Posts Tagged ‘nirvana’

As I’ve been thinking about this a lot, it seems to me that today’s music industry is made up of people who are good at being famous.  Many artists from the past were not so.  They were disenfranchised with the whole celebrity lifestyle and society in general. 

Recently I saw an interview with Bob Dylan which showed his dissatisfaction with just about everything.  A life in the spotlight seems to have made Bob a bitter man, who can’t understand why people obsess over his songs to the extent they do.

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So many artists spring to mind, but Dylan and Kurt Cobain would have to be the two most mainstream examples that seriously tried to jeopardise their fame by subliminally targeting the very industry that was employing them, (or it could be argued, exploiting them).  The press would hound Dylan and ask stupid questions, he’d give stupid answers, though his craft was always serious, and his songs spoke words with conviction.  As for Kurt Cobain, it’s common    knowledge now that In Utero, Nirvana’s third album was deliberately made with the intention of steering away the mainstream following that the band had gained following the success of Nevermind.  This doesn’t mean it wasn’t as good, though it wasn’t made with the intention of emulating success.                                                                                                                                          

Music has always been business, but today the business is greedy, and the artists that could speak up, be angry, and give society a chance to look at itself in the mirror aren’t being given the chance to.  Rather the ones that value money and fame are now the most successful, because being famous, rich and pretty is what sells music now.  

But it’s not just the industry’s fault, it’s your fault as well.  Yes, you the listener.  People would rather stick their heads in the sand and ignore the problems going on by drowning them out with some feel good dance music.  But the problems are still there; they don’t just go away. 

People can claim that music changes with time and we should embrace that.  I can hack that even though I might not like it, but music has lost its self reflective, artistic touch.  Art is about making a statement that challenges thinking, but more importantly helps us to find direction.  I’m sorry but a film clip with some over rated pop star licking a sledge hammer is not challenging us.  The sexual revolution happened 50 years ago people.  What I’m talking about is music that says, stop buying pointless shit, stop burning petrol, stop listening to what some idiot says on TV and wake up to your ignorance. 

Music needs to act as a mirror for society to see all its flaws.  That’s what art is about.

746px-Eric__slowhand__ClaptonIf you asked a group of kids under the age of 20, most would say who cares.  Unfortunately in the Internet driven world of the 21st century music like all media has become diversified and subsequently targeted to very niche markets.  So perhaps Rock isn’t dead, but still the musical landscape today is not what it was 20 years ago.

 In my opinion, Rock music as a mainstream genre died with Kurt Cobain almost 20 years ago, yet I’d still concur that rock is not dead; not while the troubles of the Earth still compromise peace, not while humans still feel suffering and pain.  For me, rock music has its roots in the blues, the music of suffering.  What’s happened in the last 20 years is the rapid dematerialisation of music, as artists push further away from the simple influence of popular music’s forefathers to seek influence from more cotemporary sources. 

When I say forefathers of popular music I don’t mean Michael Jackson, or John Lennon.  The roots of pop stem back to the Mississippi Delta, to the original blues legend, Robert Johnson.  In the 50’s the likes of Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins and Howlin Wolf would have a profound impact on the British blues boom, which gave birth to bands like The Beatles, The Stones, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.  The golden age of rock and roll, really does have the blues to thank for its existence.

But the influence didn’t end there in the 60’s.  Heavy Metal too was forged on the blues and as late as the nineties, the bands of the time were still obsessed with the blues no mater how far from the genre they may have been perceived.  Kurt Cobain’s love for the music of Lead Belly became evident to all during his cover of Where Did You Sleep Last Night at Nirvana’s famous unplugged in New York session, whilst Nirvana’s grunge counterparts Pearl Jam have cited 80’s blues immortal Stevie Ray Vaughan as a massive influence.

But today’s bands don’t seem to have the same direction.  The lines have blurred too much, to a point where rock music is confused and watered down.  Bands lack originality in my opinion because they’re working from influences that have already exploited ideas.  It’s like taking an already well painted piece of canvas and trying to paint a completely different picture.  From the 50’s to the 90’s the formula was simple, simple chords, simple riff and a unique melody.   The blues was like an empty canvas for artists to work off and develop their own unique sound.

So no, rock isn’t dead, it’s just a bit ill.  But that’s nothing a good dose of the blues can’t fix