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WTF Happened to Music (with balls)? "We NEED to Rock."
Episode 35th June 2021 • ManHearted • Asher Black
00:00:00 00:25:13

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Asher wants to know why there's no good contemporary rock music, why there's not a current Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Rush, or Pink Floyd. Comments on Classic Rock, Prog Rock, and music with balls. Asher argues something has changed, and it's not just the 'natural evolution' that always happens, but a dilution from which you can't get back to awesome.

This time we're going to be talking about music. Music in general. Well, sure.

But with some emphasis on rock music and I should probably acknowledge my tastes. You might say my bias. So I like music up until about 1984. That's the easiest way of saying it. If I had to cut off some period of music and just throw it out and do with the rest, I think you wouldn't hurt me too much. If you made 1985 the year we threw it all away that he arguably it was, there was some good stuff produced after that. I'm not saying nothing good came after 84. You know, the Joshua tree album by YouTube is pretty good. I did Mumford and sons more recent group, and there's a variety in, Americani got Ray LaMontagne and in every genre, there's some interesting music. Okay. But it's just so much less. I mean, you know, when I was growing up the music from the sixties and the seventies it filled the radio except for the top 40 stations.

We have these top 40 stations, but me and my friends didn't listen to that. And we listened to cream on the radio and Steppenwolf and deep purple and all that stuff, maybe less Steppenwolf, but we listened to the kind of stuff that, you know, in my view is the root of so much contemporary rock music up until 84. And, you know, it was the generation right before mine that essentially invented punk. But it was still going strong. When I was in high school, heavy metal, my generation is the one that sort of made it mainstream. And then of course, you know, the new wave came in and there was some good eighties music. I didn't care for it then, but you know, I've come around. I liked it. It reminds me of the time and sandwiched in between punk and heavy metal is something we didn't have a name for.

Most of us kids just call it rock and roll. And our parents called it hard rock, which they contrasted with soft rock, which I think must must've come out of disco, but it was sort of like the air supply, easy listening version of rock and roll. You know, it didn't have a lot of balls so to speak. And so that includes people like back in the day, Jackson brown, Tom petty, Billy idol, Eddie money, good old working class, beer swilling, hard hat wearing kind of rock and roll bolt-on neck, fender, guitar, Marshall stack, vamps, you know, that sort of thing. And you know, that stuff even changed once Jackson brown did the lawyers in love album and you know, it kinda went downhill. It's not like Boulevard back in the old days, Tom petty you know, I don't really dig all that free falling stuff reef, no, it's gotta be back in the days of needing to, I need to know.

And refugee and American girl you know, she was an American girl, all that stuff that it's the guitar licks and the attitude you know, and Billy idol did white wedding. It had that sinful collar turned up a scandal built into it and everything sorta got cleaned up after that. Granted there was Madonna prince and all that sort of thing, Michael Jackson, but that's high points going out in my opinion. So I dig Americana, you know, Townes van Zandt, not Taylor swift, not top 40 country, not Travis Tritt, yes. To Johnny Cash and all of that. Sure. Willie Nelson, I did heavy metal not all the fattest derivatives. I don't need goth metal and death metal and you know, all of that stuff, but share ACDC black Sabbath led Zepplin. I think of that as progressive rock, but, you know, yeah. Good stuff. Punk really liked it.

You know, I listened to the dead Kennedys back in the day. I'm into the clash. It was back then. And you know, there's been more than one sort of punk wave. And I like some of the music come out of the resurgence and the post punk stuff, you know, but after the Ramones and the strokes I still think that some things sort of went downhill. Again, these are opinions, but what are you going to do? That's what we got. Right. So, you know, you might call it what I like classic rock, although that sort of has a vibe now that means, you know, you play free Freebird and stairway to heaven a lot. And that's not exactly what I mean, my, my tastes were much more eclectic. So Joe Strummer and punk did a lot more than just punk.

