Archive for December, 2018

There Really Were Musicians

December 22, 2018

In the early  1960s, right up through the 1970s  in Chicago, WLS-AM and WCFL-AM both  ran top 40 formats.  Who decided what got onto the radio?  ‘Advance’ men, who brought single  records  around to what were known as ‘Disk Jockeys’.  Dick Clark and American Bandstand were on TV.  After the Beatles (who, lets face it, were so different from any other pop group) my youth were the days of bubble gum rock.  Does anyone remember  “Sugar Sugar’ by the Archies?  Here’s an earworm for you:   Thanks , Don Kirshner.   Also an invention of marketing: the Monkees  Thank  Neil Diamond for, “I’m a Believer.”  Who sang it  better, tho? :  1966. The Monkees are actually not playing instruments in this video.

I thought the Who’s Tommy was revolutionary:  So  was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar:   Were either of those rock albums in the classic sense?
Most of my music listening was in the car in the 1970’s going to  & from work. Barry Manilow, a commercial songwriter,  had a number of hit songs in the 1970s, . .  Then disco was becoming huge. To me, that was mostly  a drum kit in a box. I’m not a dancer.  Except for the BeeGees, I hardly paid attention, and then only because my sister thought they were great.   But what can you tell about musicianship by songs on the radio?  We all know that producers get a lot of credit because they make music.  The sound quality on radio is always compromised.  It was 1977  when I heard Steely Dan & couldn’t get enough of  Deacon Blues: And everyone was listening to AJA:  . Steely Dan—the group that was not a group: Fagin and Becker WERE interested in actual music. Did anyone actually care that they weren’t a ‘group’? They  bring a big band with them. Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2007  was incredible.  Hearing the crowd actually quietly singing along to Aja: mindblowing.  I saw them twice at Ravinia. Too bad so many ‘fans’  can’t sit in a venue seat for an hour ( ‘1st Merit Bank ‘pavilion’ —–what pavilion?  Had it rained, we would have all been  goners… in 2016.  –they allow drinks to be sold by walking vendors throughout the concert!  Like at a ball game!  So it disintegrated into vendors & drunks running all over).

That’s why I didn’t & still don’t go to rock concerts The money and the crowds.   More important,  when you go to a concert in a stadium, you hear sound system, not the actual music.    I went to  small clubs and heard John Mayall with Sugarcane Harris—live:

  I gradually drifted to jazz, and I loved going to small clubs and hearing big bands.  I heard  Woody Herman & the Thundering Herd a couple of times: .  I heard Lionel Hampton live, and Gary Burton several times.  In a small room, you really hear the music.  So, even though I heard Queen songs on the radio and found them to be compelling (how can you not listen to Bohemian Rhapsody?), I liked the music, but wasn’t into the show.  They weren’t jazz, weren’t actually heavy metal.  Glam rock?  Not interested.  They sounded produced.  Yet, how often have so many of us heard songs by Queen, and  said, “Who is that?”  In the USA, at least since the  mid 1990s, you could not go to a basketball game & not hear “We Will Rock You,” or “We Are the Champions.”  And the past several month I have heard  three Queen songs in  three different advertisements. .  There are enough videos on line where you can  see actual performances, and learn about Freddie Mercury’s  life of excess. Queen were not just serious musicians, they were  serious performers and appreciated  that Freddie could not just sing, but put on a show that entranced people.  But the music…can you top this: ?    Or, how about this:  . No synthesizers….all May, Taylor , and Deacon backing Freddie on piano. This is also Freddie Mercury:  Yep…same guy who jumped around in a catsuit.  He wrote that.  He also wrote & performed this:  What  a musician, What a stage presence. 

Well have to give Brian May and Roger Taylor the benefit of the doubt with choosing  Adam Lambert as a lead singer.  Especially since they are still choosing to tour and do stadium shows. At least this isn’t …the Archies.