Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

Here's another modern guitar methods opinion piece from our ever cynical guest columnist. We think he needs a hug, what do you think?

reprinted with permission by Harley Warren

Ah, Rock and Roll. Rock and Roll and all those marvelous bastards of the 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s that would drink themselves to death and destroy 5 star hotel rooms just because they could. The genuine article, they were. You couldn’t utter one good word about these hell-raising gypsies as they swooped into town like a parade of leather clad biker demons, stealing the virtue from “Daddy’s little girl” and consuming every illicit drug available to them. You couldn’t say a good word, but you always quietly hoped you would end up at their after parties. The upper crust of my day were always so worried that these purveyors of the “devil’s music” would poison the youth, turning us from docile, obedient lemmings into violent and uncontrollable monsters. Secretly we knew the power of our music simply because we knew they intimidated adults to such a degree. Secretly we cherished the power our music gave us.

Yes, back then Rock and Roll owned all of the true rebels and those rebels knew exactly why it was necessary to self destruct and poison their lives for us. It was never duplicitous with them, just par for the course. It was never contrived for an artist to be found screaming down Hollywood Boulevard, naked as the day they were born, it was simply the result of a bad acid trip or maybe a long night at the studio. These days it’s just a publicity stunt, often sponsored by Sony.

My heroes were the tragic but necessary personification of a generation’s moral indignance. They happily poked their fingers into the eyes of humanity in its callous pursuit of greed - by showing us all that regardless the amount of money happiness will always be elusive. They were trail blazers, musical martyrs, and they would succumb time and time again to the evils of living life’s excesses for their cause, in the same way religious fanatics scar themselves by flagellation. As such, we honored them with equal worship and praise.

Nowadays we send them off to wimpy $5000.00 a day, 5 star rehabs, or tell them to take up Pilates with their “sober buddy“.

I can remember once upon a time cherishing their world so much that I couldn’t wait to get done with the droning bother of daily life, just so I could crawl inside my speakers and be mystified by their latest creations. Let’s face it, what they created was more often than not, beautiful. It was beautiful because there was the weight of tortured souls behind every note they produced. Even when the new music of the day didn’t amaze and confound me enough to find and consume it as quickly as possible, I could still respect the artistry enough to revisit old albums while waiting feverishly for the next batch of their self-destructive gold.

Back then “commerciality” was always quietly laughed at by the elite and openly shunned by music’s insiders. This is what made music real for my generation. Back then when things became too “user friendly“, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana showed up in flannel hero-capes and a “back to basics” antibiotic and they magically cured us of the “hairspray rock“ crisis. Even before glam rock gave us cold sweats we had unfortunate conditions that left us feeling the tiniest bit ill. “Bay City Rolleritus Virus“, or perhaps “The Partridge Familyatosis” comes to mind. Yes, they did litter our musical lawns but they were never dangerous enough for us to need a gardener as they mercifully died of their own unimportance.

The twits of my generation were like a car accident that only slowed the traffic on a road you otherwise loved to travel; never would they add up to anything that could threaten the “cool” in popular music. Never in a million years would a musician “in the know” be caught dead supporting the homogenized, cookie-cutter entertainment industry we now see today, and as a musician back then you would risk a brutal, agonizing death from merely suggesting that your band just follow “the formula“. It’s not like that anymore.

There it is folks, exposed and in the open. Take it from someone with the keys to the executive washroom, there now exists a secret “formula” that can manipulate your mind into believing utter tripe is sheer artistic brilliance. Once airborne, the virus produced from this formula enters our bloodstream via aural cavities, where it multiplies and kills the brains ability to use self control and exercise common sense. If left untreated one can even find themselves watching E tv and wondering what Las Vegas party Paris Hilton is attending, shortly after which one will bleed from every orifice and painfully expire in a pool of their own sewage. There is no cure, but liberal doses of Korn and Foo Fighters has been known to slow the progress.