And although you could call it all punk, all these guys are a little bit punk and stray cats in rockabilly, you know, Brian sets here that was some, some hot stuff. And I'll even say and this is just getting into the topic, but again, acknowledging my attitude and bias and where it comes from. So you can do what you want with it. You know, I remember 82, 83, the us festival that's us as in us, it was sort of billed as the new Woodstock and Steve Wasniak was behind it. He was the partner for, for Steve jobs, obviously apple, and Wazniak wanted to do something really cool, rock and roll and bring about a festival and more, I think what the possibilities were of bringing people together around rock and roll. You got to remember, this is a time when the Berlin wall was still up, the cold war was in full swing.

Reaganomics was crushing. It wasn't supposed to be, everybody was cheering it on from a sort of moral majority standpoint, but that deregulated trickle down economics crap, put a lot of people out of work, closed down the savings and loans and banks and, and really made things a living hell for a lot of people. And so why the NIAC put this festival together, not him alone, but, but he was a key player. I remember listening to that thing. I wanted to go the father wouldn't let me go, like, look, he's like, you don't have any money. You don't have a hotel room, a hotel room. I'll stay in a tent. I don't care. Ah, yeah, no, I wasn't gonna get out of the house, but man, I wanted to hitchhike there. So I was stuck listening to the thing on a radio.

I should've just gone, but I remember, you know, everybody played there. I mean, everybody stray cats played there, the clash played there. God Fleetwood Mac played there, you know, Judas priest played there. There was a heavy metal sort of day and a punk day and all this. But I remember more than anything bono from U2 back then it was the war album, which I still think, I know there's all these diehard U2 fans that have different opinions. And I look at some of those albums as kind of arty, but the war album to me was actually really cool. You know, I, I put it next to the clash, although, you know, some punkers are going to shoot me for that. And I remember Bano climbing the scaffolding, his roadies are pulling it, his legs and he's climbing the scaffolding where the, the lighting and the speakers and everything, or you're not supposed to be up there.

And he's climbing up with a giant white flag and swinging it back and forth over the crowd. And he's singing. I think it was like a song from that album, which is a great song. And and I remember just, I couldn't sit down. I mean, just being on my feet the whole time cheering it, yelling down in the basement where I lived and I, that was a different era. And I miss that. I don't get any of that vibe anymore. Something's happened with, with rock music and a lot of people would disagree with me. They'll say, oh, everything changes, everything evolves, music follows the culture. And I find that to be a little bit of a cliche and not to address the underlying question of whether the substance has been diminished and whether the passion has been diminished. And whether, you know, back in my day, people would have said, everybody's sold out and commercialism has taken hold.

I think it's actually deeper and darker than that, but just saying everything changes, therefore, what, what's your point? It sort of shies away from the point. You can argue about the rise of fashion and oh, you know, different movements happen and things come and go. Yeah. And it's kind of a non-sequitur right. What's your point. We should ignore fascism then say that, you know so I feel that music isn't the same. And one of the biggest things that bothers me is sort of the fakeness that I see in music. And I'm going to sort of make that the topic today is sort of the artificiality and where we've gone with rock music. And I'm not gonna talk about how, you know, boy bands get built and people sell out to a kind of reality TV programming template and, and build these things based on data research and schlep them out as an off the shelf product, because there's already people talking about that.

And if you like that kind of stuff, you're not going to hear me anyway. You're just gonna want to know what the latest boy is wearing that on that Korean K-pop album. And that's fine. Go listen to that stuff. But when I was a kid growing up, MTV came out, it was new. And you know, it went through a lot of different iterations, but the first version of MTV, what was revolutionary about it was you could watch music videos for the first time. It wasn't just the radio. It was visual, right. It was a cable TV thing. And what's funny about it is I watched it. If I had to, I watched it, there was nothing on, cause it was better than 90% of what was on TV. What are you going to watch? Another episode, a night writer, BJ and the bear you're gonna, well, that was a great jiggle show.

