The Guess Who Music Discussion

Last Friday, B and I made the trip to Memorial Park here in Omaha for the annual Celebrate America concert/fireworks.  This year’s acts were The Guess Who and Grand Funk Railroad.  I’ve been on a classic rock kick lately, so I was pretty excited.  We got down there around 5, and it was HOT.  It had been cloudy all day, so we were not ready for the beating sun.  Luckily, I had made a batch of summer beer (lemonade concentrate, water, beer, vodka), so we managed. 

As for the bands, The Guess Who were great.  They played the songs you expected, and sounded great.  Grand Funk was ok….they jammed a bit too much for me.  I’m definitely cool with a band doing some extended solos and having some fun, but when a jam goes on for so long that you’ve forgotten what song they’re playing, that’s too much.  That happened a couple times with GF.  Overall though, very good.

So, the crux of this blog post was in response to something the Guess Who mentioned.  They played a couple songs as they were released as an A side, B side 45.  Of course, he made a joke about people not remembering those and kids not having any idea of what life was like before ipods.  For some reason, this ignited my mind to think about two things.  One was how has the delivery and availability of music changed the way we view music, the other was why is music from the 60s and 70s, 70s rock that is, so enduring?  For instance, by the time I’m in my 40s and 50s and I think about the music I loved when I was younger, I’m going to mostly mention bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Skynyrd, etc, more than I’m going to mention bands that were releasing music at the time.  Why is that?

The first discussion about delivery is easy to understand, but can be difficult to fully grasp.  In the 60s and 70s when all of this really great music was being released, it was released on LPs and you would listen to it on the radio.  There wasn’t a lot of portability, so if you were going to listen to your favorite music, that’s what you did, you listened to the music.  With the ipod today, actually, it started with the walkman back in the day, we don’t ever JUST listen to music.  Music has gone from being the main focus of our attention to being a soundtrack or background noise.  When was the last time you just sat and listened to music for a half hour?  I’m not talking about listening to music when you’re working out, or cleaning, or studying, just sit and listen to it.  Today, you might be more worried if the music will help you through a workout or if it helps your focus on studying, rather than if it’s something you actually like.  Back in the day, the main focus was to listen to it.  That was something you would do in the 60s and 70s.  “I had some friends over and we listened to the new Led Zeppelin record”.  You don’t hear that any more.  I don’t know if people are having parties to listen to the new Daughtry album. 
So how does this affect our view of music?  I think it makes it more disposable.  We like music now because it helps us exercise, or helps us to study.  With the ease of getting new music from itunes or amazon, we almost feel obligated to continually try new music, rather than listening to an album over and over to really learn it and take the time to think about what the lyrics and music is trying to convey.  Not that much music today has much to say. 

The other idea was what kind of music are we going to be talking about in 20-30 years?  When my parents talk about music they listened to 20-30 years ago, it was the great music of the 60s and 70s.  Are we going to be talking about the great music of the 00’s in 20 years?  For instance, the top 5 albums of 1969:
1.  Iron Butterfly
2.  Hair  (soundtrack)
3.  Blood, sweat, and tears
4.  CCR
5.  Led Zeppelin

1.  50 cent
2.  Eminem
3.  Green Day
4.  Mariah Carey
5.  Kelly Clarkson

Are we going to want to go to a Eminem concert in 20 years?  Are we even going to remember these bands then?  With the disposability of music these days, we will have processed and thrown out all those people.  Let’s try another comparison:

1.  Fleetwood Mac
2.  Stevie Wonder
3.  Barbra Streisand
4.  Eagles
5.  Boston
Just terrific….
1.  Spice Girls
2.  No Doubt
3.  Celine Dion
4.  Space Jam Soundtrack
5.  Jewel
Are those even comparable? 

So what’s the difference?  One thing that is very apparent, you have bands in the 60s and 70s, and single artists today.  Do we not like single artists as much over the long haul?  I don’t know.  Is it easier for a band to evolve over time?  If you’re in a band, there’s 4 or 5 people with the creative juices flowing vs 1 in a single act.  What about how these bands come to light?  If you’re in a band, you probably fought and clawed your way to a record deal, vs a single act that probably got picked by a record company to promote. 

So what’s the point to all this?  Music has, and will probably always play an important part in our society.  Taking a look at how it has changed over time is really interesting.  Unfortunately, it looks like we might be taking it for granted these days with our multitasking lives and our ipods.  Next time you have some time to kill, sit down and put an album on and see if you can just sit and listen to it.  Before you buy a song on itunes, ask yourself why you’re buying it.  Take the time to think about music over time and what music means to you, or if it’s just something you use to keep your mind busy. 

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