On "keeping it real" and the end of an era

Backslapping time. Well done us. We are fantastic.
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Earthling
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Postby Earthling » 19 Jan 2005, 22:18

The Holy Goof wrote:
Herr Moyno wrote:Can somebody explain what 'perceived lack of progression' has to do with 'laziness'?
The Stones were great imitators, sure, but they did it with a panache and style that was totally their own. Where is that being lazy?
While berating the Stones 'for going back to their roots' no-one has given a clue as to WHAT should have been the next Great Leap Forward?


Well my point was that they combined this with an experimentalism/innovation. Most of their great songs from this period don't really sound like anything else. And I don't think they're rooted in the traditionalism of say The Band.

My thoughts exactly.

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Postby Piggly Wiggly » 19 Jan 2005, 23:46

Since there appears to be a bit of misunderstanding about my views on the Stones circa 68-69, I'll say it more plainly:

YES, they were as trendy as ever. YES, they were generally the epitome of YES I CAN IF (insert artist's name here) SAYS IT'S OK. YES, they were probably as uncomfortable in their own skin as from day one (and just as hung up on tributing more "genuine" and "authentic" forms of music - please refer to the quote at the top of my intial post for a handy distillation of this lack of self belief). YES - if Marianne Faithful is to be believed - Jagger heard the Basement tapes quite a bit. YES, they bailed out of psychedelic music with the then au courant return to folksy, bluesy, and trad arr. forms. Far from denying these magpie tendencies, I explicitly stated them.

HOWEVER (and this is where The Holy Goof understands my writing in full) - they were so shit hot at the time, that even their pandering could not fuck up the best music of their career completely. In my opening post I damn them by attributing this to luck - this is where personal opinion creeps in. But, as both Goof and I have stated, the likes of "Jigsaw Puzzle", "Jumpin Jack Flash", "Street Fighting Man", "Stray Cat Blues", "Gimme Shelter", "Honky Tonk Women", You Can't Always....", and most certainly "Sympathy For The Devil" were as fresh and original as this band ever got.

To summarize my view, it is lucky for them that they attempted to adopt the latest makeover at a time when they were simply too good/hot/inspired to be derailed by it.

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Postby Earthling » 20 Jan 2005, 00:48

I wasn't implying that you failed to state your position re-the Stones Loveless, it was more Matt Wilson's comments I had trouble with. (As always! :-) )
However I am still curious to know what should have been the next step in the creative development of bands that was seemingly waylaid/stalled by the 'back to the roots' events of '68 and '69.

marios

Postby marios » 20 Jan 2005, 01:15

Excellent thread! I'm taking the laptop in the loo with me.

Piggly Wiggly

Postby Piggly Wiggly » 20 Jan 2005, 05:18

Herr Moyno wrote:I wasn't implying that you failed to state your position re-the Stones Loveless, it was more Matt Wilson's comments I had trouble with. (As always! :-) )


I know. I was wondering if Matt had understood my initial position on the Stones?

However I am still curious to know what should have been the next step in the creative development of bands that was seemingly waylaid/stalled by the 'back to the roots' events of '68 and '69.


Well, purely speculatory, but I think that electronic music should have infiltrated pop much sooner. And not in a "Lucky Man"/"Star Collector" novelty way either, but perhaps in more of an Innervisions/Dark Side Of The Moon fashion (to say nothing of Kraftwerk/Eno) - fully integrated. I think the quiet dignity of something like The White Album (sic) or the work of Os Mutantes or Pink Floyd (in which psychedelic music and experimental pop were reaching a somewhat more chilled out and modest/mature - yet no less sophisticated/advanced - summit) also strikes me as a more linear progression than the "presto chango" back to the roots movement.

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Postby frimleygreener » 20 Jan 2005, 07:04

terrific thread.at the risk of being castigated,hauled over the coals,nay castrated let me tell you the day the music died:the day that the band of gypsies unleashed machine gun on an american public that loved jimis cute carnaby street garb and freaky wah wah pedal...but they could not cope with the mean black son of a bitch when he cut his hair and came home....whatever...guess jimi, miles and jaco cooking up some shit in the devils kitchen...

