Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 15 Aug 10 15:50
The Beatles' popular experimentation largely involved mixing backward- looking influences (classical quotes from Bach to Stockhausen, music hall, etc) with forward-moving rock 'n' roll. Considering where rock went in the '70s and beyond, the most forward elements of their experimentation were distorted and backwards guitar parts and Indian ragas. John Lennon took his freedom from the band to make extremely political music, and he gave Yoko Ono a stage to be exceptionally, offputtingly experimental (at least, compared to the Beatles).
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sun 15 Aug 10 17:48
Radio, radio, internet, undernet. Mass popularity is still mass popularity. Part of the problem of transmission and mass access is that there are too many platforms. Internet radio, You Tube, radio, CD's, Facebook Tracebook Lacebook. Not to mention hat after years of middle of the road commercials, for over ten years now commercials are difficult to distinguish from recordings, partly because more and more, the same people are doing them. Rik, glad thst you;'re searching out music on the net. Too bad that the artists aren't making any money from it! Of course there are always tenured law professors telling us that music should be free. You know, just like law school! Scott, it sounds as though you really don't know much about Riot Grrrls. It was about the notion that women could scream and shout. And the roots go back not just to Joan Jett and Patti Smith, but to Holly Near, who was doing that by the late 60's, even ib a folk-y context. I agree that Brittany et.al have adopted only the sexual side of the equation, but it was the Riot grrls who wrote sluts and bitch and so forth with magic markers on their exposed body parts, not Madonna. So what the younger set have done is to use only that part of the Riot grrrl thing that relates to sexuality, and stay miles away from anything that makes a real social statement. And you have Courtney Love sort of in the middle, making political statements almost at the same time as you expresses her own weirdness,. bizarre kinder whore dress styles and so forth. The point being, what happened to feminist politics in music? That's what I mean about media co-opting. You can make the argument, I guess, that Gwen Stefani and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, et.c, represent that middle ground. I don't think it's a great argument, and also, relatively speaking, they are "old." I specifically mentioned the Beatles' music, not Lennon's politics, which tend to be rather general. From my point of view there's more to their music than you imply. What rock group could do both Eleanor Rigby and Got To Get You Into My Life? neo-classical impressionism, and R&B. Not to mention 50's rock and roll, and very well orchestrated stuff like Sgt. Pepper? And the lyrics of some of the songs were abstract and hard to pin down. I agree about Yoko- experimentation for its own sake is not a descriptor of progressive musical style. Having said all of that, I'd rather not have protracted discussions about either the Beatles or Bob Dylan. Our local bookstores have dozens and dozens of books about them, and the internet is swarming with other minutia.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 15 Aug 10 18:43
Well, *nobody's* roots go back to only the generation before, but I would have thought the roots of strong rocking women go back through Janis Joplin to Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith, rather than Holly Near. Not being argumentative here -- just not necessarily following your point. Are the underlying politics more powerful than the musical style? Were they Near- influenced-feminists first and rockers seconds? And why isn't Madonna's mixture of dance pop and unrepressed sexuality an agent of change? Surely the Riot Grrls were reacting to/influenced by her as well as by the rockers they emulated? (FWIW: my comments about the Beatles aren't dismissive. I'm 48 and have been variously obsessed with them since I've been listening to music, but Wald's ideas about the evolution of pop music resonate with me.)
David Julian Gray (djg) Sun 15 Aug 10 19:41
I always thought the roots of the Riot Grrrrl scene was the Sex Pistols more than anything - Nah ... it was just the feminist expression of the same frustrated rage that formed the fertile soil into which MacClaren planted the Sex Pistols ... (and in listing groups which set a model for what would later be called and rallied around as "Riot Grrrl" we mustn't forget The Slits!) Dick has pointed something out that I was missing but now - particulalry with this particular thread is distressingly obvious ... there is precious little female participation in this particular discussion ...
(fom) Sun 15 Aug 10 19:43
I don't have the book, unfortunately, but I have a question: Do you talk about the split in the early 70s where white music and black music were divided into separate markets? That seems like a huge historical marker to me.
