Tuesday, January 31, 2012

what they sang decades ago

One of the many changes having a child in the house has caused is the conscious effort I have to make to not have a television playing. Lest you get the idea that I ever had an array of "afternoon programs," let me assure you I did not. But background noise is good. And I usually try to avoid music as background noise...because I just end up listening to the music instead of doing my work. I understand people who listen to tunes as they write not at all.

But while I am not one of those people who think of television as evil (I used to be a media scholar, after all), I don't want my daughter too overwhelmed by television. My wife has caught her staring at it several times...even when it's turned off. On the other hand, the sound of an empty house has always struck me as kind of creepy. My compromise? I have the tv on the 60s Digital Music channel a lot. But as always, my mind refuses to shut off completely when it's on...so I now have a list of things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt about the sixties...at least in terms of music.

  • A huge portion of the music made by whites (particularly in the beginning of the decade) is horrific. Frankie Avalon? Frankie Valli? Gawdawful. People who think today's pop is bland and generic should listen to the pop of the past. Pop music has always been bland and generic.
  • On the other hand, the more I listen to this channel, the larger my appreciation for The Funk Brothers (the awesome backing group of Motown) grows. Is everything Motown awesome? Of course not, but this band might have the best arrangements of anyone. Whenever I hear Jack Ashford's tambourine play, I get happy.
  • There is a huge difference between The Beach Boys when they were really firing on all cylinders ("Sloop John B." or "Wouldn't It Be Nice?") and when they were playing half-heartedly (their awful cover of "Rock and Roll Music"). They really could've been one of the best bands in the world (if you doubt this, you should go now to listen to "Help Me, Rhonda"), but drugs? egos? something stopped them from being at all consistent.
  • I often wish I would've been a musician back during this time...because the state of the art (particularly in the beginning of the decade) was not all that good and I would look like a genius by comparison. Early rock and roll guitar solos were often (if not regularly) just the song's melody line. Anyone nowadays could do better. Hey, maybe that's why people used to think Clapton was good.
  • The state of the art, though, really did improve as the decade came to an end. While they weren't all brilliant, I will argue that drummers were generally better at the end of the sixties (particularly in heavy blues rock) than they are now. Really: John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Bill Ward, Keith Moon, and so forth. What the hell happened to drummers? Why have they become in general so unadventuresome?
  • I've realized that although I prefer the later Beatles, I still kinda like their early bubblegum stuff. The early work of the Rolling Stones, though...much less convincing. They don't do good hippie stuff. Their 70s material more than makes up for it, though.
  • One final certainty: Vanilla Fudge's version of "You Keep Me Hanging On" is the heaviest object in existence.

As usual, I will probably fight to the death defending any of these claims...particularly if you catch me in a bar.


smokeyb4 said...

couple of quick bits:

first: just 60s and nothing else? I find the classic jazz and classic blues stations nice change-ups from my usual listening fare.

second: genius is relative in that one most likely builds on what one has to work with. Can you presume you'd be able to have come up with the shred of 80s if you were a native denizen of 63? Your Clapton argument parallels that of my usual Stevie Ray response - respect it for what it is, but I'd rather listen to about a fifty different Scandinavian dudes instead.

third: there are many a drumming beast practicing/performing today - at least within my metal fringelands.

fourth: you seem to have confused somnambulant with heavy. Carmine Appice... really?

themikedubose said...

First: when I decided to give the big band/swing channel a try, I knew I'd never go back to the 60s.

Second: Good argument about cumulative knowledge, but the 60s did have Zappa...so it could be done back then. What was done (in the mainstream, at least) was pretty silly as a rule. As far as Clapton? I love Cream. Hate everything else he's done.

Third: You're right, but [fourth] in terms of mainstream drumming, I still say drums suck in comparison to the sixties.

I need to do more music posts because I love/miss these debates with you.