When innovative music was the norm
Every now and then my father will email me a Youtube clip of some wildly inspiring live footage from the 1960’s 0r 70s. Be it an obscure yet reverent folk guitarist, such as Suni McGrath or those shape shifters, Hendrix at Isle of Wight or The Beatles on a rooftop. Either way, this not so subtle bombardment is his way of reminding me that there once existed a time where experimental and innovative music was the norm.
Don’t get me wrong though, I am also all too quick to challenge anyone that questions the lack of great, inspiring music currently around. On the contrary, I tell them, there is a fruitful abundance of it. Dare I say there’s just too much. Sorting through the new release section of any Indie adoring fanzine/blog is no less overwhelming than walking into Amoeba Music in LA for the first time.
Honestly, you just want to walk out.
No, the mournful nostalgia which I possess is one for a time where really, truly interesting, musically-challenging, melody-soaring pop music was actually chart-topping. And no one questioned its musical ethic. Nor the length of the guitar solos, or whether the chorus repeated itself enough, or if the general public had the attention span for its lyrical content.
I was contemplating this profound shift as I heard on the news recently that the undeniably talented, albeit it fairly conventional, music of Adele’s earth-shatteringly, successful album, 21, had officially outsold Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon.
Of course it was bound to happen in good time, nobody reigns for an eternity.
But what stifles and saddens me greatly is that I am reminded we’re living through an era where no longer will an album as bold, as inventive and mind expanding as Dark Side of the Moon ever be catapulted to a number 1 position in the charts, alongside, say, Niki Minaj, for any good length of time.
I know just about everyone else enjoying the current fast food culture will justify that there is a good reason for this shift. The dawn of a technological century might have something to do with it. Various political and financial catastrophes shaping the way we think and react to art, the immediacy of bubble gum culture and so on, the world is undoubtedly a drastically different place.
We expect and require everything instantaneously.
And this is fine if waiting at the ATM or for a new page to load on your screen, however, it kinda serves as a hindrance should a certain band/artist require more than 4.5 seconds of your imagination; the way a band like Pink Floyd or Fleetwood Mac required, in order for you to truly appreciate the depth of their musical journey.
It’s difficult to digest that a time existed, not all that long ago, when one of my all time favourite records, Are you Experienced?, by The Jimi Hendrix Experience was the highest selling album in America. The swirling, innovative, ingenious guitar smoke and haze produced by those three phenomenal musicians was undoubtedly mind-bending, as well as richly melodic and uplifting.
In 1972 the incomparable Neil Young’s Harvest was the highest selling album in America, in 1977 it was Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. Only two years later in the UK, Blondie’s Heart of Glass raced up the charts, along with all their divine NYC disco-punk aesthetic and Debbie’s rambling rap solo in the middle of the song. Another two years later would see Soft Cell’s Tainted Love at the number 1 spot, sporting what would now be a criminally long outro, occasionally edited by the more popular radio DJ’s, but for the most part existed as a brave example of taboo subject matter and musical flair challenging the general consciousness.
However disheartening the current trend of vending machine pop hits and techno remixes may be, I remain completely adamant and hopeful that those classic albums exist today. I know that amongst one of those towering and endless volumes of new releases at Amoeba Records, or one of the hundreds of new bands your favourite blogger is shouting about, lies a blinding gem. An album that given half the opportunity the bands of yesteryear were fortunate enough to receive, may too, swell and soar to the greatest of heights. Admittedly, the music industry will have to undergo some major mind-bending and shifting of its own, in order for this to occur.
Until then however, I’ll keep enjoying the barrage of Youtube clips my father will no doubt be sending me any day now.
Words by Golden Lady.