“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” But I wish he would have.
When I think back over the three plus decades I’ve worked in music, there are aha moments about the early years I wish I’d paid more attention to. Just finished watching the documentary, The Wrecking Crew which I knew had loose ends tied to some of the work I did early on, and after watching it, realizing there was an awful lot I could have learned if someone had knocked me off that high horse I was so fond of then.
In the mid to late 1980s I worked with Mason Williams who composed the most-broadcast instrumental tune in history, “Classical Gas.” Williams is the epitome of what every artist should be. He never stops creating, entertaining himself in many ways, with mediums that are interesting to him. Over the number of years he’s been in the business he’s met just about everyone, and stayed in touch with the best of those players who accompany his sound.
Hal Blaine, the most recorded drummer in history, is one of those players; and he is also a member of The Wrecking Crew.
Back then, I was way more interested in what most self-indulgent Twenty Somethings care about more than old guys playing music. I see it all the time in Nashville. Young self-absorbed creatives who don’t care what music veterans have to offer, because pfft. It’s ancient, man.
Watching The Wrecking Crew and compartmentalizing the sheer enormity of Hal Blaine’s career by the time I was working with him, I regret missing the opportunity to know him better. There are very few people making it in Nashville who are trained musicians with as much style and finesse as Hal has contributed to an incredible number of enormous hit records.
I remember staying at his home in Arizona for a day or so, and seeing his wall of gold records, knowing each and every title. I think the total number is 170. Plus he has six consecutive Grammy-winning Record of the Year titles between 1966 and 1971. Record of the Year is a huge and coveted Grammy win, and Hal has six — in a row!
On that visit he made the most incredible fresh squeezed grapefruit juice I’ve ever tasted from homegrown fruit. On another trip, for a gig in Denver if I recall, I was horrified the hotel put Hal in something like a broom closet since it was regrettable I’d made those arrangements. He was always the first guy in the lobby waiting to go to sound checks, the gig, or whatever was happening.
He’s got an incredible sense of humor, and can deliver a joke better than many comedians. Very generous, he always gave people something fun to remember a project or occasion like a signature black t-shirt with Moose Goosers in white letters. His trademark stamp, “Hal Blaine Strikes Again” was an actual rubber stamp he had made to mark his score parts, and to leave his mark on the walls in the many studios and concert halls he’d played.
Great musicians are self-made. Certainly along the way there’s a bit of ego (sometimes a lot) in the mix, but it’s more about the ability to be a great team player. That takes perseverance, personality, not petulance. Here’s one of his quotes that hopefully creates an indelible impact.
“I’m not a flashy drummer. I never wanted to be a Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich. I wanted to be a great accompanist, and that was my role … A song is a story, and if you interrupt the story with your playing, you’re not doing anybody any good at all.”
Retracing Hal’s career for you would be an enormous undertaking, so I encourage you to do the research. His contribution to music is phenomenal.
The Wrecking Crew was the cream of the crop in session players called in for an incredible number of epic projects. Hal is credited with coining the name Wrecking Crew which is as legendary as Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, perhaps more so given the vast talent in the group.
For those of you who think you have the chops to make it, my advice is to see this documentary. The reality, or what we believed was reality, is something else altogether. And I encourage you to find out as much as you can about Hal Blaine whether you’re a drummer or a producer. He is a true legend — not one of those guys who believes he’s a legend after doing five to ten in the business.
Here’s the lesson: Listen to people who’ve been in the business much longer than you have. They’ve survived more than you can dream of accomplishing. They always know what they’re talking about, and if you’ve got a better idea, so be it.
Watch The Wrecking Crew before you write off the integrity of those who invented the thing you’re thinking of creating.
This gallery contains 16 photos.
