Segarini: Rival Sons – Finally leading Rock into the 21st Century Part One

The Bobcast Bob May 6th 2013 CroppedFor the past several months, I have had difficulty finishing anything I start. I don’t know why, exactly, but it has been an ongoing problem that bothers me not because it makes me think that maybe I am running out of steam, but rather because I’m afraid it may mean that I am something I have never been, nor want to be.

Bored.

 

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When I was a kid, I remember my Dad and I listening to one of his customers at his store go on and on about how dull life was and there was nothing to do, and well, you get the picture. There is an almost cult-like sector of the population who constantly remind us on social media sites and everywhere else people gather, that life sucks, nothing is happening, things were better in the old days, there’s nothing to do, and this is the worst ______________ (fill in the blank) in history.

Segarini number 2

I say to them what my Dad said while I was standing next to him bagging groceries at the checkout lane 1 cash register of his market on Eldorado Street back in the late ‘50s. After the customer took his brown paper bag of cold cuts, saltines, and a pint of Old Grand Dad and headed for the exit, my Dad watched as he opened the door and walked out into Stockton’s warm summer afternoon and quietly said to no one in particular, “Only boring people get bored”.

And THAT is my fear.

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Radiated Whales BullshitYou hear this kind of negative, toxic posturing about everything these days. Everywhere you look, everything you read, and everything you hear, is punctuated by opinions based on conjecture, based on rumours, based on lies. People on both sides of an issue making up ‘facts’ and statistics to move their agendas forward, to sway the public’s opinion, to cultivate an army of believers to rail against whatever machine is being targeted for destruction. Apparently, life is barely worth living these days unless you have a righteous crusade to lead or popular cause to tilt your Liberal Bullshitsword at, but instead of working toward solutions to both real, and non-existing problems, a great many of us occupy our time with the art of BLAMING something or someone for whatever is bothering us the most. To believe these self-appointed pundits, Political Analysts, Philosophers, Watchdogs, Critics, Odds-makers, and Mind Readers, is to believe the worst of humanity and the lack of faith in the truth and the facts coming to bear before the witch hunt begins. “Gee Conservative BullshitGary, maybe we shoudn’t-a killed Pastor Franklin, he was just trimming a hedge with those clippers.”

What we end up with, whether we buy into it or not, is this: All politicians are corrupt or evil. All corporations are evil. All conservatives and Republicans are right wing fundamentalist morons. All liberals and Democrats are left wing, tree hugging spendthrifts who are ruining people’s chances to achieve success. All athletes are just playing for the money, fame and sex. All movies and television shows are being made to keep us from noticing what’s really going Yosemite Samon, and these days…Music sucks.

Wait…what?

Music sucks!?

Fuck you, you lazy, ignorant, stuck-in-the-past-through-rose-coloured-glasses-wearing, smug, blinders-on, weekend rocker, tribute-band-loving music-discovery-challenged-settle-for-what-has-gone-before-“I saw all the Good Bands”-quitter-monkeys. Music has NEVER BEEN BETTER!

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Evil corporations

I don’t much care about the rest of it, those things will sort themselves out and it’s pretty easy to ignore the Tin Foil Hat crowd once you realize that they have gained strength ever since 9-11 made spreading FEAR the new drug and pastime, but what they insist on spreading can, and will, only be resolved in one of two ways, so wasting time arguing who is right and who is wrong, or getting upset about it, is moot. It’s simple if you use your head and stop to consider the possible outcomes; If they are right, we should be dancing in the streets and having a great time before the hammer comes down, and if they’re wrong, well then, they are just making themselves crazy and trying to make the rest of us crazy along with them, for nothing. To live in fear of everything is not to live at all. …and seriously, if you want to change ANYTHING, use your wallet for some of it, and your vote for the rest of it. All this other twaddle is just that…twaddle.

But MUSIC?

How. Dare. You.

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Dirty DishesOn the other hand, thank you. If I was on the verge of becoming the dreaded ‘bored’, I feel as though the possibility has been eliminated. Remembering my right to attempt to use common sense to deal with all of these incessant, needless, negative, fear-driven, posters and speculators seems to have unclogged the pipes, and explains why I have been commenting all over Facebook lately, challenging these very subjects. You have cleared my head, and I feel like I have gotten back on course. After I finish this column (finally), I will finish my sandwich, take out the garbage, and wash my dish before it begins to mold. Thank you, Google challenged alarmists, thank you. Really. I mean it.

