Is That All There Is?

When you consider that most of popular music’s best and brightest, from what was arguably its most fruitful period — the 1960s and 1970s — are now in their 60s and 70s, it makes you wonder if we should expect more tearful exits on a more regular basis from here forward.

During those two decades, there were more hit recordings by more artists than ever before or ever since. That’s because the music and radio worlds were less controlled: there were more labels and more station owners, and therefore, a better shot at getting your song played on the radio. There were also more listeners for longer periods to a hit music stations, so much so that the average shelf life of a hit song was 7-9 weeks.

That means there were also more top-flight artists who came out of that period — artists who are now, alas, a lot older. While the focus has always been on acts who left us too young, the fact is most of pop’s biggest stars are still with us. Even if you go back further — to the 1950s and rock ‘n roll’s early days — it’s worth noting that Elvis and Buddy Holly aside, all of rock’s pioneers — Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis — are still here. So is another pop giant of that era — Tony Bennett — although I’m starting to sense that he’s going to outlive all of us.

Whether Bennett outlives me is moot: his music surely will.

But it disturbs me, as it most surely will throughout my inevitable breathless rest, that rap will outlive me. Crude shouted prose concerned with puttin’ bitches in their place and extolling the virtues of thug-life, besides being imbecilic, is by no stretch of the imagination  music. 1 If there is any saving grace to rap’s surprisingly long shelf life it’s that the crap is confined to our planet. 2

If that’s snobbery, so be it. What I know is I had Frank Sinatra and Nora Jones playing this morning while I watched the ISS attach the SpaceX vehicle; now during docking maneuvers Phillip Glass conducts. 3

I feel much the same about disco. Where Appel goes on to say that he wishes the attention currently being paid to (dead) Donna Summer and (thank Thor he’s dead) Robin Gibb should have come earlier, to my mind disco was just additional proof the music industry is a collection of self absorbed, low brow cretins intent on foisting off the worst crap available as long as it lines their silk pockets.

Take the concept of ‘pop’ music; controlling what radio stations are allowed to air doesn’t make that ‘product’ popular, it makes it the only game in town, what you label it is irrelevant. Which is why satellite radio is the best thing that has happened to music in decades.

But those are asides. Appel’s larger point is true enough — artists who created songs long since added to the America Songbook 4 are rapidly becoming a corps of corpses. Which is as it should 5 be; one can only dance away from the grave so long.

But I can’t find it in myself to care about the passing of the perpetrators of disco any more than I can those of rap.

Stayin’ alive, indeed. 6

WNBTv - Good TV!

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Except where ‘sampled’ music relieves the fatuousness of the ‘lyrics’.
  2. While FM and TV signals can escape our atmosphere and travel – at the speed of light! – through space, their actually arriving anywhere in a coherent fashion is problematic; signals become incredibly diffuse and hard, if not impossible, to pick up at any distance. On the other hand, should we decide to annoy the Russians while they’re merrily colonizing the Moon {which is less than half a million miles away…just a short hop}, we could boost the gain (currently only 100,00 watts) at XERF and switch the play-list to all rap.
  3. What? You would have chosen Jay-Z?
  4. Neither Gibbs or Summers qualify here.
  5. In the current scheme of things; the smart money is all on Life Extension sooner rather than later
  6. Were there such a place, both Gibbs and Summers would be forced to endlessly sing their top ‘hits’ throughout all of Hell, no water provided.

14 Replies to “Is That All There Is?”

  1. I can’t believe you just insulted the sacred memory of Robin Gibb. I really like and still regularly listen to disco, it’s what I grew up with and never went through a period of denying that I like it, while secretly still listening to it.

    1. Disco was much more accepted in Russia, and Europe more generally; I remember being assaulted by ABBA in over a dozen countries for example, Turkey (implausibly) being one of them. Only the fact that Greece embraced disco made sense to me (wink wink nudge nudge).