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Postby Toby » 20 Jan 2005, 12:38

Fantastic post Loveless, I really enjoyed reading it, and feel overawed at my inability at first to contribute, but as someone else as mentioned, you made no mention at all of the Velvet Underground. Where do they figure in this? There is no explicit link between them and the appearance of The Band here.

They were I think, the foremost influence on what would become Krautrock, or at least in hindsight, the bands from that scene that have made the more historically endearing and influential music. Can's advancement from the 1968 Delay tapes to "Mother Sky" in 1970 represents a huge leap forward. I cannot imagine, having heard it again recently, any US/UK rock band coming anywhere near recording a song like that.

You talk about a regression in the US & UK to a more roots-based approach, but elsewhere the fires were burning.

I have thought before that the brief flirtation with avant-garde electronics by the Beatles and The Beach Boys seemed to hit an abrupt wall. It's as if "Revolution no.9" almost put an end to such matters for some reason. Yet perhaps because they were "big" bands anyway, only they had the financial ability to access such technology. That I think, is a big part in these matters. Electronic equipment was a) v.expensive b) unwieldy and c) unreliable.

I'm sorry if that doesn't seem to be on-topic, but it's my contribution to what is essentially a superb discussion.

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Postby Moleskin » 20 Jan 2005, 14:20

I'm not sure I can add much to this very interesting thread. I'm going to try, though.

My take on this is that psychedelia had become a style. The first records in the genre were experimental and questing, but later entries, as various showbands jumped on the bandwagon, were a reduction to a series of generic indicators: backwards guitars? check; phased drums? check; lots of splashy, reverby cymbals? check... and so on. Listen to the second Nuggets box and you can hear the same sounds being used over and over. This meant that the 'movement' - such as it was - became stale very quickly, perhaps because it originally relied on finding new sounds and approaches.

Then you need to remember what else was going on in early 68. After all, Altamont wasn't till late 1969. 1968 in general saw authority stamping on the growing subculture: Paris in May, Prague in August; Tet and My Lai brought the real meaning of the Vietnam war home to TV screens across the world; Bobby Kennedy, who was seen as 'our' (counter-cultural) candidate was shot; MLK was shot; at the Chicago Democratic Party Convention the police beat some marchers unconscious and send at least 100 to emergency rooms.

1968 was a year of upheaval, the dark mirror of 1848 perhaps.

In this environment, the back-to-basics approach of Big Pink and John Wesley Harding struck a significant chord.

I think that as 1968 progressed, musicians felt less of the euphoria and positivity that had flowered into psych.

Erm, think I've rambled a bit there, but the principle point I want to add is that the youth and hopefulness of 1967 got a hell of a kicking in 1968, and that this should be considered as a part of the reason for the withdrawal from experimentation in US and British rock.

Second point concerns the German contingent... we know that Holger Czukay and Can could not follow this approach because of the war. I vaguely recall an iinterview with Holger where he said that they (Can) felt opbliged to create music that was not backward-looking, because so much of German culture was still tainted by Nazism. Perhaps for the same reason, the German police was a less reactionary force, ie., German hippies were not subjected to the same crackdown by 'the establishment'? Of course Holger was also a pupil/follower of Stockhausen - perhaps this classical background also inoculated the band against traditionalism?

And there my thoughts trail off for the moment.

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Postby Jeff K » 20 Jan 2005, 14:49

Terrific thread and not an easy one to respond to but I'll try anyway.

I don't think Music From the Big Pink or John Wesley Harding killed innovation. Music was already splitting off into many different directions even before Woodstock. It would have been nearly impossible to keep up the pace of that great, creative period (1966-68). Psychedelic had basically run its course by the end of the decade. Many bands were asking "where do we go now?"

Along comes Dylan and the Band to point them in the back to the basics direction. Dylan's influence in particular, cannot be denied. It seems that everything he did back then was an indication of where music should be heading. He cuts his hair and returns with a folky/country album, well then, that must be the future! Add to that, Music From the Big Pink and the Basement Tapes became hip LP's to play among the rock elite and the next thing you know, you had Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Grateful Dead cutting down on the jams (American Beauty and Workingman's Dead), Clapton becoming deadly dull and the entire singer-songwriter dreck of the 70's. Basically, after the hectic pace of the mid-60's, everybody wanted to slow down and mellow out a bit.