Originally posted on Travel Loafers:
Separated by a wall and 200 years are the homes of two musicians who chose London and changed music. ? I wish I could tell you I had dreamed up that line myself. But I…
It’s been a thoroughly interesting week learning about all the changes that are going to make a musician’s life all the more interesting due to copyright. To date I’ve focused on information from Copyright Officer, Stephen Carlisle, J. D. and his latest article:
Well, if that isn’t enough to make you sit up straight, you also need to bone up on what is included in the TPP aka Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement which you can read:
Curious, really that copyright law is suddenly so popular, don’t you agree? I mean it’s really rather dull and fraught with illogical precedent. Laymen certainly have the capacity to understand it, but lawyers go to school for years to be able to comprehend the stuff. Is someone thinking we’re gormless daft cows? Too dim to get what’s happening and will remain in the dark as our intellectual property becomes theirs.
This series of posts is dedicated to a few ideas that can help you see things a little differently than the overarching premise we’ve been spoon fed for quite some time. The idea that music and our content should fill cyberspace has always been suspect to my mind. Create content just for the sake of….oh, someone else’s benefit. Nah, I’m good.
We all know music has existed for centuries on the physical plane without the Internet and some of it is so renown it will remain popular for many years to come. Much of that music is in public domain. Copyright doesn’t pertain to music in public domain unless you register your arrangement of a particular piece with the Library of Congress and a PRO.
The other bugger in this case is whether or not your music is on the Internet. Well duh! Whose isn’t? Consider if you will, going back to the dark ages, only performing and recording music in the public domain.
The benefits are the same, maybe even better. The music can be recorded without a royalty to the composer. The music can be played anywhere without having to pay a royalty. And that is obviously part and parcel of this issue. Copyright law is being restructured by the Department of Justice to give more latitude to companies like Spotify, Pandora, Google, YouTube…blah, blah. Don’t let them. You really don’t need them.
If your music is not on the Internet who can touch you?
Record to vinyl at an analog studio. Retro is hip, dude. How retro can you get? I’ll bet you can play a very cool arrangement of tons of songs you never thought possible. Make the old new. Music is about posterity, right? It was never about the money, anyway.
Give nothing away. Nothing!
That was all snookered from the get go.
Forget about the club scene and have house parties instead. The early days of rock started this way. And this little band called Nirvana up there around Seattle. They were too young to play in clubs so they did the house party thing until 200 -300 people was just too much to handle. How often do you play in front of 200-300 people?
If you’re a creative, these details will no doubt lead you to some really cool ideas. Get busy. You’ve got some packing to do and get out of cyberspace. Pie in the sky is all there was. Now they’re trying to take the pie away! Pip pip!
Describe the 1960’s in a single word, and the word has to be Beatles. No other artist in history has affected the human population to the extent the Beatles have. Not Mozart, not Elvis, not Taylor Swift, not anyone. The Beatles changed the course of history in a way that had never been seen. They appeared at just the right time and didn’t overstay their welcome. Like true professionals they left us wanting more. The Beatles’ influence went beyond music. Fashion, mindsets, beliefs and politics were all affected by the Fab Four. The evolution of the four lads from Liverpool in 7 short years are still felt 50 years on. From hard rockers to British Music Hall, many of the songs in their varied repertoire are now ingrained in our collective consciousness – as familiar as “Happy Birthday To You”. The legacy and phenomenon…
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Nearly everyone has heard this song at one point in their lives, and wondered what in the world happened there? The original song title by Iron Butterfly was supposed to be “In The Garden of Eden,” but something happened on the way to the studio….or who knows, someone’s words got tangled behind their eye teeth, and the rest is historical.
Why is it historical? Because no one forgets the story behind this song.
Since August 4, posts on this site refer to Copyright Officer Stephen Carlisle’ s article:
Carlisle is talking about the 75-year marriage between music and copyright law that has produced lots of fighting and no sex. And after all these years it looks like D.I.V.O.R.C.E. is imminent.
So what are songwriters, co-writers, performing and recording artists to do?
Oddly enough, there are many things that can be done, and this series of posts should give you an idea where to start and what to do thereafter.