So if you're into Charlie's angels and jiggle shows like that. Yeah, it was pretty good. You know, looking at Kate Jackson and Jacqueline Smith and Farrah faucet and then on BJ and the bear, you know, screw the monkey out. We were all looking at the girls, but if that wasn't on, you'd have MTV on. But the thing that felt like our music when I was a kid was called night flight and night flight was back to back all night long. The thing would kick on about 11 o'clock at night run till about four in the morning. So, you know, the deal was, stay up what? You're not in the music. All right. Go to bed then Mrs. Cleaver, you look very nice today, Joan. Okay. Wally tomorrow, it's eight o'clock it's after dinner. It's time for bed. So you stay up and you watch night flight and a night flight was heavy metal and progressive rock.

It was cream, it was deep purple. It was all this stuff I'm telling you about. Interspersed with, you know, shows from the black and white era like space cadet. It was really kind of cool. It was if think Nick at night, but roll it back to the early eighties. And it would just go on and on epic performance after epic performance punctuated with this fun stuff. And if you were, you know, if you were stoner at the time and you get high while you're watching it, or just get your hands on a little bit of whiskey, you had a great time. It was a, it was a party on TV. And you'd call your friends who were watching, Hey, turn on night flight, man, what do you mean? Turn it on. No, it was in the other room though. What's happening? What's happening deep purple is doing this thing, man.

You got to see it. It was great. So we associated that with substance. And I remember that the same thing was true on the radio. You know, we had high school for a lot of people, certainly for me, it was broken up into the groups. Have you ever seen the movie valley girl? You know what I mean? You had the Jackson stoners, the preppies, the hoods, actually we didn't call them stoners. That was, I think that happened down in the south or later we, you know, we were called hoods my people and it nerds and geeks, they were sort of getting invented. And you know, you had the academicians, you had the jacks, but at my school it had a lot of money. It was very much like the preppy school and valley girl and everybody listened to 40 oh Mickey. She's a fun, she's a fun.

Blow my mind. God, that stuff made me want to say, or, you know, Rick Springfield yet. I want Jessie's girl. I, it, it was hard, hard. And you know, we'd skip school and go shove some led Zeppelin into the tape deck. Because everywhere you went, you had led Zepplin cassettes or, or rush or whatever. And we'd, you know, escape from all that crap. And I remember at night we had this station that would just say to hell with the FCC to hell, with the record companies and you weren't supposed to play more than three songs on the side of an album. You couldn't really play a whole side and you also swear. And they would say things like, it. We're going to play one side of led Zeppelin four and they get done with it, you know what, this.

I mean, you're really not supposed to play a full album, so we're gonna play the other side. And then I go, you know what? Let's, we're changing our program tonight. Let's just do all the led Zeppelin albums. Let's back all the way up to led Zeppelin, which for some of you is not called one. That was great. And I had a call in show and we were on it all the time. My friends and I would call in and do little skits. I would impersonate Ozzy Osborne talking to Timothy Leary and drinking purple Kool-Aid while Jim Jones was still fresh. We'd have a great time. People at high school the next day would shout out. I heard you on the radio last night and it was fun. It was a vibe, it was an atmosphere. It was a community of people engaging in rock and roll as though music was an ongoing cultural conversation, not just an art form that was schlepped out as a product.

We didn't wait for the next CD to drop or the next album to drop you engaged in music as a language with each other. And what I would say, typified that music, that myself and started the other underground types and the heads liked on the POCs liked is it was music with roots music, with substance and music with integrity, those three elements, roots, substance integrity, roots, meaning it goes back to something arguably goes back to slave music and gospel through the blue jazz and the blues. It pulls in portions of Appalachian folk music. And it becomes, ultimately it brings in, you know, British rock and roll and becomes ultimately some form of what we hear today. That stuff, the fact that it's rooted in something, put it into kind of an active evolution that we were all watching carefully and participating in it.

