Steve Silberman (digaman) Sat 4 Apr 09 09:11
Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night" and "On the Beach" got me through the early '70s. They were the "Blonde on Blonde" of their ravaged moment.
Mikal Gilmore (mikalgilmore) Sat 4 Apr 09 13:16
Yes, Waters was a real ass. Not to claim that his music didn't have its moments, but his Floyd was pretty distant from the ethos of the early Floyd. I'm probably defining the 1960s by time -- with matchless inventions and inspirations propelling from the 1950s, to the burnout and payoff of the mid 1970s. (I don't think I'd cite anybody in the book as truly extending the visions of the 1960s, except maybe the Dead in the ways I described earlier here, and I'd even argue with that.) The content would have been rather different had this been an original text about the 1960s, rather than a collection of published pieces. (I'm still plugging away on that enterprise, but it's a long way off from any completion.) The limits of a collection are pretty obvious, such as difficulty in tracing thematic throughlines or being able to move much into tangential areas that might be illuminating. These are just reflections on subjects in or around the 1960s -- it's certainly not any kind of proper history. But as I pieced this together, I realized that there were benefits to a loose or vague criterion: Subjects like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin (maybe even the Allman Brothers) wander afar, or work as inversions of some of the earlier possibilities, which is also a part of what happened in the 1960s. Since musical acts were primarily my prism here, I became interested in how some of these people lived with all that dissipation, with what they did when they were no longer amid times of purportedly shared visions. The Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin articles were something Rolling Stone asked me to write, not something that I sought. I had to think about accepting those assignments, because I had limited affinity for the subjects. In the end, though, I realized my interest in fucked-upness extended to people who are fucked-up in ways I might not have much immediate sympathy for.
Mikal Gilmore (mikalgilmore) Sat 4 Apr 09 16:43
Steve, I agree completely about Tonight's the Night and On the Beach. I'd also add Zuma to that list. You asked what's most difficult about maintaining craft over time, and what's easiest. It's a great question, though I'm not sure I know. What's difficult now is what's always been difficult for me: Finding the will to sit down, concentrate, and write. It's not as if I've ever really liked doing it, except maybe in the first few years. What got in the way for so long was fear and doubt. I still have plenty of doubts about my work, and I always strive to do the best I can at any one time, but I worry about it all a lot less. Some of my writing is better than some of the rest of my writing, some of it (certainly some in this book) embarrasses me when I read it (never do that!), but I no longer compare myself to other writers and I don't worry if people like what I do. I know the people whom I like to read, and that preoccupies me more. But if there's anything that makes it more difficult now, it's just life itself. Years of fear can accrue into years of depression, and moods sometimes too easily sap will. It isn't just in writing that this happens, but in any event, looming futility can definitely fuck with one's head. What makes it easier is that my interests continue to spread -- maybe too much so. I don't know for sure that I get smarter as I get older -- though I think a lot of people do, and it becomes evident through their music or writing -- but I do think I understand things better with time. That's not always for the better, but it definitely doesn't impair writing.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 4 Apr 09 16:46
> But if there's anything that makes it more difficult now, it's just > life itself. Years of fear can accrue into years of depression, and > moods sometimes too easily sap will. It isn't just in writing that this > happens, but in any event, looming futility can definitely fuck with > one's head. I can so relate to this. I find that any little setback or rejection can stop me in my tracks, sometimes never going back to the track I was on.
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 5 Apr 09 02:31
Okay, now this is an interesting statement: >>Some of my writing is better than some of the rest of my writing, some of it (certainly some in this book) embarrasses me when I read it (never do that!), ...and it leads me to ask why, if it embarrasses you, you've allowed it to be printed in book form instead of letting it die quietly in the more ephemeral form of the magazines in which it was published. I occasionally get requests to reprint stuff, but I demand to look at it first, which has saved me some real embarrassment. Some of my older stuff is utter crap and makes me wonder what (or if) I was thinking when I wrote it. This is why I've blocked my content at rocksbackpages.com, for instance.
