This is my first blog in quite some time. I need to have a good reason for writing one of these – almost always because Im annoyed about something and want to get it off my chest…or Ive had an idea that I want to explore. Its never about talking to my friends, Ive got Facebook and e mails for that. This is hopefully for a wider audience…on this occasion I may actually be upsetting a couple of friends. So be it, Ive got to the age that I realise that honesty is essential to the creative process..truthfulness to create truth. All very portentous so far eh?
Music has always been important to me – as something soothing as a child, then in teenage years as everything from an education and explanation of lifes complications, through an invitation to move to the rhythms, to act as an aid or even encouragement for the “mating rituals”….until finally, something to try to emulate as a budding musician and songwriter. So important, in fact that its been the one universal thread running through relationships, jobs, fatherhood and friendships; through travel and settling down. 60 years worth of all that.
So, I have given it and its “culture” a lot of thought. Ive built up a wide taste as both a listener and a performer. Often wider than the musicians Ive known and played with. From old country blues, through UK wide traditional folk, to modern americana. Along with that of course I have my clear dislikes – most jazz, most scottish country dance music, most bluegrass banjo..but I’ll come back to that.
Today I listened to a splendid rant on YouTube by a man much younger than myself [!] about the parlous state of pop music over the last several decades…which has explained much to me..please try to watch all of this..show me you have got an attention span longer than that of the typical gnat [which is what much of the piece is about]…
Im putting it up at the foot of the page….sadly I cant find a a way of continuing the text below the YouTube page…so I will continue in the hope, dear reader, that you have listened to it!
Right..”Why Modern Music Is Awful”….brilliantly explained I thought. It of course refers to mainstream pop music but I fear its also crept into mainstream country music, mainstream singer/songwriters and even some “trad” folk.
The main reason for this blog though ,was that that well presented case has lead me to a much more personal issue – “Why Is So Much Modern Live Music Awful”. Followers of my rants on the subject of noisy audiences will have heard my explanations, including short attention span and inexperience of dealing with quiet live performance. I would now add to that, the very modern phenomena of “inclusiveness is a right” “Ive got a ukulele/beat box – sorry, “cajon”/shaky egg” and Im going to play it, no matter who else is playing or even what they are playing”.
My theory is that the recent explosion, particularly of ukuleles, by an army of beginners not in the first flush of youth, is that they are reacting against the blandness and sheer awfulness of modern pop music and trying to return to a more real form of music. How I would have longed for that support in the late 70s, 80s and 90s – be careful what you wish for!!…Sadly, being beginners, not in the first flush of youth, they not unexpectedly go for simple instruments playing simple songs. Which would be fine in the privacy of their own homes but this has now spilled it into venues formerly, sparsely, inhabited by struggling professional and semi-professional musicians [gosh, who could I be thinking of here?!]. With the growing ageing, pensioned population getting involved we now have literally hundreds of such enthusiasts in cities like Glasgow.
Where I become conflicted [another annoying modern expression] is that I am delighted at the thought of so many people getting pleasure from playing instruments, I just cant bear to listen to it.
I started out in folk clubs in Scotland, playing floorspots from Aberdeen to Dumfries, scratching round for gigs. As a veteran of the end of the UK “blues boom” of the late 60s and growing up in a village with no live music tradition, I was at first quite charmed by the coothy “jiney in” and music hall songs that formed the mainstay of most floor singers and quite a few main acts repertoires. But once youve heard “Oh Dear Me”, “Twa Recruiting Serjents” or the horror of a badly sung “Waltzing Matilda” 50 times it puts you off that stuff for life….and now its come back, jiney in songs with the added karaoke sound of massed beginners on ukes, guitars, fiddles, shaky eggs and beat boxes!!…aaaargh…
Did the great breakthrough folk bands of the 70s – Planxty, Ossian, Alba..die in vain..[OK, I took that a bit too far!]. I remember the folkie old guard grumbling about these newcomers in 1974 with their mics and bouzoukis – “if youre a real singer you dont need a mic” “it was in tune when I bought it” “cant you sing a good scots song” and similar excuses for poorly performed recycled rubbish..and they all wondered why no one came!
So, finally, every generation has to accept the fact that their time has come. This must be what the jazz players felt like when skiffle got so popular – at least skiffle produced the likes of the Beatles….but this generation are already old. I’m playing better than I ever have through a long life of performing but I’m the only one that notices!.So goodbye to all that, I’ll watch and listen to the stuff I like, on my computer and TV.