This is a question that every now and again turns up in my discussions with my friends and colleagues about the alleged decline of the so - called Rock and Roll music and the state of the industry.
And it’s the same question I am asking you all: Whatever happened to Rock Mythology? I am an avid consumer of anything related to music production philosophy and I am obsessed with observing the interactions between the musicians, activity I enjoy and carry out with the eye of the behaviourist.
Musicians are a weird breed, they either lead a miserable life or are kings on Earth, and sometimes they switch back and forth between the two statuses (sic transit gloria mundi, somebody would say).
It’s only natural that their manifestations are at least unconventional to the eyes of the mortals. But I digress.
I love, I was saying, for example, to watch the DVD series “Classic Albums”, where great records from the past (Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of The Moon”, Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key Of Life” and the list goes on) are dissected: the artists and the producers sit in front of the mixing desk and point out all the cool tricks they used during the sessions and everybody talks about the philosophy and the scope of the production.
At the same time I am a curious collector of the stories from the lives of the artists, activity I happily share with some of my friends; we just enjoy exchanging the funny or inspiring anecdotes we know about our favorite artists. And we try to be objective about stuff (even if you shouldn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story, Yes I just quoted Mark Twain, it’s exactly what I did)
And we always stand in awe in front of Sting’s humorous sharpness, Keith Moon’s recklessness, David Gilmour’s posh understatement, Neil Peart’s cleverness, Steven Wilson’s acumen or this and that adventure of the famous session player during the works for that record or while on that tour. I could go on for hours.
We like Rock and Roll because it’s loud, powerful and fun (and, in my tastes, clever as well), but we also dig the mythology that surrounds it. The experiences made by, the tension amongst, the antics of the musicians are all part of the overall experience of perceiving the Music and the artist as a whole. And you can feel the enthusiasm, the fight, the discovery in your favourite records.
Just put on The White Album or Synchronicity or Close To The Edge or Kind of Blue or Songs of Faith and Devotion or Achtung Baby to feel the tension, the elation and the complexity of the minds of the executors and the producers. Problem is: there seems to be a time limit after which we run short of good stories. Somehow it seems like all the cool stuff stops roughly somewhere around 1996.
Sure we still have the Foo Fighters and their record made straight to tape and yes, we love… I am already struggling looking for fitting examples.
Now: Sadly I am on the wrong side of the 30s, so I might as well be on my way to become old and grumpy(er). The music all of a sudden is too loud and I feel a strange urge to go and listen to Philip Glass instead of Opeth.
But is it just me or you too are missing that peculiar fascination with the backstreets of your favourite artist’s lives? Who are the new gods? Where is the new Mithology?
And what does that tell about the state of the industry?