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Decades rarely, if ever, start in their first year. It usually takes about 3 or 4 years before the detritus and hangover from the previous decade finally dissipates and everybody mounts up and heads toward the jolly flying car (or dystopian) future before us.

Pop CultureWhen it comes to Pop Culture, the true entrance into the current decade is usually accompanied by a seismic shift in entertainment, sometimes subtle, sometimes epic, but the arts tend to reflect the changes on the street before the media catches on and spreads the word. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the other social media sites, tend to not only report trends and changes faster than previous forms of communication and reportage, but also create a great deal of the trends and changes that take place. Even so, what’s actually happening off your radar while other things are hugely popular in the public eye, takes time to surface, if at all. The mainstream public, who used to see and hear everything, now miss most of what’s available to them, due to she sheer volume of what’s being created, and the difficulty in finding that which is worthy of your attention.

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In the olden days (say, 1999) we were still pretty much dependent on what is now referred to as “The Mainstream Media”, i.e; newspapers, radio, television, and magazines. And though the Intertoobz were happening and you could wander around in its already vast labyrinth of choices, it had not yet evolved into the endless, monolithic, accumulation of the entire body of human knowledge and art, since the beginning of recorded history, and the never ending addition of everything new almost as fast as it is created…and it is still evolving and growing.

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NeandrathalsLike anything new and unprecedented, the first major sign of what would eventually become the new access to, and delivery system for, virtually all things you can think of in the way of art and entertainment was not embraced or understood as it should have been. Had we actually advanced from frightened Neanderthals into the sharp, reasoning, civilized, cookies we mistakenly believe we are, it was instead, oogled, vilified, rallied against, and beaten to death to the delight and satisfaction of those who considered it a threat. Instead, that act of premature elimination, has led to, if not the destruction, the complete marginalization and rejiggering of the victor, and diminished its importance and wealth substantially.

The fear inducing alien was Napster.

The victorious champion was the Record Industry.

Dead NapsterHad Napster been embraced and monetized by the record industry, we would have a much different landscape today. The record industry would still control music and the way it is listened to, sold, and distributed. Instead, a tech company that makes phones and computers basically controls the music industry, and the record companies, for the most part, create and manufacture product for a truncated, tightly programmed entity that was once a trusted  gatekeeper of new music and new artists, and was respected by anyone who loved music. It is still known by its name, Radio, but it has changed as much as everything else. The good news is, that over the last few years, things have been slowly starting to change yet again. Radio has a new competitor with a playlist that includes damn near everything that has gone before, plus 100s of new songs every day.

It is called You Tube.

Instead of a 3 or 4 year stretch before a decade fully comes to life, musically, we have been waiting for  Decade and a half for this Century to finally start.

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So, just using pop culture as a barometer for these mid-decade shifts. Let’s look back. Not too far mind you, just far enough to see if there is any truth to the  theory.

The Round Table

Recovering from the Great War, the ‘20s began with prosperity and a returning army of young people looking to make their mark. In New York, a dozen people spent the early years of the decade sitting around a table at the Algonquin hotel every day for lunch, eating the cheapest thing on the menu (hard boiled eggs) and drinking heavily. Some who could afford it , snorted cocaine from ornate snuff boxes, those who couldn’t crushed aspirin and snorted that from less ornate snuff boxes so no one thought them without means. As the decade wore on, these individuals became the new journalists, the new critics, the new playwrights, and the youth of the day and most everyone else, for that matter, followed all of them in magazines, newspapers, and on the radio. By mid-decade, they were all the cat’s pajamas. People flocked to the movies they wrote or acted in, embraced their fashion statements and comedy, their lifestyles, and used the catchphrases they penned. Eventually they would win 36 Pulitzer Prizes between them, and the names George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Harpo Marx, Tallulah Bankhead, Ruth Gordon, Alexander Woolcott and others, are still iconic in some circles. Further, what they created, Marx Brothers movies, books, magazines like Liberty, Life, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, not only informed the public for decades, some still publish.

Okay…even I know I am digressing like crazy. I’ll try and pick up the pace.

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The mid ‘30s gave rise to Hollywood’s ability to create lasting, iconic films with Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, even though those films did not reach their peak popularity right away.

The’40s saw music become a bridge between those at home and their loved ones overseas, and when the war ended in ’45, the recording, radio, and live performance venues thrived, as did War of the Worldsthe artists who became popular earlier in the decade.

The ‘50s started around 1954 and Elvis, the rock and roll, and everything from 3D to hula hoops captured the public’s attention. Science fiction came of age mid-decade as well, with War of the Worlds, This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, and When World’s Collide.