It's unfair to place most of the blame on Dylan since he always followed his own course and never wanted people to hang on to his every word and movement. But I've often wondered what would have happened if he returned with a more experiemental album instead of John Wesley Harding and hung out with the Velvet Underground or Can, instead of the Band?
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Postby Matt Wilson » 20 Jan 2005, 16:55

Loveless wrote:
Herr Moyno wrote:I wasn't implying that you failed to state your position re-the Stones Loveless, it was more Matt Wilson's comments I had trouble with. (As always! :-) )


I know. I was wondering if Matt had understood my initial position on the Stones?


Ha Ha! Yep, God forbid I would say that the Stones were less then revolutionary. That would certainly be a comment that someone would have trouble with. Never mind I said that they're great and that I like Beggar's Banquet. Nope, I've got to say that they were completely on top of their game and much better than the Band or damn near anyone else in 1968 for my comments to be accepted on this thread. :D

And I also said that my views didn't negate John's comments either but I suppose that wasn't good enough not to be offensive as well... :roll:

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Postby Matt Wilson » 20 Jan 2005, 16:56

Loveless wrote:
Herr Moyno wrote:I wasn't implying that you failed to state your position re-the Stones Loveless, it was more Matt Wilson's comments I had trouble with. (As always! :-) )


I know. I was wondering if Matt had understood my initial position on the Stones?


Ha Ha! Yep, God forbid I would say that the Stones were less then revolutionary. That would certainly be a comment that someone would have trouble with. Never mind I said that they're great and that I like Beggar's Banquet. Nope, I've got to say that they were completely on top of their game and much better than the Band or damn near anyone else in 1968 for my comments to be accepted on this thread. :D

And I also said that my views didn't negate John's comments either but I suppose that wasn't good enough not to be offensive as well... :roll:

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Postby Moleskin » 20 Jan 2005, 18:08

I'm picking up where I left off earlier I hope.

My next point concerns the Basement Tapes. These were recorded from 1967, but originated as a bunch of friends/colleagues goofing-off in a basement. They didn’t have all the facilities of a recording studio (so no backwards guitars even if they’d wanted them, not that I think Dylan's muse would have led him into that sort of direction), and the very nature of the occasion in any case militated against experimentation. If one is playing for fun (and all the books & articles I’ve read stress the informal nature of the early basement sessions; they only became a song writing hothouse partway through) one plays more within the tradition.

Once this period is over Dylan and the Band took their many new songs into studios to record them. But the material did not call for a full psychedelic treatment and so it was released as it was.

Why it was so significant, I can’t imagine. I think Clapton was desperate to avoid being a superstar and this (and his brief time with the Delaney & Bonnie tour) gave him the opportunity to escape from the perceived restrictions imposed by Cream and then Blind Faith. Derek & the Dominoes, which followed, was conceived as a Band-like group with no stars. Whatever one thinks of Clapper’s subsequent career (and I think it is tasteful and entirely without merit), his aping of the Band was heartfelt.

You could make an argument that the backwards half-step of The Beatles is at least in part a reaction to Harrison’s hanging out with Dylan and presence on the same Delaney & Bonnie tour. Plus the songs were written in Rishikesh to a large extent, where there was no studio to play with complex arrangements. By the time the songs were recorded they had already taken on more traditional settings.

Really I suppose there is no single answer. Cultural events conspired with circumstance to change the sound of 1968 and make psychedelia redundant and old hat. The forces of reaction were in motion around the globe trying to quash the revolutionary parts of “flower power”, which changed the mood; combine this with the coincidence that Dylan and the Beatles each wrote their albums-of-that-year in primitive conditions (by which I only mean that they were written away from the studio) – perhaps also themselves in reaction to what they saw as their excesses of the previous year(s).

