Segarini Rerun: Music or Nostalgia…Which is It? – Going Back to Find the Future. Sons, Bones, and Loops….
Editor’s Note – Originally posted on January 21st 2015, this column bears repeating. Proud to say our track record is pretty good for sniffing out greatness in a sea of popular, financially successful mediocrity, but the continued confusion regarding the differences in worthiness and rose-coloured glasses steeped in nostalgia, needs to be addressed. When it comes to Greatness, consider the majority of what you hear on terrestrial radio as nothing more than Alternative Fact.
Everything comes from somewhere. If you don’t build on what has gone before, you are creating something without the benefit of a rock solid foundation to grow from.
Trying to recreate the past is a mistake made often by people who are more invested in the times represented by the music than the music itself, and using their love and knowledge of that music in the creation of something new.
In the case of music, sounding like The Beatles won’t bring back the 60s…but learning from their music and the influences that inspired them can help create the future.
Using The Beatles as an example (again…), the Fab Four of “My Bonnie” were not the same Mop Tops as the ones who recorded “Abbey Road”. Without the connective tissue of the albums and singles between their Tony Sheridan days and their final recorded album together, you would never be able to appreciate the evolution of both their songwriting and their performances. They absorbed their influences, mimicked them, and then grew their own unique sound from there…and they still kept their ears to the ground. Paul McCartney’s music displayed a shift after Harry Nilsson, Lennon’s was informed by the New York rock underground.
Like math, it is one thing to show your result when you solve an equation, but the work involved in achieving your result is much more important. An informed understanding of how an answer is arrived at trumps the right answer itself, every time.
In every field, the longest lasting example of what is currently available, is almost always the one that has grown with the times, learned from what has gone before, and by doing so, creates a unique and individual legacy that is recognizable regardless of how many times it evolves, develops, and shifts. The Rolling Stones who recorded “Last Time” were still recognizable in “Miss You”. This ‘arrived at’ identity is so crucial, that even something that is nowhere near as good as it once was can survive a very long time thanks to nostalgia and habit. Proving once again (again), that popular success and greatness are completely different things.
Case in point… Great product, bad marketing becomes bad product with great marketing and the result, oddly enough, is popularity and financial success based on the initial quality of the product, which was slowly replaced with its convenience, previous word-of-mouth (Nostalgia), and ubiquity. They are literally everywhere.
Greatness had nothing to do with it….
The burgers were 15 cents, the cheeseburgers 19 cents. They came with 2 or 3 pickle slices, mustard, ketchup, and a layer of diced onions on a 100% beef patty and a fresh bun.
Marketing goes up, product goes down….
Decades later and still a child’s favourite destination among the mainstream populace.
The kids can’t get there unless the parents drive them, and the parents need to have a reason to go beyond their kid’s insistence, hence the uptick to McDonald’s coffee. Better than Starbucks and less than half the price. A return to “I’m Lovin’ It”, their best and smartest campaign (along with “You deserve a break today”) coupled with a parade of nostalgic characters from the youth of today and yesterday, and using (not living in) the past, Mickey D’s marketing people get a solid bump. …now if they could only make their product as good as it used to be…but it doesn’t matter, people go anyway.
…just like the people who claim McCartney still writes great songs.
Nostalgia is very, very, powerful.
Believe it or not, people are starving for good music. Sadly, not even the people who are doing the starving are even aware that they are.
Out of sight, out of mind….
Sometimes the truth hurts. There is no better proof of that than in today’s contemporary music’s place in the public eye.
Music has been marginalized.
There was a time when music was The Great Gathering Place for people young and old. Musicians and Singers and Songwriters were Gods who walked the Earth.
We knew their names as well as we knew their music.
We could name all the members of a group, where they came from, what bands they had been in before, and any and all information about them and the music they created was important to all of us…because of the music.
These days, the focus is more on the rapsheet, the rehab visits, the hookups and breakups, and the money and foibles. It is about the ass, the tits, the bling, and the cars. It is about the feuds, the fame, the houses and the clothes.
…because, in too many cases…that’s all there is.
We’re Number One…uh…I mean 2…make that 3…damn…4?
Video Games, The Internet, Social Media, your Goddamn cell phone…ALL more important than music and the songs you hear on the radio.
Just look at these numbers. To put it in perspective, only Taylor Swift and the soundtrack to Frozen went platinum in the US last year…compared to just these individual benchmarks. Taylor swift was the only artist to sell over a million copies…almost 4 million currently.
Over 20 million copies sold
|1982||Michael Jackson||Thriller||Epic||(27,300,000‡)||29× Platinum|
|1971||Led Zeppelin||Led Zeppelin IV||Atlantic||23,000,000||23× Platinum|
|1973||Pink Floyd||The Dark Side of the Moon||Capitol||(20,502,000‡)||15× Platinum(as of 1998)|
|1977||Fleetwood Mac||Rumours||Warner Bros.||20,000,000||20× Platinum|
Now those figures are for years.
