A brief musical rant

I’m hanging at Roma, feeling my life return to normal. fuego was here earlier, but he needs a little more decompression time before he is able to breathe normally again. So now it’s just me, and I’m doing all right, as long as I have the cash to cover the tab.

So over here MTV plays music, and that’s what’s on the tube right now. The TV is at 5 o’clock high, back over my right shoulder, where the glittering lights can’t eat through my optic nerve and into my brain.

One thing I have noticed however, is that much of the music they’re playing I have heard before. A few minutes ago there was a quartet of singers, two male, two female, covering Super Trouper by Abba. For part of the time I thought they were merely lip-synching to the original tune, only taking the trouble to superimpose a tiresome disco beat. In the end they were so shamelessly self-promoting (finding any excuse to get the name of the band into the video – “We’re not ABBA!”) that I had to conclude that however misguided the project was, no matter how shamelessly exploitative the marketing, these people really did wish they had talent that even approaches the annoying band they are trying to emulate.

Which brings me to my little rant. My rantito. My rantček. If your goal is to make music that sounds exactly like someone else, why bother? I’m still not sure the group I saw tonight wasn’t just playing the original record and wagging their lips. The whole thing lacks courage. It’s ruled by cowardly record executives who get paid piles of money to do the same shit over and over. The sad part is people still buy the crap they’re dishing up.

Just say no, kids. Save your music-buying dollar for musicians.

7 thoughts on “A brief musical rant

  1. No, lame is when the kids don’t know it is a cover song. To them, it could be an original. Also lame is a cover band covering a lame band (and I’m not just saying that because I wasn’t cast after the ABBA audition…)

  2. I think that you miss the whole point of pop “music”. It’s junk food, not a seven course meal. It isn’t something you hang on the wall and admire, it’s a flyer, a hand out, a San Diego Reader if you will. You might be entertained, but more likely just occupied for a time.

    For christ’s sake, it’s not art, it’s fashion. Tsch, nuts.

  3. According to the British Airways inflight magazine, Europe is gearing up for — get this — the 50th anniversary Eurovision song contest. Yes, that’s the one that ABBA won so many years ago, heralding their beginning of success. Since then, the recipe for winning the contest has often (but not always) been to be as much like ABBA as possible. Perhaps you were listening to this year’s Czech candidates.

    (Rumour also has it, according to the BA mag, that the UK has been losing on purpose for the past decade or so, because the winning country hosts the next year’s contest, and the Brit authorities don’t want all that expense and bother.)

  4. I’ve got some tunes that are great covers. The covering band didn’t just reproduce the original, they put their own stamp on it.

    Johnny Cash singing “Personal Jesus” springs to mind.

  5. Take me to the River – Talking Heads

    I Fought the Law – The Clash

    Mercury Blues – David Lindley

    Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies

    Oh, I could go on. And I have, with my boys (ages 13 and 10). I’ve had this exact same conversation with them. There are actually two tracks in the conversation, both of which are covered above: what makes something original, and why do covers.

    The “original” isn’t the first one to write and record the song, the original song is a visceral reaction the listener has to the first version they hear of the song. Sad to say, as recent arrivals to the pop music scene, my boys consider some of today’s covers the original, because it was the original version they heard. Believe me, whenever I get wind of such heresy, I make immediate attempts to expose them to (my) original, and then let them decide which is better.

    I believe I have successfully inculcated my feelings on covers with them, which I believe to be your own: if you’re just copying the original, why bother? (Answer: to sell records. To take advantage of the fact that it sold once before, and now there’s a new group of listeners who didn’t hear it or buy it before. Example: “It’s my life” by No Doubt. Not a shred of difference from the original, except a female voice instead of male.) The list that starts this post off are personal favorite covers of mine.

    Finally, I’ll say all is not lost: that if we take time to educate our youth on these important matters, they can surprise you with their sophistication. Brad (the 13 year old) has correctly identified Rancid as “a lame Clash cover band” for “Ruby Soho,” a Rancid original that attempts to sound like the Clash. It’s these small victories that keep me going as a parent.

  6. Actually, one of the best covers I’ve ever heard was the Dixie Chicks on “Landslide.” I might also add Eric Clapton with “I Shot the Sheriff” and Creedence Clearwater Revival with “Proud Mary.” A good cover definitely adds another layer of interpretation to what was a good, or sometimes even great, song to start with.

    My own parental point of pride came a couple of years ago; my schedule means that usually I am away from home in the afternoons when the offspring comes home from school, but a chance alteration in the schedule allowed me to make a surprise visit home. When I showed up, the offspring did indeed have his stereo cranked up to high volume, which I expected. What I didn’t expect was what he was listening to — the Weavers!

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