Wasn't a product slept out of a data research plant in Hollywood and then substance man, you know, for all the crap that progressive rock tags by people calling it prog rock and saying it's pretentious, what's it pretending to that it's longer than three minutes and has more than three chords in it. So, yeah, I mean, it was an attempt to make operatic music was attempt with people to say, look, you know, let's look at what Mozart and Beethoven dead, and many people fail to meet. And there were imitators and there were posers, but there were also, there was some great compositions that were kind of groundbreaking and they're shaking. Go watch a YouTube video about Robert plant talking about how stairway to heaven was written, a watch that video, what they were trying to do. It it's legitimate stuff. And just so you know, the whole composition was written before a single lyric was written.

They were musicians first. So substance and then integrity. And you know, you could call that the internal integrity of the music, or just the integrity of not being full of and talking about things you don't know about. And I remember when Brian Adams did that song, the summer of 69 and somebody pointed out that guy was like four in 69. He wasn't driving around any Camaro, you know, and playing his guitar or doing anything a backseat. So I'm not picking on Bryan Adams, but I'm just saying while it's subjective, I think those things typify a kind of music that has gone south, so to speak, it's gone away largely it's watered down anyway. I can give you an example. Fender guitars has come out with this thing called the road warranty series road, Warren, as in Warren by being on the road, you know what I have a problem with, it's basically fender guitars that cost 200 or 300 extra dollars to get them in the road worn version.

You get the same version. It's not road worn for $300 less, but the roadway version already has the Nicks and scratches and dents in it as though you've been traveling on the road. You know, so anybody, I think anybody with any substance, anybody with any integrity, anybody that respects roots is going to look at that and roll their eyes and say, yep, sooner or later, they had to make a product for posers. I mean, seriously, it's like guys that dragged their jeans behind their truck to give them the beat up look so that they come off as blue collar or wear Carhartt clothing, brand new Carhartt clothing, or they try to beat it up as though they worked for a living and they've never poured any concrete or, or done anything that constitutes manual labor. And they're wearing work clothes. It's a little lame.

And what I'm saying is it's a substitute for the roots. It's a lack of substance and it's kind of a lack of integrity. So you see this in popular music with minor chords. You know, I had a friend who, a blues musician and he said, you know what, if you really want to, when I was single, he's like, if you really want to meet girls, just go pick up an old guitar, teach yourself a few minor chords and go belt them out in a coffee shop. You'll have a date. You'll seem soulful. Even if you don't have that life experience. I thought that was hilarious. I haven't forgot that as you're sitting in Sam Ash, and you're watching, you can sit there for an hour and five different would be singer songwriters will walk in and try to buy the rig. They're going to use in coffee shops and they'll sit there and belt out a sweet melody matched with some, some minor chords.

They got the Amex. You know, they're not living the hard life, but they're, they're trying to be soulful. Or this thing where grown men who are, you know, could be manly. Men are artificially making their voice. Hi, this is a thing, Google it. There's, it's become a thing now in popular music for young men to go up an octave in their voice to get really high pitched. I don't know what it is. I mean, is it hashtag me too? You know, what's the deal. You don't believe me. Go listen to ed Sheeran. Speaking of which the tiny guitar thing is kind of a fad. Everybody, you know what the I asked a selling item is they can't keep them in stock. It's the potluck, a guitar. You go buy a parlay guitar. The whole thing is it, you know, it looks like you're, you're on a campfire.

Something like that. The parlor guitar was designed for Victorian ladies. It was a ladies car, sorry. It was designed to be played in the freaking parlor. You know, your living room when you had other refined ladies over for tea and you know, people are, are treated like it's soulful at me. Who do you think you are you Bob Dylan? So this fact of just this faddish cliche substitute for actually doing the work is contrasted by if you look into the, the Beatles recent documentary talks about the fact that they did the work. I think it's called hard day's night because they did the hard work. They did countless, countless nightclubs, the slog of playing in dive after dive in order to get the synchronicity that left then play together and to really refine their craft before they ever became the Beatles that we know.

And that work can't be replaced by buying yourself you know, $200, partly guitar raising your voice and octave and belting out a few minor chords in a coffee shop and calling yourself a singer songwriter and writing about experiences. You haven't had the hardness of the road. So yeah, I get everything changes, but I think music follows the culture. And if one asks the...