Gary Gach (ggg) Sun 5 Apr 09 10:13
[Re: Allen & Clinton The omission of Ginzie from, say, Pulitzer prizedom is an egregious error, to be chalked up no doubt to his politics: openly gay, outspoken pacifist, socialist conscience, etc. Not to say he wasn't utterly a winner, anyway.] This is an immensely well-met inter view and am appreciating it terrifically and am now going back into Lurk Mode
Mikal Gilmore (mikalgilmore) Sun 5 Apr 09 15:10
Ed, it's okay if it embarrasses me (and I certainly suspect it will die quietly and just as readily in book form). For one thing, I've come to realize it's stuff that other people just don't notice -- word choices, turns of phrase, sentence structures -- or if they do, they're nice enough not to point it out. I might cringe seeing it later, but if I didn't cringe enough to catch it in the writing, that's just something I have to live with. Anything egregious -- some statement or piece that just doesn't hold up -- I'd keep out of print unless I'm too impervious to be embarrassed by it. Which is always a possibility. Anyway, it's kind of hard to avoid the risk of embarrassment in writing, as in many other things.
Mikal Gilmore (mikalgilmore) Sun 5 Apr 09 19:26
Ed, another note on what you mentioned above: I think it's fine to block content on rocksbackpages.com, or wherever one likes. At the same time, I also think there's real value in being able to peruse some of the more interesting criticism that's accompanied rock & roll, jazz and popular music since the 1960s. Every once in a while I have cause to go back and read it in chunks, and while some articles and reviews (I'm not talking about yours, or for that matter anybody's in particular) can seem overeager, naive, even doctrinaire, it can all be pretty edifying when it comes to providing context. I think I mentioned before that I'm a fan of source texts that originated in the same time as a work's origin or an artist's life -- that stuff is irreplaceable, like acts of witness or argument. As somebody with an interest in this sort of stuff, I know I wouldn't mind at all being able to peruse some of your earlier writing, but foremost, of course, it's your writing to regulate as you see fit.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 7 Apr 09 14:30
Mikal, I'm wondering what writing about music that was changing the world lo those many years ago does for your appreciation of it now. Do you listen to the songs you mention, or are you mostly on to other music? Some of the comments here about the effects of Beatles albums for example not only remind me of the coming of age (and coming on) of a generation, but also remind me that many of those songs seem less witty and profound to me now. I have no desire to listen to the White Album all the way through, because I am not looking to it for a map, a clue, a doorway.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 7 Apr 09 16:56
Thanks for your beautiful answers, Mikal. I'm also curious: what music made in the past five years reaches you all the way down?
Gary Burnett (jera) Tue 7 Apr 09 17:44
Great question! Or even the past 10 years?
Mikal Gilmore (mikalgilmore) Wed 8 Apr 09 01:33
Gail, Gary, I listen to an inordinate amount of 1960s music these days because I'm still preparing various writings around that subject. But there's music I like every bit as much since that time -- in punk and hip-hop, for example. I try to keep abreast with what's new, but it's necessarily a more selective process now. Music still changes things, but the ways and effects of course change all the time.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 8 Apr 09 09:48
That makes me think of FM radio of that era -- a cultural-identity forging channel of communication at that time. Though mostly one-to-many broadcast model communitcations, there was a lot of cultural give and take and the "underground" stations were certainly listening to what the people discovered in the clubs. Or so it seemed to this listener. How do you see the role of radio and the grassroots versus marketing arbiters of taste of that era? (And does anybody who wasn't in the KMPX -> KFOG area of geographic influence see it differently? I can never tell what was simply due to being in the SF area then!)
Ed Ward (captward) Wed 8 Apr 09 11:00
No, <gail>, that was also happening on WOR-FM and whatever the station I listened to beaming in from Cincinnati was, as well as in Detroit, where Creem magazine was.
