Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why The 70s Were Better

Bob Lefsetz explains why the Music was better in the 70s:

1. A&M and Island Records

Yes, in the early seventies Steve Ross consolidated Warner, Atlantic and Elektra into one company.

But not every label with hits was owned by a corporate behemoth.

Pound for pound, A&M and Island had the best records.  After all, Island delivered Bob Marley to the masses.  What has that boasting prick who runs J Records ever added to the culture in the last twenty five years?

Chris Blackwell and Jerry Moss were mavericks.  Who believed first and foremost in music.  Can you say the same about Andy Lack?

As for Warner...  Steve Ross was famous for leaving his label heads alone.  Whereas all we hear about today is all the corporate pressure the labels' employees are under, to deliver short term results.

2. Independent Concert Promoters

Things are different when your livelihood directly correlates with your batting average.  It was about RELATIONSHIPS!  Investing in new bands knowing the agent would be loyal in the future.  And delivering a good experience for the customer.  Meanwhile, Michael Rapino is busy managing debt.

3. Radio

Lament Lee Abrams' Superstars format, but in contrast to what we have today, Superstars was a GODSEND!

Then again, compared to what came before, Superstars was the beginning of the end.  As Superstars took hold, we got corporate rock.  And then disco.  And then the whole thing imploded.

But before that.  Before consultants ruled.  When FM radio stations were religion more than profit centers, listeners were devoted and bands were broken.

You trusted the radio the way today's evangelicals trust Jesus.  You tuned into the radio to find out about not only the new music, but the news that applied to you.  The deejay was your friend.  He played what HE wanted to, what HE thought was good.  It was a skilled position.  And, you could reach him and request tracks.  Not only stuff on a tight playlist.

The way it is on Lee Abram's XM today, in fact.  When XM reaches twenty million subscribers maybe the early seventies will return, because it's based on the same principles.  NOT Mel Karmazin's principles.  Not Steve Blatter's principles.  But, the principle of choosing the best man for the job and letting him DO IT!

4. Vinyl

Why bother to make a warm-sounding acoustic record, it's just going to sound like shit when transferred to CD.

Forget the religion.  Of placing the needle in the groove.  If anybody reading thinks CDs sound as good as vinyl, they just haven't heard the latter.  You know the only thing that sounds good on CD?  Hip-hop.  Maybe that's why it dominates the airwaves.

5. Prices

David Krebs told me that Aerosmith's accusation that he stole from them in the seventies was false.  That they didn't remember that ticket prices were under ten dollars thirty years ago.  Sometimes WAY under ten dollars.  Even hit bands weren't canvassing the country and making the kind of money the Stones do today.  Hell, the STONES didn't make that kind of money.  Which may be why they're still touring today.  And there were no ticket fees.  No facility fees.  The price was the price, and you knew it.  And the cost was equivalent to two first run movies.  You didn't have to pick and choose the gigs you wanted to go to as much as just decide to ATTEND!  You didn't only go to see your favorites.  You took chances on new acts in clubs.  Music was a pastime, not an EVENT that only comes once a year, like a birthday.

And you could AFFORD multiple albums...

6. Clubs

Sure, the record companies kept them in business.  But seeing someone with HUNDREDS of people instead of thousands cemented the bond.

And there was a culture of opening acts.  You WANTED to see the new bands.  You still believed they would be good.  You weren't pissed you'd have to sit through some lame act appearing as a favor.

7. Live music

Yup, no tapes.  Not until ELO in the latter seventies.  You revered Yes because they could PLAY!

8. Attitude

Sure, bands still have attitude today.  It's just a different kind of attitude.  It's PRESS attitude.  An image for a magazine, or TV.  Bands back then WEREN'T ON TV, not most of them.  And there was no fawning celebrity press.  You could BELIEVE in the acts.  You can't believe in the acts today.

9.  The Acts

They wanted to be musicians.  Today's acts want to be stars.

Oh, of course there are exceptions.  It's just that these exceptions, who won't play along, don't get major label deals, aren't on the radio, never mind TV.  And this is good for their careers, but in the seventies second level bands got more than a modicum of exposure.

10. The Culture

Video games?  The secret society?  The addiction?  The revenue?  That's the way it used to be in music, until the fat cats mainstreamed the acts, sold them out to mainstream culture.

11. Infrastructure

We were making it up as we went along.  The music more important than anything.  Today, music is a job.  With a fat paycheck you use to purchase the perks.  Used to be you were PRIVILEGED to work in the business.  Today you're privileged to work at Apple Computer.  In the seventies the most desirable gig was one at a record store.  Just go to Tower or Best Buy today.  These are the high school dropouts who can't sell electronics.

12. No Hit Mentality

All that mattered was good.  It wasn't about the single, but the whole body of work.  Some of the best records of all time didn't have a track released as a 45, and were never played on AM radio.  Ever heard "Free Bird" on AM radio?

13. Competition

Today the goal is to sell MORE  COPIES than the next guy.  Back then it was to make better RECORDS!

14. Diversity

Music was presented as a whole.  You could like Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Carole King AND Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers and nobody would bat an eyelash.  After all, wasn't it all MUSIC?

15. No MTV

Overexposure kills acts.  Consider this one of the Ten Commandments.  Break it at your peril.

If things are as good today, how come other than the Dave Matthews Band, no new act can sell out a stadium?  Sure, there are great acts.  But they must be nurtured by people who CARE, about the MUSIC, not the MONEY!  And they must be developed slowly.  Is anybody interested in the trainwreck or police pursuit all over TV the following WEEK, never mind YEAR?  Think about it...

Posted at 09:05 AM in Music | Permalink


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hmmm some good points here but:

4. Anyone who a) went to a lot of rock concerts in the 1970s and b) claims to be able to hear the difference between CD and vinyl today is kidding themself in one way or another.

6. I refuse to believe that anyone has ever regarded opening acts as anything other than a menace.

14. This is pure historical revisionism. At the time, all these rock types were busy ignoring most of the most original composition and production and best musicianship of the decade because "Disco Sucks".

Posted by: dsquared | Dec 14, 2005 3:40:20 AM

(furthermore, if the 70s were so great, why did we have punk rock? Things may be bad now, but not so bad that people are prepared to do something about it)

Posted by: dsquared | Dec 14, 2005 3:41:06 AM

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