And psychedelia had become a series of off-the-shelf effects. With the right effects, any record could appear psychedelic, whatever the sincerity of the intentions. I said something similar in relation to prog a while ago: over time a musical movement becomes a genre, and what were exciting innovations become merely stylistic devices appropriated by (sometimes) less innovative musicians. See for example my use of backwards guitars etc on my home recordings.

What I see as the failure (or more kindly as the collapse) of the flower power ideal, whatever its cause, was one of the great lost chances of the 20th century, in my opinion. There was an optimism and a desire for brotherhood, encapsulated for what it’s worth in ‘All You Need is Love’, which once lost could not be regained. The potential for real societal change that was present in hippy got dissipated as the sixties wound into the seventies, an unfinished revolution.

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Postby Matt Wilson » 20 Jan 2005, 18:11

Now that's a post, Moleskin. And such a fine avatar too...

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Postby Quaco » 20 Jan 2005, 18:46

Thank you for those posts, moleskin (and everyone).

I just want to muse briefly on one of the paradoxes of '60s rock: The whole idea of experimentation and just doing what you want on a recording invariably leads to a return to the roots. It takes a lot of concentrated work to keep progressing and finding new things. "All You Need Is Love" -- an interesting mix of studio and televised-live tracks, and important in its codification of the '60s zeitgeist -- is a license to just hang around and not do that kind of work.

At some point, the '60s youth culture started to be more than just the clothes you wore or the records you bought; people started to really live it, looking (often with the guidance of drugs and gurus) for a new way to live. It's natural to shed the society around you in order to build up a new, more meaningful existence around you. This led people back to nature, to their own communes or at least to more urban versions of this (from outdoor festivals such as Woodstock to getting high on the grass at the university to sitting in your room fantasizing about a new, natural world free of the strictures of modern mechanized society). These ideas were all fed by recordings made in fluorescently lit professional studios.

Not the clearest post, but hopefully you know what I mean ...
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The Modernist

Postby The Modernist » 20 Jan 2005, 19:20

Quaco wrote:Thank you for those posts, moleskin (and everyone).

I just want to muse briefly on one of the paradoxes of '60s rock: The whole idea of experimentation and just doing what you want on a recording invariably leads to a return to the roots. It takes a lot of concentrated work to keep progressing and finding new things. "All You Need Is Love" -- an interesting mix of studio and televised-live tracks, and important in its codification of the '60s zeitgeist -- is a license to just hang around and not do that kind of work.

At some point, the '60s youth culture started to be more than just the clothes you wore or the records you bought; people started to really live it, looking (often with the guidance of drugs and gurus) for a new way to live. It's natural to shed the society around you in order to build up a new, more meaningful existence around you. This led people back to nature, to their own communes or at least to more urban versions of this (from outdoor festivals such as Woodstock to getting high on the grass at the university to sitting in your room fantasizing about a new, natural world free of the strictures of modern mechanized society). These ideas were all fed by recordings made in fluorescently lit professional studios.

Not the clearest post, but hopefully you know what I mean ...


Yes, this is crucial. The move to simpler, roots music certainly carried with it a "back to nature" idealogy (all that recording albums in the country which seemed mandatory from 68-72) which corrolated with the rustic communalism of the late hippie era. In the states, the move away from the cities bought with it a certain insularity and smug isolationism. In his excellent book on the LA music scene, Hoskyns points as key the moment when the major musicians moved out of the city to Laurel Canyon and so on. The accent then shifted from bands to singer/songwriters (itself another legacy of Dylan).
One other interesting development of post-psychedelia which hasn't been commented on is the schism between UK music and US music. Before then for most of the sixties (since '64 when The Beatles hit The States) the two countries had been developing along parallel lines, but from 68 onwards they seemed to diverge markedly.
I think this is due to any number of reasons; partly that by the end of the 60's the West Coast music industry was dominant and global (compare it to the mid-sixties when the US music biz was far more regionalized..or this is certainly my impression). Also I thinkthat after a few years of being highly influenced by UK music, there was a collective desire among US musicians to explore their own musical heritage.
In the UK a new band forming in 68 would have either been a progressive band or a heavy blues-rock band (Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth, Led Zep etc.). Neither style was that big, at least initially , in The States.
In my view both these directions had dire conscequences for UK music which wouldn't be rectified until the arrival of Bowie, Roxy et al in the early seventies.

