inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #26 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #27 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #28 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #29 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #30 of 69: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #31 of 69: 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



 
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #32 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #33 of 69: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #34 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #35 of 69: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #36 of 69: Gary Burnett (jera) Tue 7 Apr 09 17:44
    
Great question!  Or even the past 10 years?
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #37 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #38 of 69: 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!) 
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #39 of 69: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #40 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #41 of 69: 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.  
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #42 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #43 of 69: 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.  
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #44 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #45 of 69: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #46 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #47 of 69: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #48 of 69: 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.)
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #49 of 69: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.350 : Mikal Gilmore, Stories Done
permalink #50 of 69: 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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