Home > The Freedom of Music > The Freedom of Music: What Happened to Music?

The Freedom of Music: What Happened to Music?

March 15th, 2009
freedom-of-music-headerOne likes to believe in the freedom of music.

Rush – Spirit of Radio.

What happened? When did music become so bad? I don’t know what it is lately, but I feel like the whole music industry has fallen over a cliff. Good God, who are these people who have taken that which was so vital in our lives, and fucking ruined it?

I recently read a book by a guy called Dave Thompson called I Hate New Music: The Classic Rock Manifesto. He frankly makes far too many good points to write off as a crank. sidebar-2Good point 1: even if you think a new song is good, will you be listening to it in a year, five years, ten years from now? I know that answer, because I’ve fallen for it too many times. Good point 2: You want to know how hard the mighty can fall? From “In My Time of Dying” to “Radioactive.” That’s how hard.

Thompson cites the end of good music as coming from between 1976 and 1978. Boston’s debut album was the beginning of the end, not because it was a bad album, but because it was so carefully crafted, and sold so many copies. By 1978 these carefully crafted albums were also selling millions:

Infinity by Journey.
You Can Tune a Piano but you Can’t Tuna Fish by REO Speedwagon.
Don’t Look Back by Boston.
The Cars by The Cars
Double Vision by Foreigner
Toto by Toto
Pieces of Eight by Styx
Hemispheres by Rush

Never again would a band go into the studio for 18 days, and come out with a masterworks like Led Zeppelin did with 1976’s Presence. Now, the music was a commodity, to be manufactured to maximize sales.

Think I exaggerate? Think the state of the music world is just fine? Riddle me this, who was the hottest selling act this week? If you answered the not guilty of paedophilia in the strictly OJ Simpson sense of the word, Michael Jackson, the freakiest freak in freakville, give yourself ten points.  The spastic, hasn’t demonstrated an ounce of talent in twenty years, and no more than that ever, Jackson was selling out 50 shows at London’s 02 arena. 50 shows sold out in 5 hours. Never mind music, what has gone wrong in our world when that many people will pay approximately $100 each to see this thing, this diddler? But hey, it’s the hottest show in music, which really should be the end of this rant. What could possibly follow to demonstrate that the world of music is no longer worth your attention?

Britney Spears, that’s what. She’s doing wonderful business in her comeback tour. This weeks New York show had the ever awful Madonna in attendance.  Despite favourable reviews (well one) Madonna caused a stir when she left mid-show. Now clear your head and ponder that one item. In the middle of a concert, Madonna leaves and that’s the news.  Would they have shut down the tour if she yawned mid-performance? Why would any body care that Madonna left? Surely they were paying attention to the singer on stage? Alas, there was no singer. The lady dancing, sans musicians, with the top hat and microphone, she was lip syncing. The whole show, except the one time when she said, “Peace, New York.” People paid up to $750 to see Britney Spears not sing? Which is, I suspect, about $745 more than they would pay to hear her sing. But fear not, merchandise, including $150 velvet ensembles and $30 knockoff top hats, flew off the shelves.  Because, you see, post 1978, it’s about the merchandise.

It’s too easy, however, to blame all that’s wrong with the music business on Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, even Madonna. Largely accurate in many ways, but easy.  When Kiss recorded their first live album, Paul Stanley can be heard at one point asking the audience, “do you believe in rock and roll?” After an affirmative cheer, he commands the audience, “stand up for what you believe in.” This was before the invention of the Kiss Army, of which I was an inaugural member, but I have no doubt listening to Kiss Alive now that the audience followed this command like an army following an order.  Yes! we believed in Rock and roll, and Yes! we would stand up for what we believed in. That’s what we thought then, music wasn’t a commodity, it was a movement. We hated disco because it threatened our way of life, our core belief.  Disco was the Taliban, circa 1975 and liking disco was a subversive act. Disco died away for many reasons, not the least of which because there was a Kiss Army to kick it’s ass.

So why was Kiss’ resident demon/fire breather/blood spitter, Gene Simmons, in Toronto this week peddling baby clothes? Because Kiss is a commodity, that’s why. Because while the Kiss Army may have believed in rock and roll, the members themselves have long believed in the commodification thereof. Because in 1978, when Kiss was releasing comic books, it stopped being about the music.  And now, thirty years later, it really is that bad.

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  1. Simeon
    March 15th, 2009 at 08:41 | #1

    Fact:Gene Simmons is in Canada to sign up and promote Canadian talent, Canada still rocks.

  2. metalguru
    March 15th, 2009 at 09:40 | #2

    There are 100’s of good bands out there still strugling to make it…None will be found on radio, music videos and are mostly special order items from HMV or on line.

    Canada’s own ANVIL is one of them. These guys were famous for 15 minutes in 1982. I saw them in a small bar just this past friday in Toronto. Things are finally picking up for them as a major motion picture documentary is being released to rave reviews. “The best music documentary. EVER” is one of them. Google “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” : Well worth a look. Be sure to support local talent and get the movie when it comes out or a cd. These guys have been starving for 32 years but never quit.

    Another band that needs much attention is Chicago’s own TROUBLE. With 9 full length masterpiece albums they are still struggling after 30 years too. Check them out. Their music is absolutely gorgeous and catchy. Take it from the “guru”.


    Your best source for info on hard rock and metal is: “Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles” google it, they have the best all around news, info, reviews of North American and very rich Europe. Yes Europe has more per square mile of talent than music stagnant North America right now.

    If you like any of the above, pass it own!

  3. Simeon
    March 15th, 2009 at 09:56 | #3

    metalguru Why do you think Gene is in Canada? He knows where the talent lies

  4. March 15th, 2009 at 10:22 | #4

    Metal Guru

    I agree there’s lots of talent out there. The sad reality is, unless you have the time and put in serious effort to go and find it, your not going to. Musicians will always exist, will always amaze. Too many people out front in the music world today don’t fit that description, or haven’t in thirty years.


    I cleaned up your extra comments. For the record, I don’t really care why Gene Simmons was here, while he was here, he was also peddling baby clothes. That was my point.

  5. March 17th, 2009 at 01:45 | #5

    As a serious music fan, i believe you have hit the nail right on the head with this. For every serious musician like Katie Melua there are 10 Brittany’s getting more publicity because they sell themselves and not the music. But can we not blame American[Canadian]Idol as well?

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