To see just how far album sales have plunged, read this Wikipedia page and have a gander at the included charts.
…on the other hand….
These statistics are monthly….
Facebook makes just over a billion dollars a month. That’s just under a dollar for every one of the 1.3 billion people who use it.
Here’s the music industry’s stats for 2013 courtesy of Billboard Magazine.
Hummph…music out done by adorable kittens, rants against Monsanto and Fat Mayors, and I Don’t Give a Fuck memes….
Overall in the World of recorded music, this is happening.
…but all is not lost.
Before we go any further, I implore you to read this article.
Watch the videos.
Watch the video of Maroon 5 and see what has become important…it’s not the song…
…it’s The Hit.
Who cares if it’s good as long as it sells.
Using the formula worked out by the record and radio industries over the last 2 decades has produced some terrific records that do have at their core some very expensive and well used technology and professional ‘hitmakers’. Occasionally, they also contain a damn well written song.
The interesting thing is that these records and artists seem to have their cake and eat it to. At the centre of their success are two undeniable linchpins; genuine talent and a great song. The production values of today’s music industry are present, but the material and performances set these tracks apart.
Here are just a few examples….
Chromeo – Old 45s
Based in Montreal, these 2 men have it goin’ on…and considering how important the visual aspect of music is today (Hi there, YouTube) these are highly entertaining.
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
In case you don’t know who Mark Ronson is, he’s a British kid who, among other things, produced a couple of albums you may own by Amy Winehouse and Adele. This, on the other hand, is way more to my taste.
One Direction – More Than This
Like 98 Degrees before them, these kids hang their hats on actually being able to sing and terrific material. What makes them special? They sold more tickets to live shows last year than anyone else on the planet. Unlike most of their peers, they tour constantly and deliver live. Look down your noses at them if you must, but they deserve your musical respect.
Over on the Country side, the fusion of country, pop, and rock, combined with today’s production values have also produced some ear candy that looks as good as it sounds. Great melodies, harmonies, lyrics, and playing…and singers who can…well…sing.
Maddie and Tae – Girl in a County Song
Everything about this song, performance, and visually entertaining presentation is so much fun, I’m surprised they haven’t crossed over…oh…right…tightly formatted radio. Don’t worry…nothing lasts forever….
Dustin Lynch – Where It’s At and Hell of a Night
Well, the pickup truck and drawl are still in evidence, but this cowboy is one of the new urban variety. These two songs just pop with energy, engaging lyrics, and good old fashioned values. The first song incorporates pop naturally and makes for a good hybrid, The second one just rocks. Kinda sounds like Nickelback if they were good and had better songs.
If you like these two tunes, check out “She Cranks My Tractor” by the same guy.
…and let’s not forget my beloved K-pop, The Girl Group sub-genre cranks out more good pop songs and singers than North America, and does it without sticking a butt in your face or dressing to stand on a street corner and turn tricks after the show. They can sing, they can dance, and they have somehow managed to be sweet, sexy, and innocent all at once. Far better role models for young girls, and far more entertaining than their writhing, pouting, and posing North American counterparts. …and in this particular case, it doesn’t hurt that the melody of the verse of this song borrows from the chorus of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”. …and it is nice to see Taylor swift isn’t the only singer keeping her pants on….
A Pink – No, No, No
Rick Astley – Never Going to Give You Up
So yes…being aware of the past and letting your past favourites influence you is the right way to start, learn, evolve, and become someone who is unique, yet grounded in what has gone before.
It should be a natural occurrence, and when it is, magical things happen. Look at The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, and even Elvis, all informed by what had gone before…and ended up not only unique, but also influencing others the way they had been influenced.
Now, we are on the cusp of their influence invigorating a new shift in music, another era of magic brought on by artists who want to create more of what they love, make music they want to hear, get up on a stage or set up in a studio and do what they do because it’s who they are, what they are. Fame and fortune, though part of the dream, takes a back seat to the music.
It all starts at street level. Always has, always will. Locally in the clubs, bars, and small halls, where local artists hone their craft and touring bands still eating burgers and sleeping in their van, earn their bones.
In the past 4 years, I have been witness to an ever-growing phalanx of worthy artists, traveling economy class, playing local clubs, writing, performing, upping their game at every level. Doing the work, This part of the development of a lasting musical legacy is much more important than winning a contest on TV.
For hard working, dedicated artists, it is their Hamburg.
Their Louisiana Hayride.
Their Sunset Strip.
Their Bleecker Street.
…and if the talent and songs are there, it almost always pays off. To wit….