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Postby Matt Wilson » 20 Jan 2005, 19:53

Some excellent replies are beginning to emerge on this thread. I'd also like to put in a thought that psychedelia shouldn't be seen as the apex of '60s music and everything went downhill from there--which was definitely the mood put forth in the beginning. It isn't even superior to roots music--it's just different is all.

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Postby The Modernist » 20 Jan 2005, 20:14

Matt Wilson wrote:Some excellent replies are beginning to emerge on this thread. I'd also like to put in a thought that psychedelia shouldn't be seen as the apex of '60s music and everything went downhill from there--which was definitely the mood put forth in the beginning. It isn't even superior to roots music--it's just different is all.


Although from my own taste I have to say I think there was a general decline. Not to say there wasn't some excellent music from 69-72 say. But something of the immediacy and directness of music was lost.
Could anything as energetic and visceral as The Action's I'll Keep On Holding On come out in 1970., I think not (with the exception of The Stooges).

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Postby Matt Wilson » 20 Jan 2005, 20:29

The Holy Goof wrote:
Matt Wilson wrote:Some excellent replies are beginning to emerge on this thread. I'd also like to put in a thought that psychedelia shouldn't be seen as the apex of '60s music and everything went downhill from there--which was definitely the mood put forth in the beginning. It isn't even superior to roots music--it's just different is all.


Although from my own taste I have to say I think there was a general decline. Not to say there wasn't some excellent music from 69-72 say. But something of the immediacy and directness of music was lost.
Could anything as energetic and visceral as The Action's I'll Keep On Holding On come out in 1970., I think not (with the exception of The Stooges).


Right, but the point I'm bringing up is it's all subjective. That's just your opinion. Somebody else would say that Music From Big Pink, The Band, Crosby Still and Nash, Let it Bleed, Back in the USA, Led Zeppelin 1 and 2, Sticky Fingers, Moondance, Who's Next, the Faces' first three albums, Can't Buy a Thrill, Ziggy Stardust, or literally dozens of other albums which were released from '68-72 and have little or no connection to psychedelia are every bit as good.

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Postby Phenomenal Cat » 20 Jan 2005, 20:56

Damn! There are so many fantastic replies, I'm glad to see that this thread is off and running. Way to go, moleskin (and everyone else, for that matter).

When I think of that hot period ('65-'67), I automatically think of the production race between The Beatles and Beach Boys. It seemed that all of your major players from The Stones to Simon & Garfunkel were out to top each other and discover "new sounds". Brian Wilson certainly was viewed as one of the pioneers, enough so that even the Beatles had to take notice. Of course, we know what happened to Wilson, but why did the competition stop? The Beach Boys certainly had a chip in the game yet didn't seem overly reliant on psychedelic jiggery pokery. The shift from singles to albums meant that the full length could become a more complete statement (which is why Smile would have been such a breakthrough, though it would have been more "Psychedelic Barbershop" than true Psych).

Yet, most of the groups we've discussed stuck pretty hard and fast to the three minute song. I almost see Hendrix as the inheritor of the psychedelic torch: Electric Ladyland continues forward into soundscapes and extended tracks, whilst bands like The Stones, Kinks, and Beatles saw their limitations as musicians and realized that they could not win that race. I have always viewed Prog as the ugly end of the Psych stick; the classic groups we've mentioned were never known for being virtuosos. If anything, it does seem that this era died with Band of Gypsies (interesting point, Frimley), and the demise of Brian Jones. Other than that, I think that traditional Celtic and Bluegrass sounds are amazingly similar, and you'll find a weakness for these sounds in just about every band from The Stones to The Beatles to The Kinks to the bands emerging from California. As far as groups like V.U. and Can, I can't cast my net that wide quite yet. I'm still struggling with the more popular artists of the era.

I've gotta think about this some more......
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Postby natch » 21 Jan 2005, 02:49

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