This “formula” is the successful viral end of an equation that continually failed over the years, but yet with each failure in the “formula” it was revised, honed and perfected until now, and now it infects the masses like the worst bird flu pandemic. This “formula” was modeled after Anthrax I believe. After all, it has the same toxic effects. The evil doers of the music world have made the formula so god-awfully effective that even something as horrid as Gwen Stefani’s last CD can be allowed to thrive. We all know that in the real world of music the dear, sweet Gwen couldn’t hold a creative candle to her old band “No Doubt“, yet after years of fronting an extremely talented group of musicians and writers Gwen and the evil doers have used the “formula” to successfully release today’s musical equivalent of Barney the Dinosaur.

I hate to harp on Gwen Stefani, but let’s take her, then add the concept of the "solo" career and make a nice and shiny example for my point. You see, back in the day the solo career was rarely a successful venture. When bands broke up they all usually just went home and counted money or died of drug overdose. With the exception of Sting, Annie Lennox, and possibly the first David Lee Roth album nothing much ever came from egocentric artists thinking they were bigger than their own britches. Now however, anyone involved with a mildly successful pop group has access to the secret “formula” and its dark purpose. Using this viral equation they can expect to make a disgusting amount of money by launching a "solo" career having virtually no fear of the public ridicule they deserve. Yes, gentle reader, our infamous “Hollaback Girl” is a perfect example of what is wrong with the music culture these days. The evidence of this epidemic is there, right before our very ears.

You don’t have to say it, I already know… Gwen Stefani is “so last year”, but it’s her kind of pop culture impetus that seeps musical insanity into our aural gene pool. If we’re not careful we will have 5000 Gwen Stefanis in a decade. It’s only been a year and we already have one more, just look at Fergie. (My apologies to the Fergilicious One - her CD isn’t all that bad). As for the current incarnation of Gwen, doesn’t anyone care that her musical misadventure has made millions of dollars from successfully spelling the word Bananas (B---A-N-A-N-A-S) for us? That song wouldn’t have made it big on a children’s show when I was growing up, but somehow today she is a bloody superstar from it. In fact now that I think about it wasn’t she actually yodeling on one track of that miserably useless CD? Did anyone, anywhere, ever like yodeling? I am sorry to be the bearer of this bad news but when music was real this woman would have been taken to the nearest signpost, tied up and shot by a firing squad of angry Iron Maiden fans. Good God what is next, the solo career of a person working for someone with a solo career? When can we expect Rhianna’s hairdresser to make 10 million dollars releasing a new song that spells out the word “Oranges”? (O---R-A-N-G-E-S - sing it with me now!)

The wonderful people in control of our fantastic music business have become nothing more than “pop culture pimps”. You would think that once recording artists realize they are being so abused they would band together and put a stop to it. You would think that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 as well, and obviously that little goof slipped by us as well. The awful shock and horror is that some of these glittery people just don‘t care they are getting screwed, because the process is lining their pockets and feeding their egos. Others may in fact care, but they have no idea how to stop the beat downs and career ending abuses. Yes gentle reader, it’s a sad reality but the truth is that most artists are so humbled that they receive any attention at all they dare not do anything to take the spotlight from their makeup-caked, plastic faces.

I wait hopefully for the day when popular music reacts in the same way it has always reacted. When the business of music gets too watered down and too littered with debris, history has shown us that the art-form itself somehow explodes as if on cue, shaking the tree, killing the bad seeds and we are all better people from it. This has always been the cosmic answer to the problems of musical over-saturation. In the 80’s heavy metal rescued us from disco, in the 90’s alternative rock rescued us from heavy metal. Where is our current generation’s Darwinian Music Business Cleanser? God I hope it‘s not Hilary Duff.

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Harley continues to cower in the darkness, wearing fake sunglasses, beards and various styled wigs. Fearing the ever present threat of assassination by 50 Cent, to his credit he still stops off at safe houses to send articles to the masses in the hopes that one day there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

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