The Atomic Puppies. Small town guys with Big City talent. From 100 seat clubs to this in 4 years….
Still a lot of club gigs ahead, but the influences and ambition, the love of what they do, and the fact that their songwriting is a focal point, it is just a matter of time.
Courage My Love
You can say the same about this set of incredibly talented hardworking twins and their bass playing compatriot. Same path, same goals, same determination. After doing the entire Van Warped tour last summer and their own headlining tour this past fall, it is again, just a matter of time.
Grow up on classic R&B with a father who toured with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, and sit at the foot of the stereo while listening to Marvin and Curtis Mayfield…add talent with room to spare, and you get this kid.
She quit the coolest job in Toronto, managing the funky, Uber-cool Dakota Tavern to follow her dream. Her voice is a plate of real down home mac and cheese with a bourbon chaser. Just hair raising….
The sons of musicians, the keepers of the flame, they play, they write, they deny artifice and cherish the music above all. You might hear hints of The Band in this…I hear the future of the past.
Informed by Seattle, set out to take it further. Haven’t stopped playing, writing, or working toward their goal….
July Talk – Summer Dress
On the fast track. Another fine example of a Great Band most of you haven’t seen…yet.
…and that’s just the tip of the local iceberg. There are so many on the way up…and this is just one small part of one local scene.
Now here’s why I believe what I believe….
These three bands are not only paving the way for the local artists I have mentioned, but they are already influencing artists from around the world.
They are, all three of them, making strides toward becoming the vanguard of the next pendulum swing back to music with merit, a collective shift in the entire musical landscape unseen for a very long time.
This is the first time in memory that the shift is taking place not in just one genre of music, but many. Changes are already taking place in pop, and roots music. Our own Frank Gutch Jr. regales us weekly with a cornucopia of Indie bands and solo performers as good as anything the folk/roots/Americana genres have ever shown us. From No Small Children to Jon Gomm, the music he displays convinces me that the future is already here in many ways, and the only thing remaining is wider exposure from radio and the mainstream press. The great thing is, is that radio and media are not as important as they used to be, and all the artists mentioned in this column exist and flourish without much help from either one of them…but that too, is slowly changing.
Regardless…here are the three artists whose initial influences have blossomed into their own unique looks and sounds.
Formed in 2009, this Long Beach California band got in their van and never looked back. At first listen, many regarded them as a band influenced by Led Zeppelin alone and committed to bringing that style of music to a new audience. As they toured, wrote, and evolved, their other influences became evident, and today, they are the one and only group that sounds the way they sound.
They have already influenced dozens of young bands, and have continuously risen above their previous recordings and performances. Some believe they are the sum of all rock that has come before. I believe they are the heralds of a new era of long lasting, primal, real, rock ‘n’ roll. Fuck Yeah!
Rival Sons – Live, Nurburg, Germany, Summer of 2014
Rhythm and Blues….
There was a band from Toronto called Reuben Cherry who a great many of us thought were going to kick open the door to a resurgence of soul and rhythm and blues in young bands.
They had amazing songs, played like the devil, and had a front man/lead singer who not only had the feel and voice, but could give a young Mick Jagger a run for his money. Imagine, I wrote back then, the Rolling Stones being influenced by Otis Redding and Bobby Blue Bland instead of Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf. Alas, it was not to be. Fifteen years later, it looks like the position has finally been filled.
From Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings to Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes, there are a lot of soulful artists out there doing a pretty good job of spreading the gospel with a gumbo consisting of funk, soul, and blues, with just a pinch of rock and roll.
Until recently, I was happy that they were all picking up press and getting some attention, and I think they too, will benefit from the meteoric rise of this band from Birmingham Alabama.
Together since 2012, this outfit just demands your attention. As good as the first album, Half the City is, seeing them live at the intimate Horseshoe Tavern took them over the top for me. Where Vintage Trouble left me missing something when I saw them live, this young band just cooked from the first note to the last, and having been raised on their influential forefathers, I could barely believe my ears. There is a real, palpable joy here, and I can’t begin to imagine where they will take us in the future. This first album is already full of potential and the fresh approach to this style of music cannot be denied. …and Baby, listen to these songs! …and Letterman puts so much pressure on them, I am even more knocked out by them than I already was because they didn’t fold like a lawn chair. Many would have….
Saint Paul and the Broken Bones – Call Me and The Grass is Greener on Letterman
Not even Otis could hit some of those high notes…their unique sound is already forming.
Jazz…Funk…R&B…Rock…Pop…is there even a NAME for this yet?