(fom) Sun 15 Aug 10 19:45
slip mentioning the Slits, whom I was wondering about too.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Mon 16 Aug 10 07:59
"Rik, glad thst you;'re searching out music on the net. Too bad that the artists aren't making any money from it! Of course there are always tenured law professors telling us that music should be free." At the risk of sidetracking things, I need to make it clear that, as a 45 year veteran of the music business, I make a point of paying for my downloads. After reading through most of this, I'm still of the opinion that we tend to over estimate the effect of music on politics. When I was getting lumps on my head at Century City, I was convince that our music and our songs were a powerful force that would help change the world. Now, almost half a century later, I feel we were a bit overoptomistic. While music can be used as tribal touchstones, helping unify the already convinced, I really doubt that it changes the mind of anyone outside the various tribes. "We Shall Overcome" helped bond the members of the movement, but I doubt if it recruited any. I remember, a few years back, being stunned to hear Dylan's "The Times, They Are A-Changing" in a commercial. And the commercial turned out to be for the global accountancy firm of Coopers and Lybrand. Talk about cognative dissonance... Remember those "Masters of War" he used to sing about? Coopers and Lybrand do their books.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Mon 16 Aug 10 09:17
I probably should have stayed away from the origins of Riot Grrl thing. However- since we're in it: Joplin, maybe. Big Mama, I don't think so. Pretty much over the hill, exposure-wise by the time the Grrls began their forays. I also think that much of the influence was on the order of hearing screaming male singers, and saying "we can do this too." Also to partially contradict some of my previous posts, I'd say that Sleater-Kinney were probably the best example of how a sensibility infiltrates into the next generation. They were based in Olympia, and were sort of peripheral to the Grrls movement, but also part of it, at least in ideology. They also were good players and singers, not always true of the punk-oriented artists. As for The Slits, there was also L7, babes in Toyland, 7 Year Bitch, and so forth. It's intriguing to me that Seattle exploded with the grunge scene, definitely a male scene, and Seattle-Olympia produced all of these bands, but none were remotely "hit bands." As for Madonna, to me her main contribution to the feminist movement was that she took control of her own career, like the rap moguls branched out into different businesses, and has been able to sustain a very long career, as opposed to say Alanis Morriseette, Black-white music splitting in the 70's? It happened long before then. R&B, formerly known as race music, was separated from the white mainstream. It infiltrated through Louis Jordan, and later others, but there's always been that separation. Rik, I'm glad that you said what you did. My point wasn't intended as a personal; question, though, but raising the issue of how the indie. attitude has kind of degenerated, to a great extent, into illegal file sharing. As for The Times They Are A Changing, it's been a commercial for the US Post Office and the Bank of Montreal as well. The Canadians wrote the following parody: Come later day hippies, and please heed the call, deposit your funds at the Bank of Montreal, Cause your lives need re-arranging. So spend all you have at the neighborhood mall, Cause the prime rate is a-changing. I agree that we were idealistic and naive. However I believe that music can be a useful source that encourages social change. I don't believe that it alone can create changes.
Chicken or egg first? (jonsson) Mon 16 Aug 10 12:56
The topic of this discussion is a chicken and egg sort of thing IMHO. Brings to mind other questions though like -- how much social change can take place without some musical support or analogue? -- and how effective is advertising without music?
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Mon 16 Aug 10 13:16
Well, I can't walk down the street without having some song or another take up residence in my head, and I'll often find myself singing along. I sing in the shower, I sing in the warehouse, and I occasionally sing for a living. Can't really concieve of doing anything without music. The question is, does music affect social change. And for that, I'd give a very qualified yes. It can be a social lubricant within groups that are trying to affect change. I recently learned that it was Pete Seeger who offered up "We Shall Overcome" to the civil rights movement. And I've watched groups use it very effectively to rally the troops. What I haven't seen is any evidence that it recruited any. By the way, the most moving version of it, to me, is an instrument take on the Hank Jones/Charlie Haden album, "Steal Away". They do two stately gospel-flavored choruses, and then sort of slip sideways into a gorgeous 12- bar blues which they explore for a while, bringing the theme back in at the end. It has, on occasion, brought me to tears.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Mon 16 Aug 10 14:43
That is a superb album and that particular tune is the standout.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Mon 16 Aug 10 19:30
Not exactly correct about Seeger and We Shall Overcome. The song was a hymn, and came through Zilphia Horton, the music director of the Cumberland Folk School. Seeger, Frank Hamilton, and Guy Carawan (who later succeeded Horton) all had a hand in it, and donated the royalties. Evidence is a bit hard to come by. However, if you go on the Resistance Records web site, you can see and hear lots of vile Nazi music and neo-Nazi music, that is specifically designed to recruit people for that cause. So apparently people do believe that music has some effect on folks' ideas. Speaking of We Shall Overcome, Dick Gregory and some other African-Americans involved in the movement, were very opposed to Peter, Paul & Mary singing at the March On Washington. They were out-voted.