      So, and stop me if this is too personal, do you still get up and shake that booty while listening to disco?

      1. No I am not a booty shaking type, even before I knew the word “booty”. I am pretty sure in Eastern Europe disco didn’t have the gay and sex in general association it immediately invokes here. We just got the music not all the stuff that went with it. Or at least in my interpretation, I was 10-13 and these things didn’t enter my mind.

        1. Sorry but by the ipso facto power of fallacious thinking you are forever tainted by the cocaine snorting, gay gerbil or wren up-the-anus association with disco, very much after the manner in which every Caucasian in North America is responsible for enslaving the ancestors of today’s current U.S. black populace.

          Don’t try to fight it; better to simply make restitution…

  2. BUT!
    What is interesting is that the music of the late 50s to 60s was ‘produced’ for the Baby Boomers. The music since 1985, plus or minus, was ‘produced’ by the Baby Boomers.
    As my tutor would say, “We have no one to blame but ourselves”. He’s a tad more Baby and a bit less Boomer than you Nick. He was not old enough to see Dr. No in a theatre in 1962 like you did.

    1. He was not old enough to see Dr. No in a theatre in 1962 like you did.

      His loss, I assure you; screens these days are not much bigger than a good home projection system.

  3. And Peggy Lee sucks by the way.

    And ABBA is God!
    The perfect pop tunes heard the world over. My teen friends when I was one in Colombia had never heard of The Beatles, but they all knew ABBA. And both groups were long since kaput at the time.

    1. No. Yankee television was verbotten – even if we wanted to watch. Our fathers (though not mine; he did not make it out of Myanmar) were in the Government/Industry, we lived the high-life. We had our own body guards, automobiles and coke was cheaper than Coke. Television had no allure for us.
      And there is no ‘u’ in Colombia.

      1. My bad – all fixed.

        What I’m getting here is that Colombia was what…10-15 years behind the rest of the world in the music it listened to? How would you even know of ABBA back then?

      2. When you say ‘the rest of the world’ you mean the part of the planet outside the USA wherein Western Cultural Hegemony rules – ie: the entire rest of the planet outside the US of A, yes? This cultural sphere was less than 50 percent of the rest of the world at the time. I know! Hard to believe, yes? I am sure it is an admittedly smaller portion now I reckon.
        ABBA was universal. They transcended Western Culture – the original ‘World Beat’ as it were – and were played even in Myanmar. I am sure the pedestrian in Colombia was as up-to-date as any Yankee at the time – the ones who could afford television that is – it is just my clique were loathe to sully ourselves. If one finds oneself in the ruling class of a reasonably stable Third World Country, the lure of Lady Liberty and her Bread and Circuses is not that great. In fact, having to tolerate the Western Librul construct of democracy, fast-food and Madonna is abhorrent.

        1. Hmmm…long way ’round the barn to explain how you knew of ABBA sans television.

          Probably my fault – I think we’re talking apples and kiwis; my frame of reference is ’70-’72 when I first rotated out of Asia to Europe. I suspect your frame of reference is considerably later when ABBA were more universally known…

  4. While I agree that “rap” isn’t really what I would call music, I don’t share your disdain of it as a form of expression. That is, I think there’s as much crap rap as there is/was crappy “pop” music (and any other genre) . And, if you’re relying on radio for listening enjoyment, well, that’s like relying on Ron McDonald for your fine dining enjoyment.

    In fact, technology has put the means of production and distribution into more artists (good, great, and craptacular alike) into more people than at anytime. It’s up to us to find the (many) rubies in the mountains of rock (word to Meat Loaf).

    In short, the Brothers Gibb got a bad rap, ABBA rules, RunDMC kicked ass, Kanye is a pretentious douche, we have far more musical options now than ever before, and as an old white guy, Nick has no cred and should just stick with his Pat Boone albums.

    1. That was hilarious; you should write more often.

      Oh – and thanks to the link to that crap movie; always wondered what one of his films was like…

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