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A Short History Of The Popular Song , or, Why Today's Music Sucks (Mostly)


Eric Carmen

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Used to be it was about the music, now it's about the music BUSINESS. People are out there now just to make a quick buck and they don't really care about or have an appreciation for the art form.

since the advent of radio it's always been about The Business (although even in sheet music era, it was a biz too)... and as u said, it's been discussed with regards to the Berries & Eric's career in the '70s...

A good chunk of the people in the music industry have always been in it to make money... and never had much of a clue as to rock & pop's artistic merits... even the ones who seemingly grew up and joined the ranks with a true love for music...

depending on what year you look at, some have more good guys than bad guys... The Beatles & Bob Dylan are the anomoly in the equation and the period which followed Sgt Pepper was a brief moment in time where rock bands and singer songwriters had a great shot at making it with credible music on the BIG field...

but it REALLY only helped if that band/artist became huge on their own terms and than could use that power to leverage themselves autonomy from the record labels (i.e. Neil Young, Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd)

even that concept faded (right around the time the Raspberries split...) ...few bands ever found it easy to work within the system no matter how lenient the times were towards artistic credibility.

and even during the best period there was total manufactured pop being shoved down the throats of the masses and many great artists being lost in the shuffle... it's just that we were lucky to have a label like Reprise from 1969-1974... In the '80s you could say the same for Sire... In the '90s it went indie w/ Sub Pop & Matador.

as for exposure and radio & mtv... like Eric stated in an earlier post it's a new era (paradigm) we're dealing with... there's also a lot more outlets for people to hear music-- and it really isn't that crazy expensive... most normal suburban homes have a computer and broadband will only get cheaper as it becomes the norm... a lot of cable & dish setups have Sirius on them too...

any kid fascinated with hearing what's new will be able to get his hands on stuff more easy say than me in 1979 trying find the new 20/20 album or the Adverts: stuff never played on the radio outside very few regional spots. Now it's just a click away... (i.e. almost anyone can sample stuff on Amazon that's available all over the world)...

get your kid a gig cutting lawns or delivering newspapers/pizzas and a debit card & he's set... you can find a lot of decent used CDs for $0.01 a pop... sure the shipping cost is there, but what the "f"-- that's heaven compared to when I grew up...

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Some years ago I wanted to write a book about Dee Clark. He sang "Hey Little Girl (In the High School Sweater)" and "Raindrops". In my prior life I had interviewed him after he had a stroke. He had been living in a dump of a motel in Georgia and was still touring. Some musicians held a fund raiser for him. I tossed it around, but never made contact with him again. He died about three years later. I thought it was so sad that someone who could make the charts would die pretty much pennyless. I guess what is sadder is the fact there are so many others that have traveled the same road.

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Eric,

Thanks for putting today's music in perspective! I was born in '64, the youngest of seven, & some of the best times I can remember growing up were when we would sit around my brother's guitar singing those great songs.

...and, my 13 year old and 5 year old daughters love 'em too. Beatles, Beach Boys, Elton, and -of course- The Raspberries & Eric Carmen!!!

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I have many comments about what you said, too, Tony. I'll save them, and one of my comments will probably surprise you, as it did me, when I started to think about it. I don't know, maybe God touches me, sometimes, with new insights. I was in Burbank, at an audio company. They had a poster up. It was from 2002, with The New Yorker at the top of the poster. The front cover was talking about the confusion going on, in music. I will say this: I once called Sony to get a reference on a musician. I guess they forgot about him, or something. He drummed for George Michael, and he's a friend for years now. At that time, supposedly, he was the number two touring drummer, behind Michael Jackson's drummer, who I've met at an after party for an all-star band that keyboardest Rob Mullins invited people to. By the way, my friend has his own record label now. They didn't call back. Vacation or what? But, then, I think I had the answer. I'll tell it to everyone another time, or when Eric might start a new thread.

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Tony,

As far as the Pernice Brothers are concerned, you've really got to start with "Yours Mine and Ours." Track one will have you hooked forever as 'The Weakest Shade Of Blue" is one of the most wonderful pop confections you will ever feast your ears on. Think "Sunrise" meets "Don't Worry Baby." The rest of the CD is very strong as well. After that it's on to "The World Won't End."

Pierson, have you checked out Chris Von Sneidern yet? I hope not, I'd love to turn you on to a really good thing!

MAC

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......brian........i coudn't agree more about "weakest shade of blue"...........pure genius!.........and re: cvs, his high points are as good as it gets......i had the pleasure of working with him in the early 90's, and if you look around you can find "call out my name" and "somedays" from those sessions........

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Pierson, have you checked out Chris Von Sneidern yet? I hope not, I'd love to turn you on to a really good thing!

MAC

It was hard for me to miss him since he was from Syracuse, NY where my friends the Flashcubes hail... 'Cube drummer Tommy Allen produced a great 3-song demo with him in the early '90s...
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......kathy, of the 3 tracks i produced w/ cvs, 2 are available......"call out my name" is included on a yellow pills compilation, and chris put "somedays" on his latest cd that is a retrospective of his work,(i forgot the title).....the third track that remains in the "vault" is (imho) a superior version of "open wide"..........i'll burn you a copy!