Mikal Gilmore (mikalgilmore) Thu 9 Apr 09 15:03
Radio was vital for many, maybe most, of us in the 1960s -- a way of learning, of staking out something that felt shared. And I don't mean just FM (which in the end did as much damage as good), but also AM, when it was possible to hear Buck Owens alongside the Doors alongside Marvin Gaye. That was real diversity and a real social force. I more or less stopped listening to radio in the mid 1970s, except in the car, and except for occasional short-lived infatuations. Along the way I decided to do my programming for myself, with the help of friends, with the help of what I was reading, and with the invaluable help that came from just walking into a record store and hearing what was playing. I'm just interested in, nor persuaded much, by demographics research in radio programming. There's much I love about Internet radio, though it's far too fragmented to keep me tuned in for very long at any one time. The only radio I listen to consistently is KCRW-FM, the Los Angeles NPR affiliate. But even their music programming is much, much too narrow.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 9 Apr 09 16:00
This year's financial coverage has underlined a deep truth a lot of kids probably felt at the time: too much of "straight" (square) society was driven by greed tempered by fear. Greed and fear are the stated mechanisms of market speculation. Stepping outside of that ugly duality still meant that people could have weird motives for creating music, doing art, living for peace, and all the associated dreams, but greed and fear were seldom glorified and often ridiculed as driving forces. It was a time of easy middle class abundance for many of the artists and fans, easy to drop out of and live along side, often with a parental safety net of some kind. Eschewing both greed and fear on a broad societal scale seems pretty unusual in human history. I think about this when I talk to idealistic teens these days. We may have seemed delusional to our elders but there were so many of us that it was easy to pick the dreamy side of the line, and have a go at making it real. I often wonder at how deeply conflicted some of the counterculture music stars must have been as they started to become money-making engines in the mainstream economy. Glimpses of that come through in some stories and even some songs, and I wonder if there was a more of that tension about wealth and greed that went unspoken.
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 10 Apr 09 09:04
I wonder that, too. With bands whose members started off relatively affluent (Jefferson Airplane), I don't think there was much thought given to it, but when it went unspoken among those who were unused to wealth, the conflict often seems to have displayed itself as almost ritual self-destruction. One of the big problems these days, as Mikal sort of says above, is that there's too much stuff, particularly too much new stuff, and the (for want of a better term) market is too fragmented. Even when the consensus in pop music which the Beatles were the last to experience started to shatter, there was little enough music belonging to the youth culture around that it was still possible for radio to have a sort of free-form approach. You might not have liked everything you heard, but you stuck with it, just as you had with AM radio a few years earlier, because something you'd like was surely just around the corner. Now, we have genres and micro-genres, and frankly, I see a flattening of creativity. But maybe that's just me getting old.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 10 Apr 09 10:58
>>> frankly, I see a flattening of creativity. But maybe that's just me getting old.<<< I'm getting old too, and I agree about the flattening of creativity, but I don't think we're just growing cranky, Ed. Absolutely everything sounds derivative to me nowadays, and I think that's due, at least in part, to the fact that nothing happens in isolation anymore. Access to everything has taken over, so now you can be a kid growing up in a village somewhere west of Vladivstock and learn to play guitar just like, oh, Jimi Hendrix -- or Barney Kessel or Scotty Moore or Blind Lemon Jefferson. It's great that we have access to so much more music and information than we ever did, but access kills regional style. Moreover, there are ways now to instantly measure market success so that music can be tailored to best profit from the market as it is at this very moment. That's why a million singers and records all sound like they're made for success on "American Idol," but no one sounds original.
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 10 Apr 09 11:12
Yeah, but a truly talented person can listen to Jimi Hendrix, Barney Kessel, Scotty Moore and Blind Lemon Jefferson and still sound like themselves. The onslaught of information seems to breed emulation rather than originality. And I don't think originality is dead. I just think it's way undervalued. Part of the problem is that not only can anyone make a record, but anyone can make a good record. No better than good, but good. Lotta 5s out there.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 10 Apr 09 11:22
Hasn't that always been true, though? Not that anyone can make a record, but the majority of records are good but something less than great? I agree about originality being undervalued nowadays.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Fri 10 Apr 09 11:30
There is ALWAYS an underground of excellent players and creators. What's different about today is that we, of the boomer generation, can no longer find these people using our old methods and networks. The noise from Clear Channel and Live Nation drown out the signals we're looking for. I'm finding a lot of good origional music that I like. It's hidden away in small performance spaces and requires some effort to sniff it out. Nobody's hand delivering it to us on sponsored radio anymore. You can, however get hints of it by scouring youtube.
