When Adele sings ‘we could have had it all’ she really had no idea of the sentiments it evokes in us baby boomers. Boy did we have it all……and then some. I feel it’s about time I thanked my mother for immaculately timing my conception, I mean who would have wanted to be born in any other time! Growing up I would hear my brother playing his records in his bedroom whilst getting ready for those endless nights of revelry. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran until along came those lads from Liverpool, The Beatles. The fifties moulded nicely into the sixties and throughout the decade our lives were enriched by an abundance of timeless music. Remembering talent isn’t hard because the reason it stays with you forever is it still sounds as fresh as the day you first heard it.
OK let’s do normal for a minute….well maybe not then. I often used to think wouldn’t it be great if there was a transfer market in the music industry much the same as in soccer. When you get Real Madrid paying around 75 million for Ronaldo, what could the boy Bono go for? Can you imagine if Radiohead took a dip in sales and they put Thom Yorke on the transfer list and bid 30 million for Bono. It could be a straight payment, part swap where Thom goes to U2. Maybe they even part ex drummers. The popularity of a band might dip if they knew the singer had been transfer listed, it would keep everyone on their toes though.
Just think if Pink Floyd were still touring they could have two subs. If Dave Gilmour lost his voice and it went ‘Comfortably numb’ then they could bring on another singer with a number 12 shirt on. It would be a strategical managerial decision, Dave wasn’t cutting it and his manager would lift a card at the side of the stage and at the end of the number, pull him off. The audience would be cool,they’d understand……it’s tactics
You could make it even better if the band didn’t announce their squad before the gig so you’d have no idea who the sub(special guest) was. It could even change the result, there may be extra time….no penalties though, that may be a little harder.
Look at the publicity, you’d have the photo of the manager and his new artist leaning over the contract and the headline ‘Bono goes to Kiss for 30 million’ If you had someone like Robert Plant who was a great singer but getting on a bit he could maybe go to The Jonas Brothers on a free for the season. What would happen if Sheryl Crow blew it in rehearsals and she was dropped on the night, and her backing band went on and did just instrumentals. If a singer was drunk and off key he could get sent off and again the band would have to play instrumentals. You would have to be strict in the event of a sending off, naturally you wouldn’t e allowed to bring a substitute singer on. It would be the equivalent of playing out for a scoreless draw away from home.
Of course you could get a scenario like Nicolas Anelka though when he was swapping clubs every month,that would attract the greedy agents. Every time an artist went to a band they’d get their 20% so it’s in their own interests for them to move around. It could get messy though because you could have a situation where a four piece have four different managers. It makes it interesting though, don’t you think?
I’m off for a little lie down now……….
I don’t miss going to gigs. I spent most of my life there for the best part of 25 years either with bands I was working with or choosing to go and see others in the time I had off. And looking back I saw pretty much everyone I wanted to.
Now here’s the difference…………..I actually saw them, I wasn’t just there. Today you can re mortgage your house and get yourself a ticket somewhere up in the Gods to ‘see’ a band. It’s not the same, something is happening on stage and to prove you haven’t been ripped off they’ll show the performance on a couple of screens in the arena and you can then see it’s the show you paid to see.
I feel very lucky though that everyone who ever meant anything to me I’d seen in a concert hall of less than two thousand. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, The Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen…the list goes ever on. I saw Bruce earlier this year courtesy of my ex who very kindly bought me a ticket to the Tampa show. A huge amount of money to be seated up several tiers and I couldn’t help been taken back to the Manchester show when he was touring around ‘The River.’ I’d bought the best part of the two front rows of the circle and re sold them to my friends at Granada TV…I knew the ticket agency so I got them to reserve some seats and it just grew and grew and grew!
Needless to say the show was incredible but what made it so good was you could see the energy close up, the sweat on his brow, the facial expressions , the interaction with his band, you could see it all. Sound and vision all rolled in to one…..it felt like he was there performing just for you. Bruce isn’t the only one who misses those days, he’ll still turn up and jam at a small venue with someone he likes, he needs the buzz he gets from seeing the whites of people’s eyes. His show has been tailored for arenas for a couple of decades now because he has become so huge but as used to it as he has become I bet he yearns back to that golden era when performances were so much more intimate. It was so personal.
With bands like REM, U2 it was even better as I watched them grow up playing clubs and performing to a handful of people. While the price of success means a greater demand for more people who want to see you, I can’t help but wonder that for so many concert goers today it’s all they have….stadia tours seem to be the norm.
This all started with the question, ‘What makes a great album.’ I can only offer my own conclusion because if I ever went in a recording studio I can guarantee one thing, that I wouldn’t come out with a great album. I can’t play or sing, maybe a great spoken word album but then again people might return it saying the needle’s stuck. Oh right, you don’t know what a needle is, oh dear.
It would be great to see an artists definition of this, ‘What does make a great album’? I’m thinking belief, talent, commitment with a dash of reality and an understanding that no matter how good you think it is you need to leave it at the mercy of others to make that final decision. If your manager, should you have one doesn’t like it and if they don’t say so what’s the point of having them as your manager? The record company then would be the first to stand up and offer their opinions and here’s where it’s changed, would of! There were times an A and R person could be driven to tears going down to a studio to hear the end result from a band they’d signed, and feeling visibly moved. And more than likely they’d matched the producer with that artist. Had it worked? He/she was the proudest person on earth, all the hard work to get to this stage and now the anticipation of finally hearing it. More often than not they’d be down the studio intermittently during recordings to see how things were developing and eagerly awaiting the final playback. And the artist couldn’t wait to show them what they’d come up with. THAT”S what made a great album, people sensing greatness, always wanting it but never knowing if or when it might come. But it was enough to keep them striving for it. Part of being great is knowing you can be great.
I’d love to have the opportunity to ask people like Roger Waters or Dave Gilmour from The Pink Floyd, ‘What did it feel like when you were recording Dark Side of the Moon?’ Did they know they were creating history or did that come later? Was there any time in the studio they thought, ‘Oh my God!’ Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to ask them, I’d love to know. Was there that moment in the studio when they were listening back to it when they thought, ‘Fuck!’
Likely they’d all be together at the studio listening back to it, band , record company, manager and maybe even their publisher. I know how I felt as a kid just waiting for a new album by some of my heroes. I’m thinking as an artist you cared, you took pride in your work, you didn’t want to let people down. After all it’s your audience that put you there and they have a right to judge you on merit, you set your own standards. Was it as good as your last album and if it wasn’t could it be that maybe it’s just a change of direction, would it grow on you? If you’d made a great record were you really great, could you sustain that greatness or had you had your moment? Whatever it was it still kept you hungry and wanting whether you recorded it or you bought it.
As we discussed before and we’ll ponder over again no doubt, where is the drive and the ambition? Do you make a record knowing that not many people will buy it, does it affect how you go about making it? If that’s the case then give it away, just make sure you give it away to enough people to find out what they think of you. That’s if you care, because if you don’t care then don’t expect anyone else to. So many basic human ingredients are infectious, they rub off on you. If you’re passionate enough about something and are sincere people buy in to it. It’s easy and you know why? It’s because you’re not trying to convince people, it’s there and it’s natural. And you mean it. You’re exposed for what you are, just someone being themselves, behaving naturally. People feel comfortable and relaxed about you and interested. Be real to see for yourself if you are real and let others decide for themselves if you are real. Real artists can believe they can make great records. Do we have enough?