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a feeling : no really new music can be recorded any more.
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Edited Aug 31, 2008, 12:24
Re: a feeling : no really new music can be recorded any more.
Aug 31, 2008, 08:33
The only place where we fundamentally disagree is right here

"Technical ability is even more over-rated than Randy Newman. Idea's are far more important than musical ability will ever be."

All human beings can have genius ideas every moment of every day. The world is full of woulda coulda shoulda geniuses who let the ideas come and go for whatever reason. Ideas are nothing much. A spasm of the unconscious.

What divides those that do from those that could is the will to make it happen, the economic circumstances, the dedication to master a craft and the tools to do it with.

Put simply I believe that people with technical ability and people with a creative work ethic have more chance of making great music than those who don't.

Being able to play (and write) requires practice, requires dedication and the bloody mindedness to stick with it when you sound like shit and you are impressing no one including yourself. It weeds out the wasters.

A guitar teacher pal of mine is swamped with clients from better known indie rock acts (old and new) who are trying (on the quiet) to catch up to their own hype. People who are being ushered on to the big stage for the first or last time and know they don't yet have the know-how.

Then there were the post punk musicians who really could play but hid that ability as best they could to avoid the ire of those with a penchant for inverted snobbery. They were as much bona fide gifted savants when playing in the naive style of the day as they were bona fide cockneys when dropping their aitches. Nothing was worse for ones cool in the late 70s early 80s than conspicuous ambition. Which is why chaps of a certain age still use the word bourgeois as a dreaded insult. Silly sods.

Do they think Picasso, Miro or Bacon could have acheived what they did without amazing technical ability and burning ambition? Bertolucci or Herzog or Wenders? Ligeti, Henze or Reich? Porter, Berlin or Ellington? Becket, Camus or Weil? Richter, McCullin or Beuys? Gaye, Robinson or Mayfield?

What Peel did (for whatever reason) was to make side-stepping the inconvenience of hard work a virtue. Yet being a snob (in the best possible sense) he never would have accepted the same thing in a Soul or Reggae record would he? Try making a "Heard It Through The Grapevine" or "Conquering Lion" without being able to play.

It's like all the English football geniuses who have one or two great years and never get any better. It's cos they accept second best too easily and believe their own press. The English prefer those who don't appear to need to work at the fine details of their craft as that excuses their own sloth. The Bowles, Marsh, Hudson, Gazza syndrome. The so-called doomed geniuses. The nearly men.

The English either like effortless genius or the sweaty, artless, huff and puff of the yeomanry. Making an effort at developing a craft is thought of with a suspicion which is redolent of the anti-semitic strains of anti-intellectualism between the world wars.

I shudder to think how many potentially great bands never got close to what they could have acheived because they believed all the guff a Jonh Wilde or a Chris Roberts or a Simon Reynolds gushed over them after one single and a couple of gigs at the Bull n Gate.

As for the economics of all this it's no coincidence that lower middle class kids made a lot of the best records in the 60s and 70s - it's because they had access to the tools, access to a range of influences (being able to buy records, being able to afford to go to art school, not having to take menial jobs to support families etc) and the time to develop that into something. And they were working in an era of great social mobility it was possible to turn ability and love of form into an escape hatch out of low level white collar drudgery.

This all sounds terribly careerist but the greatest artists tend to be exactly that - Nietschean , monomaniacs. And it is exactly those kinds of people will put in the effort at any expense to develop the greatest facility. Which is why so many successful people are horrible to be around. They are not like that because they are successful. They are like that because selfishness is what it takes to build an audience and a body of work.

British music history is full of examples of artists who spunk out a couple of great singles and then go back down the pub. Content with local hero status. They'll never write "The Idiot". They'll never record "Correct Use Of Soap".

It is also why the hardest working, sharply focused and best organised bands are very often the most successful. It's certainly what pushed U2 ahead of Simple Minds and the Bunnymen. The will to power. Pre Joshua Tree it would have been impossible to say which one would come to rule the planet. For better or for worse. As with your Yes and ELP examples what made all those acts turn to shit was not being able to play too well. Being able to play is what gave them the opportunity. It was hubris what killed the radio star and an absence of taste.

I love singles but they are just that. They are a short story, they are a minature, a ten minute film before the main feature if you will. The mark of a true artist is being able extend the idea into a series of statements or a single grand work. That and having the intelligence and self-awareness and the good taste to be able to successfully edit their own output.

We agree on Randy Newman.
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