This could be the nesting ground for an entirely new genre of popular music. I don’t know, maybe I’m over-reacting. Not only was I dumbstruck over these guys the first time I ever heard them 3 years ago (playing a cover of a Justin Bieber(!) song), but as I searched out their entire recorded output, I was further mystified by not only their extraordinary talent, but by the fact that all I could find were covers of huge pop radio hits…the kind of records that send most of us screaming into the street not caring if we get hit by truck, and making them sound so incredible, I started to doubt my own sanity.. Who the fuck are these guys?
They are Jonah Nilsson (vocals and piano), Henrik Linder (bass) and Aron Mellergårdh (drums)…and they hail from Stockholm, Sweden. The last time something that had an International impact on the world of music came from Stockholm, Sweden, it was1972. That was Abba.
This ain’t no Abba.
I met briefly with Henrik after their show at the Opera House in Toronto (more about that in a minute) and thanks to their representative in Canada, arranged for, and had a phone interview with them several days later when they were in L.A.
PHOTO BY MARLENE SCHULER
I was going to edit it and post that interview here for you, but to me, I sounded like a 12 year old fan talking to The Beatles in 1964. Instead, I’ll let them speak for themselves.
The music made by these three kids (who have added a fourth member on another keyboard for their live performances, who contributes parts both vocal and instrumental that would otherwise have been nothing more than pre-recorded files) has so many points of reference included, that you need a blackboard and a box of chalk to tick all of them off.
PHOTO BY MARLENE SCHULER
There is jazz here, and classical nuances, rock and swing, pop and soul, it is a smorgasbord of musical touchstones, and popular totems from decades of influences far deeper and widespread than most contemporary artists. Schooled and trained in classical and jazz music, their youth and engagement in the currently popular music of the day has been melted down to a descriptive label that doesn’t tell the whole story, but makes them a bit easier to understand.
Steely Dan and Spyro Gyra are the closest examples of what we have here, and even those don’t come close. There is an energy, a youthfulness, an adrenaline at work in Dirty Loops’ music that simply buries their influences in the dust.
Live, Dirty Loops not only deliver the sound that seems impossible without studio tricks, but they also turn the concert experience we have grown used to on its head.
Dirty Loops at The Opera House in Toronto October 2014….
There was no opening or closing act.
There was no production or Big screens above the stage.
The show started at 8:00 pm and, with a two song encore, ended at 9:30 pm.
Immediately after the show ended, they took seats at the merch table and chatted with fans, signed whatever was handed to them, and were genuinely engaged with their audience. This went on until their people and the venue broke it up…otherwise, I think they would have been there all night.
No pretense, no artifice, no attitude, no arrogance. Like the music they play, they are real, warm, energetic, and informed. They love what they do.
I was standing out in front of the venue after the show when a cab pulled up and disgorged 4 or 5 Hipsters.
“We probably missed the opening act is all”, said Hipster number one, waving their tickets in the air.
“It’s over”, I said, between drags on my reasonably priced Native made cigarette which contains no additives or chemicals and tastes like an Honest-to-God cigarette should taste, “It was over 10 minutes ago”.
He looked at me like I had just told him his puppy has cancer.
“No”, he said, tears welling up in his eyes. “You’re lying!”, he spit out at me, anger quickly replacing the tears, his peepers now filling with contempt.
“I don’t lie”, I responded, flicking the butt of my inexpensive but oh-so-satisfying-additive-and-chemical-free-Native-made-cigarette into the gutter, “especially when it comes to landscape-altering-music-that-defies-description-and-makes-me-happy-to-be-alive.”
I had tears in my eyes for most of Dirty Loops’ performance.
Because here was music with no airplay, no marketing, no hit, and no hype in my town, that is so powerful it filled a large venue with believers who applauded, screamed, and moved to Every. Single. Note.
Rival Sons, Saint Paul and the Broken Bones, and Dirty Loops.
If Bill Graham and the Fillmores’ were still around, this would be the Greatest Triple Bill in the history of Great Triple Bills.
Heads would explode.
The music speaks for itself, and YOU need to hear what it is telling you.
,,,but even if you don’t…even if you still think you have seen all the great bands, heard all the great records…you go right ahead and keep believing that.
…I will stay on the train and see where it takes me. See and hear what lies up ahead…because I know there will always be something worth seeing and something worth hearing…and because of that, and the knowledge that I am not alone in believing that…
…I couldn’t be happier.
…and have a listen to what is coming out of the Berklee College of Music.
Taking the influences of their musical favourites, and making their own joyful noise.
Just imagine what these kids are going to be capable of….
Berklee 2013 Mega Drum Project
Gabrielle Walter-Clay & Common Thread
Even this is different and interesting….
Get out to the clubs, surf the internet, find music that touches you now.
It’s out there.
…and it’s worth the effort.
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Segarini’s regular columns appear here because even he squeezes one out occasionally
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Bob “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, continues to write music, make music, and record.