Barry Warren Polley (barryp) Mon 16 Aug 10 19:47
The neo-Nazi lyrics you quote in your book made me laugh out loud; they're self parodies and really not terribly effective at generating sympathy or validation. However, for someone already favourably disposed to that set of views, the music could be a source of validation ("someone else feels the same as I do, and strongly enough to put into music"). So not really about winning new support as bringing the believers together, a sort of shared seekrit handshake. Though I'll go back to re-read that part of the book now. Hmm.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Mon 16 Aug 10 20:21
A couple of stories that may highlight the notion that social change is a more subtle process than we've gotten into here. in November, 1963 the band that i was in, The Journeymen were asked to honor a boycott of the Jackson, Miss. city auditorium by SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Although the auditorium was nominally not segregated, the police would arrest any black person coming within 100 yards of it for vagrancy. We then did a free concert at Tougaloo, a black nearby college that was a center for Civil Rights actions, and also had some white students. We looked around, and there were students with head bandages and other injuries, from encounters with cops and rednecks. At the time I felt almost guilty, they were extremely appreciative of our going out there, and I felt that this was a pretty minor contribution on our part. Later the archives of the movement turned out that that particular time, just before JFK's assassination, was a low point at the school, and our concert was very meaningful and a morale booster for the students. Did we create social change? of course not. However, we made a small contribution to those who would indeed create the change. (The other people on the show ere Glenn Yarbrough and Jo Mapes.) Story #2 Len Chandler is an old friend of mine. He was a grad. student in oboe performance at the U. of Akron, when he had a history class with a white teacher who played Leadbelly records in class. Len had been a jazz freak, and seemed destined for a career as a symphony oboe player (he might have had trouble getting the gig in the early 60's, being black!) Anyway, he took up guitar and became a singer-songwriter and an activist in the Civil Rights movement in the mid and late 60's. He went to jail over 50 times. he moved to NY, and wrote and hung out with Dylan, Paxton and Ochs and the Broadside crowd, and got a contract with Colombia Records. Len could play rings around any of these folks on the guitar, and he also was a better singer than any of them. His song, To Be A Man was a really excellent piece of work, at a time when black "boys" were asserting their manhood. Len didn't "make it" as a pop star. Call me naive, call me idealistic, but I have to believe that his songs did indeed have a role in assisting social change in the jails, the sit-ins and picket lines.
David Julian Gray (djg) Tue 17 Aug 10 06:46
I remember Len Chandler - Move on over, or we'll move on over you - to the tune of John Brown's body, that was Len Chandler, right? All the music we've been discussing have been agents of change - sometimes more active agents than others - Does music foment change - can it recruit? A simple yes is too simple, but so is a simple no. We can speak of "engines" of change - and may, as Dick suggests music is not "the engine" - but engines are nothing without fuel and music has been the fuel of social change - both positive and negative - The Internationale, Deutschland Uber Alles, We Shall overcome have all been powerful fuels for the changes into whose service they were pressed ...
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Tue 17 Aug 10 11:05
David, Yes that's Len Chandler. Later he co-founded the Songwriters' Showcase in LA, which gave songwriters an opportunity to contact music publishers, record producers and record companies. It lasted over 20 years, but is no more. as far as I know, Len still lives in the LA area.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 17 Aug 10 12:49
Does he still play out? "Roll, Turn, Spin" was part of my folk act in the mid 60s. It's a perfect short story in 5 verses.
Earl Crabb (esoft) Tue 17 Aug 10 13:18
Wasn't the other co-founder of Songwriters Showcase a guy from Minneapolis (and maybe Nebraska, too) named John Braheny, who still is helping aspiring songwriters?
David Wilson (dlwilson) Tue 17 Aug 10 13:26
Hey Earl, did you live in Minneapolis?
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 17 Aug 10 14:06
Don't get him started.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Tue 17 Aug 10 15:39
Len rarely plays anywhere. Once in a while he plays at some historic gathering, usually related to the Civil Rights movement. Yes, John Braheny, was the co-founder of the LA Songwriters Showcase. I guess this is the final day for these official postings. For anyone in Portland, OR, I'm doing a two hour show at Artichoke Music on 9/11/10, 8PM, based on the book. I'll be playing a bunch of the records discussed in the book, talking about various issues revolving around music and social change, and playing a bit of live music. I'll also be doing a reading and a concert in October in Bellingham, Washington. It wikll be posted on my web site, www.dickweissman.com in a week or so. Thanks to everyone from participating. Every week I found out about some artist, or recording that is new to me. That's why writing this book has been so rewarding to me. I don't feel as though I necessarily know that much, but I know a lot more than when I started the project. Dick Weissman
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 17 Aug 10 16:03
Thanks for the visit, and good luck on all the shows and book tour!
(fom) Tue 17 Aug 10 22:49
>Black-white music splitting in the 70's? It happened long before then. R&B, formerly known as race music, was separated from the white mainstream. It infiltrated through Louis Jordan, and later others, but there's always been that separation. No, I was referring specifically to the split in the early 70s. In the late 60s, black and white pop music were played on the same radio stations and charted on the same charts. Around 1973, the industry split them into separate markets. Suddenly Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Brenton Wood, Gladys Knight, Aretha, etc etc etc, disappeared from the mainstream ("white") stations. I wondered if you had any comment on this but I guess not.
David Julian Gray (djg) Wed 18 Aug 10 05:05
Thanks to dick - and everyone This has been a great discussion - keep on singing!
Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 18 Aug 10 08:19
Thank you all for coming by to chat with Dick about music and revolutions. Today we are switching our focus to a new discussion, but you are all welcome to hang out here as long as you'd like.
Members: Enter the conference to participate