and nobody wanted to perform it.”

      But you look at most modern Classical Music (you could just call Classical music, old music…), and nobody wants to perform it or hear it either: we want to hear a cover of Beethoven’s 3rd again!

    • Rock music is in steep decline. it no longer commands the center of the pop culture, or even the music culture. Most of the talent is going into other genres.

  24. It’s remarkable that the music of Mozart, Beethoven, et. al., is still performed and listened to several hundred years after their deaths.
    I will speculate that 100 years from today, very few folks will be playing or listening to the music of the Beatles or Rolling Stones or other rock “legends.”

    What do you all think??
    And why??

    What explains the persistence of certain music genres and the literal disappearance of most others?
    Is it a cultural thing?? (check out the number of Asians in US music schools and orchestras) .

    • i disagree. the great rock bands of yore will still be played, for the same reason Beethoven (still) are.

    • If small children are still singing The Camptown Races and Ring Around the Rosie today, and it’s been 100-200-300 years, a lot of what we’re listening to today will still be around. The fact that you can have any music you want on command just by asking your phone for it, and the fact that there will always be a group of people who like to go back and rediscover music, means we’ll be listening to a lot of music from the past 80 years well into the 2300’s. Not all “pop” music is disposable garbage, just like not all “classical” music is entertaining or enjoyable.

      The only way I would be wrong is if science discovers a cure for teenagers.

  25. Agree with it all, but found it a bit strange that you referenced two English bands – the Beatles and Rolling Stones – for your comment about the great unified American culture.

    • I did that on purpose. The whole British invasion thing was English lads with high verbal skills, repackaging American musical types for the new American mass market. In other words, the gaping maw of “American” culture suddenly swallowed up the rest of the Anglosphere.

      • The juggernaut of American pop culture descended on the UK just as its empire was being swept away. The empire was largely a middle-class enterprise and its loss freed up a lot of human potential and creativity that might have gone into maintaining it. Many of those middle-class children and grandchildren who might have inherited it looked around for something to do and formed rock and roll bands instead. The energy, the vibrancy, and the inventiveness of the popular music that came out of the UK during the later half of the 20th century was the result – it’s just that those lads (and a few lasses) used a slightly different method to conquer the world a second time.

    • English bands they were, but their members, along with other UK greats like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, etc., were devoted admirers and imitators of the American bluesmen. Google where Brian Jones got the name “Rolling Stones”, for another example.

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