Mikal Gilmore (mikalgilmore) Fri 10 Apr 09 15:35
I agree with Acid Dealer (hi, Acid Dealer!) There's always great music to be found. For me, the problem isn't that there's too much stuff or too much diversity at present; you do your best to hear what you can, and I know I'm always missing great new music. This is an area where I admittedly have a 1960s bias that can longer be accommodated in any marketplace, commercial, free, groovy, whatever (though it certainly does well on many people's iPods): I like hearing music of different styles, eras, sounds, played in a reasonable juxtaposition or flow. But fragmentation, or tribal aesthetic identity, is just the way it is now, and it's not likely to change. Pop consensus is much narrower these days, and I'm just grateful that in the area where it matters most it's given us Obama. As for the tensions between affluent rock stars and countercultural ideals in the 1960s, what a wonderful and complicated subject that is. You could vividly see it at play in the dissolution of the Beatles in their last seasons, the strain between socialist ambitions and capitalist realities (and in the end, they had little trouble opting for the latter as their priority). Some of this was, I believe, naivete far more than it was any conscious hypocrisy, and in any event, the result of it all was some wonderful music and at least a moment when these contradictions could be argued about. Since then, some artists have done a pretty good job of bringing their ideals in alignment with how they market their music and interact with an audience, while fare more could care less. It's kind of like water seeking its own level: Ani DiFranco and Britney Spears are not interested in the same economic models, nor are their audiences. And while I might admire the former more, I still sometimes enjoy the latter's music regardless.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Fri 10 Apr 09 16:25
"But fragmentation, or tribal aesthetic identity, is just the way it is now, and it's not likely to change. Pop consensus is much narrower these days...." Yup, and without freeform FM, I just don't stumble into cool new stuff by accident anymore. I get tipped by friends or hear about it from my younger co-workers. Or someone in one of the music conferences here will turn me onto something new and cool. (BTW, my pseud is the most effective mnemonic device I know for reminding my guitar students of the names of the strings, low to high.)
what another day it takes: (oilers1972) Fri 10 Apr 09 23:33
Howdy Mikal! I can't wait to buy a copy of your new book. "But if there's anything that makes it more difficult now, it's just life itself. Years of fear can accrue into years of depression, and moods sometimes too easily sap will. It isn't just in writing that this happens, but in any event, looming futility can definitely f--- with one's head." Yeah, do I ever hear you on that, and can I ever relate. I want to draw/paint/write on a daily basis and feel healthiest when doing so, but I'm usually so depressed about my unemployment, my poverty, and my living situation, that most days I just more-or-less say "to heck with it." <38>: re FM radio, circa 1966-about-1972: I suppose it was much easier to acquire and run an FM station then, because not much of FM was in use back then, plus the much more prosperous economics of the time played a major role in that. Except for college stations or listener-sponsored stations, free-form radio is impossible to do on the FM band nowadays, as so many stations are the property of Clear Channel and their clones/competitors. Thank goodness we do at least have the Internet and online radio stations, but now one must wade through so many stations in order to find something to one's liking. As for the explosion of rock's creativity during the late '60s, its dazzling diversity proved in some ways to be its undoing as a great unifier of people. By the early '70s it should have been apparent that never again would there be a mass cultural phenomenon like the Beatles, because now the moment in which everyone listened to the same music was now past--now there were progressive rock fans, heavy rock (soon to become heavy metal) fans, country rock fans, singer-songwriter fans, bubblegum fans, soft-rock fans, etc. Sure, several acts have produced albums that have outsold anything the Beatles ever released, but all with little or no discernable social or cultural impact. What are your thoughts?
unstable, verbally abusive and forgetful. And bitey. (carolw) Sat 11 Apr 09 17:57
Taking issue with #25: "Absolute worst tendencies of the 70s"? I think not. That would be for instance The Captain and Tenille or whoever recorded "Disco Duck." I read Mikal's very good Pink Floyd article and I'm sure he's right about Roger Waters being an ass, but there's no denying the greatness of Dark Side of the Moon, and songs like this: Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day You fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town Waiting for someone or something to show you the way Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today And then the one day you find ten years have got behind you No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking And racing around to come up behind you again The sun is the same in the relative way, but you're older And shorter of breath and one day closer to death Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way The time is gone the song is over, thought I'd something more to say -- Pink Floyd, "Time," DSOTM
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