I saw an interesting article the other day about 50 albums turning 40 this year. The list is astounding—one look and you see masterpiece after masterpiece, all released in the same year. You also see something that never happens anymore, bands releasing more than one album in the same year. It used to be commonplace, bands like The Eagles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and so many others regularly released multiple albums in the same year and they all sold! Taking a decade or more to record albums was not only unheard of, it would have been the death of most bands.
I have many of the albums from this list. They’re all amazing. Here’s a partial list David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars; Genesis Foxtrot; Neil Young Harvest; Mott The Hoople All The Young Dudes; The Eagles and the Jeff Beck Group’s self titled albums; Rory Gallagher’s classic live album Live In Europe; Alice Cooper School’s Out; Yes Closer To The Edge; The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street and Deep Purple’s Machine Head-the album started so much in terms of heavy rock. If you’re interested you can view the entire list of albums here http://www.guitarworld.com/50-classic-albums-celebrating-their-40th-anniversary-2012. Wow, right!
So many things are obvious by looking over this list. The world was definitely a hipper place with strains of country, glam, rock, fun and progressive all mixing together. There was a working quality to these bands you just don’t see any more. If a band wasn’t recording they were on the road, playing shows, making groupies, shooting smack and living life on the edge. Not for one second were they standing still though. I don’t think it’s an arguable facts, the music was better, the bands were better, the shows were better. Forty years ago the music just meant more. I enjoy these albums not just because they were all released the same year I was born but because they’re all great albums.
What’s changed then? Well for starters the quality of music has definitely gone downhill. I know, you’re going to argue with me. Now in fairness I don’t know what the top albums of 2012 are so far and I don’t know what the top albums of 2011 were but I know what I see on TV and hear on the radio. The current crop of artists just don’t cut it for me. I could sit here and talk about why I think so many of the acts today are just no good but why do that? Instead I’ll talk about the one think that I think has killed music and that’s the absence of cross pollination in musical genres. It used to be that Miles Davis would listen to Jimi Hendrix and decide to add some guitar to his playing or Deep Purple would play a festival and hear a funk band and decide to add a little to their music, Jeff Beck would play songs written for them by Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, well David Bowie was just a mad professor mixing everything. Now though, well try and imagine an act like Katie Perry or Justin Bieber stretching what they do. Yeah I know, you can’t. I’m going to make a broad generalization here and say most modern music stinks. Even the stuff I like sounds like it was recorded between the years of 1969-1972.
Here’s the other thing that I think changed the way we view entertainment—it used to be that Zeppelin would release an album and tour the U.S. You didn’t know what the hell they were doing when they weren’t in your town defiling the local women with sharks (look it up). The internet changed all that. Suddenly I knew when Jon Bon Jovi was going down the street for a cappuccino and what kind of hair spray he used. MTV pushed these guys into our living room. It killed the music business. Well, that and the US government OK’ing huge corporations buying all of the local radio stations, concert venues and record companies. They’ve had a huge say in silencing most of the music they didn’t want to be heard and most of that music is independent, rock music not created on a computer and “fixed” by a producer when the singer couldn’t actually sing. They had a few requirements—you had to be cute, you had to be marketable and they’d really prefer if you weren’t rock. Now you can say I’m wrong but I’ll argue with you and eventually you’ll get tired and I’ll win.
Forty years ago the world of record labels and radio were freer places. Twenty years ago talent still bubbled to the top. Now, hits are manufactured and the acts (notice I haven’t said artists) are so much weaker because of it. Music isn’t what it used to be. Like me, those albums created 40 years ago are classics. Oh sure, they cover might be a little bent, the surface might have a few scratches, the labels might be faded but dig a little and you’ll find a magical world of wonder waiting for you. Yep, just like me.