They say the music you like when a teenager sticks with you for the rest of your life; it influences your musical choices later in life whether you realise it or not. It makes sense to me.
When I was young I loved bands which were… well, different. They didn’t fit in with what was popular at the time. John Peel would play them on BBC radio late at night, but no one else did. Van der Graaf Generator was darker than a coal mine with the lights out. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was just plain weird. Then there came the Sex Pistols which most dismissed as not musical at all. I loved them all, and I still do. Today, only the Black Keys gives me hope, their songs sounding as raw as red meat hanging in a Detroit garage.
For nothing seems available to shock us these days musically. Anything that comes out of the radio or Spotify is over-produced and conforms to some mystical industry standard. Maybe we cannot define it, but we know what doesn’t conform to it. Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues wouldn’t stand a chance these days.
If this is commercial music, amateur efforts in the community are much the same here. Even ‘original’ songs sound hauntingly all too similar to something else we have heard before, with love as a theme done to death.
Andy Greenlay’s excellent post on Phuket Musicians (9 October) said it all via a video of Frank Zappa who would never get a recording contract today. (Click here.) Neither would his schoolmate Captain Beefheart.
It takes courage to take a risk, to pick up an instrument and try something really different. People will laugh at you, even physically attack you (as they did with the Pistols). But someone has to have the guts to do it if music is not to stagnate and be emotionally unstimulating.
Music is much less creative today, and we are all the poorer for it. We need to be challenged; we need that shock of the new.
Someone has to do it. Someone has to try.