Do I honestly have to remind you of 1964? EVERYTHING changed.

The ‘70s. Disco. 1975. Still the majority of the music on radio. Call it what you want, it’s still disco. And rock, at least the torch bearer of it, found himself on the cover of both Newsweek and Time and was being called The Future of Rock and Roll…and for a time, he was.

I had seen Bruce Springsteen in the gymnasium of a New Jersey high school in 1969 or 1970. Unlike today, our stars grew, evolved, improved, and became seasoned before rising to the surface. It took The Beatles from 1959 to 1963 to break through.

Okay, that’s enough. Punk, MTV, Brit synth pop, Boy Bands, Divas, Urban/Rap/Hip Hop,, whatever else.

…which brings us to 2014…and Rival Sons.

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If you haven’t read this yet, read it before this coming Friday, please. I don’t want to repeat myself. Those of you who HAVE read it may continue. The rest of you can rest assured you can continue too, after you’ve done your homework.

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Between 2000 and 2010, most of the rock bands that were working and making money had begun in the mid ‘90s, and rock had already been shunted aside for what was being called grunge, then alternative, and occasionally, ‘modern’ rock. Now, I’m not saying there weren’t some worthwhile songs being written or bands making records and touring with some merit, but as someone who has had the pleasure of experiencing great musical shifts more than once, there was nothing of the caliber that had informed the last several invigorating changes. And I must not have been the only one who felt that way. Eventually, many of the once passionate rock writers and media commentators were announcing that “Rock Is Dead”, a proclamation, Stones 2014that surveying the existing music scene, had a ring of truth to it. Even the rock bands the public briefly embraced seemed like mostly retreads, or young musicians trying too hard. The older, once dependable remaining iconic bands from the distant past were still giving it their all, and that was fine, but where was something that would galvanize the music scene? Where was something not manufactured or prefabricated by a label, or old warhorse musicians who had done the deed years ago, and put new bands together with old friends from other bands who had recognizable names, so they could keep playing and rocking until the predicted demise of the genre of music they loved came to pass. Some even hoped to jump start a new rock era, but most knew that no matter how good they were, no matter how good the material was, even being aware of the situation precluded any hope of being the ‘fresh’ approach that was needed.

By this time, the only place you could hear good rock and roll on the radio were rock stations that became “Classic Rock” stations in increasing numbers as first the ‘90s, and then the first decade of the new century unspooled.

Classic Rock.

Classic Rock

The very name conjures up a plea for MORE “classic” rock. As time went by, it occurred to me that classic rock no longer means ‘rock from the past that everybody loved’, it has become a genre.  The problem was, the Classic Rock stations rarely if ever played NEW music in that vein, even if the ‘classic’ rock artists themselves recorded new material. And worse, the ‘classic’ rock bands could STILL fill large venues, some could even sell out stadiums, but the ‘classic’ rock fans did, and still do, something I find very puzzling…when the bands would play their latest material, the crowd would lose interest, go get a beer, hit the bathrooms, or just drift off until the intro to a hit from decades ago careened off the stage. The roar would be deafening, the crowd would be on its feet, and that old magic would feel almost like it did the first time you heard the song.

…and suddenly, it wasn’t just about the music anymore.

Rock is DeadMaybe it was about the past.

Maybe it was about our youth.

Maybe it was nostalgia, not music, that filled the arenas.

And a horrible thought presented itself.

Maybe rock was dead.

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Rival Sons – Finally Leading Rock into the 21st Century concludes this Friday.

Rival Sons

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Friday whenever he can finish one in time.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, and continues to write music, make music, and record.

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One Response to “Segarini: Rival Sons – Finally leading Rock into the 21st Century Part One”

  1. […] “…the ‘classic’ rock artists themselves recorded new material. And worse, the ‘classic’ rock bands could STILL fill large venues, some could even sell out stadiums, but the ‘classic’ rock fans did, and still do, something I find very puzzling…when the bands would play their latest material, the crowd would lose interest, go get a beer, hit the bathrooms, or just drift off until the intro to a hit from decades ago careened off the stage. The roar would be deafening, the crowd would be on its feet, and that old magic would feel almost like it did the first time you heard the song. …and suddenly, it wasn’t just about the music anymore. Maybe it was about the past. Maybe it was about our youth. Maybe it was nostalgia, not music, that filled the arenas. And a horrible thought presented itself. Maybe rock was dead.” Part One can be found HERE […]

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