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<i>"The problem is, if you parents grew up on Alice Cooper, how do top that? MARILYN MANSON! If your parents grew up and the Temptations and Earth, Wind and Fire, how do you rebel? FITTY CENT!"</i>

LMAO "Fitty cent!" I don't know who in their right mind would wanna emulate "Fitty cent", but your point is right on.

My first time in eons back on the boards. Great to see you posting as well Eric. You and the Berries are the greatest!

BMP

RI

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I caught about half of the "Crossroads" episode on CMT last night. The match up this week was "Heart" & Wynonna". Interesting combination. They had a question & answer period during the show where Ann, Nancy and Wynonna reiterated a lot of what Eric's feelings are about the music business. It was pretty interesting. Also, in my musical opinion, Wynonna blew Heart away during the concert segment. And I LOVED Heart back in the day. Wow .... eek

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YUP

I find it ironic that we are STUCK in a continually revolving door of the same old same old.

I have 99% stopped listening to the radio unless it plays 60's 70's or 80's.

I'm sure there's an incredible amount of talent out there in the wings that can't get airplay because it's so full of the crap that is being continuously spewed out over the airwaves today.

But of course that's just my opinion. LOL

Cheerio

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It has been very interesting to see what people have to say about this topic.

While I agree with much of what has been said, I do not think that the situation is hopeless. In fact, I think there is just as much (if not more) great music being made today as there has been in the past. There are, however, a couple of important caveats:

1. The vast majority of people never hear the "best" music;

2. The "best" music is dispersed among far more artists than in the past; and

3. The "best" music is not necessarily being recorded in the English language or in the traditional Anglo-American pop/rock genre.

The first qualification is very important. We will never again have a time like the 60s when *everybody* knew the Beatles...even if they didn't like the Beatles, they knew the songs because the Beatles were inescapable. People have so many distractions that there is no longer a common musical denominator. Even though I have done a radio program at a university station for 17 years, I struggle to name (let alone hum) any "chart-topping" songs from the past 10 years. I'm not a hermit, and I am actively into music, but I still am not reached by the equivalent of Top-40 radio.

However, the "best" music (to each his own, but I think most of us hear probably would assign this tag to a certain sound!) is still accessible, if you are willing to look for it. I have discovered much good music through the NotLame label, which puts out its own releases and also distributes a ton of other power-pop artists (including the Raspberries). Some of their power-pop is a little twee for my tastes, but I have found treasures like a Chris Von Sneidern best-of (from Spain!) and the debut album of John Hoskinson on their website.

And, believe it or not, I have also found good music through Amazon...by reading customer comments and picking up on referrals that people make. I don't use this as my primary source of information, but it often prompts me to look elsewhere...such as the All Music Guide (amg), which provides fairly reliable reviews of almost every release imaginable. It's not perfect, but it's very good. One thing I *don't* rely on is the Amazon referral (which is computer generated, as far as I can tell). They aren't helpful at all.

My second qualification is less precise - I just don't think the musical genius is as concentrated as it used to be. There are some great songs; you just won't find them all on one album. This is just a vibe that I have.

Finally, good popular music has moved beyond the usual borders of the UK, Canada, and the USA. OK, Sweden has had a number of English-language success stories since the early 1970s, but there are now many bands who record in other languages who are also making great music.

My favourite active band (at present - let's see if the Raspberries do anything new!) is probably Ozomatli. They produce a highly infectious blend of rock, "latin" (there are many sub-genres here, of course), folk, jazz and even hip-hop. Almost everything they do is danceable, the lyrics are positive (even the rapping!) and they have a keen ear for melody. And you don't even care that half of the lyrics (if not more) are in Spanish.

But there is lots of other stuff out there even if you don't like Ozomatli (and their Street Signs album is highly recommended). The Putumayo label puts out stuff from all over the world on its thematic compilations. There is a substantial "miss" ratio on these CDs (many of them are same-ish sounding) but you can usually find at least one international artist that's worth pursuing. Check out the song "Mama Africa" by Chico Cesar of Brazil, for example. Or the startling French language/hiphop cover of Toto's "Africa" that was on Putumayo's first DVD of international videos.

These developments are not new. Back in the 1960s, Os Mutantes was making some brilliant psychedelic music in Brazil. But improved distribution is making this music widely available to us here in North America.

I could go on. But I will leave you with just one further recommendation: read "The Future of Music" by Kusek and Leonhard. It's an interesting read and, judging by some of your comments, some of you may have read it already.

Cheers

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No one should EVER make a "cover" of ANYONE else song. Case in point "mariah's" cover of "All by myself."

I hate covers and I hate remade movies.... LOL.

"Africa" was great on it's own and didn't need to be remade.

I personally feel that anyone who "buys, begs, borrows or STEALS" anothers song, ain't worth listening too.

Write your own, that's what I say....

But, again, that's my opinion lol

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If the Byrds had listened to your advice Richie, we wouldn't have Mr Tambourine Man and Turn Turn Turn. If the Beatles had listened to your advice we wouldn't have their versions of Twist And Shout, Long Tall Sally and You Really Got A Hold On Me and many others. The Searchers did a great version of Needles And Pins, but they didn't write it.The list ccould go on and on. Sorry Richie, I've got to disagree with you on this one. ec

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