In an impractical sense, if copyright law goes to the dogs it’s likely one of the best things to happen to music since….well, you be the judge. First, and foremost, music and the Internet do not mix because it isn’t personal. There’s no energy between the performer and the listener; and the sound quality is crap. To that end so is a majority of the music.
Pointing my finger at you, forget about the internet and consider where you live as a highly advantageous asset. It’s where friends and family are, your support group, the people who want you to succeed. If you live in Sacramento, how many people in Seattle will actually come to hear your music live? How many music directors or entertainment editors will invite you for an interview?
That number is likely real close to zero.
At this juncture, your best option is to make yourself a known quantity within about a 250-mile radius of your home as a short term goal. Aside from being a musician, who are you and why are you an interesting person? What audience can you bring to listen to or read an interview that’s valuable to your local radio, newspapers or TV?
Consider these things carefully.
Then you get on the phone with local radio stations, the newspaper, and local TV stations. You have a story you want to talk about. The story is about you, what you’ve done with your life, why you write music and why music is important in the first place. Not why music is important to you…but why is music important.
If you cannot do this, there’s likely a bigger problem. It would be unkind to say :
Somewhere along the line we’ve lost our way in talking about music. And this is important to the subject of copyright law because playing the music on airwaves probably won’t be an easy answer to the question of how to build an audience.
It’s the story of the musician that is ultimately important.
Music is not an intellectual experience. It’s a personal experience. When you make it personal, then we’ve got something to talk about.
And just so you know, music is important because it is meant to bring people together, in the same room, for a shared experience.
The last three posts here on Scout 66 have focused on the writing of Copyright Officer Stephen Carlisle, J.D. and what is happening with copyright law, common law, and consent decrees which you can read about here http://copyright.nova.edu.
It’s all very heady stuff and from what I’m hearing, “the decision written by the Department of Justice is much worse than you can possibly imagine…” Surprised, not surprised, that even something as sacred as copyright law is being tampered with when, in fact, musicians and the music business have been seriously oppressed by the evolution of technology.
This could only mean more oppression is coming unless you take proactive steps right now. In the unlikely event everything remains unchanged, then being fully prepared to take a different path may teach you a few things you hadn’t thought important until now.
If you have a publisher, get over to see them right away. If they tell you don’t worry, it’s much ado about nothing — run! If you don’t have a publisher, make an appointment with an entertainment or intellectual property attorney and find out just what the hell is going on concerning your situation.
Here are a few things to consider:
Copyright and music do not have to be complicated.
Whatever the DOJ has up its sleeve is for one reason: It will most likely give Google ultimate authority over existing PROs.
Google can only be involved if your music is entangled in the Internet unless they seek to destroy PROs completely. Even still, intellectual property must have protection if the property is not used on the internet.
We must have copyright law to protect intellectual property, but intellectual property does not have to be the property of entities such as Google. Music and literature have existed for millennia without the internet, and it is the internet’s omnipresence that has destroyed what was working well within the music business model until about 1999.
The internet and advanced technology have nothing to do with the concept of music; they only act as models for distribution and marketing of intellectual property. Therefore if you remove yourself from that plane and create your business around practices that exist on the physical plane you are in full control of your work.
There ARE many, many ways to have a successful career without putting all your eggs in the Internet’s basket. In many ways, it is the smartest thing to consider given recent trends in growing market share for vinyl recordings. Taking your power back and finding other means creates more demand for anachronisms like turn tables, newspapers, and hard copy magazines, real artwork for album covers, liner notes, advertising specialty items and an entire array of concepts and methods the internet has wiped clean from recent memory.
[There must be a joke here about using a cloth to clean up the mess of the internet. We all know of a politician who’s been in a pickle under similarly extenuating circumstances.]
Of the many music marketing specialists and publicist active today, I am one of the few who has extensive experience in old school strategy, and I’m willing to help anyone who wants to pull the plug on Big Brother’s browser and get back to the very old-fashioned idea of creating music for the sake of music itself.
What a concept!