The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
In considering the end of the album as an art form, it occurred to me there are a lot of bands who had great albums, meaning, the entire album was good from start to finish. The obvious example is "Dark Side of the Moon", which remained on the charts for an unprecedented amount of time. The entire album was, essentially, a symphony with movements that ultimately told a story. "The Wall" is an even better example, with added bizarre, deformed imagery and a clear, if somewhat manic, storyline.
Roger Waters was not the only artist to write the 'concept album', but he damn sure set the standard. As much as I personally love the guitar work of David Gilmour, and appreciate the pop sensibility he brought to Pink Floyd, it was Waters' mad genius that truly made their work a major piece of the foundation in the history of rock music.
In thinking of all this, it occurred to me that despite the fact that a song like, say, "Dogs" or "Time" or "Run", is a stand-alone hit song, it is still part of a larger piece. Something we don't see anymore at all. I mean, it was rare even back in the day, but the "concept album" has become virtually extinct.
Bands like Queensryche have produced the occasional theme album, like "Operation Mindcrime" or "Empire", which also managed to produce radio-friendly hits like "Silent Lucidity", but ultimately, these records have consistently failed to be appreciated by the record buying public as a whole, leaving labels with little choice: Bank their money on a candy-coated hit or two, or take a chance on something that the public probably won't get.
Where does this leave the musician? Can they challenge themselves, remain true to their artistic vision, and still produce hit songs, independent of the overall project? Can they make hits and concept recordings that coexist?
Deep waters for someone who just wants to make music.
Many bands have come close to the concept album, but ultimately fell short. The best example I can think of is Genesis. The did a two-part song called, "Home By The Sea". It was absolutely brilliant. They transcended themselves on that track. It always made me wonder, "Why didn't they explore that more?"
The opposite of this is the band that goes totally out of character trying to embrace the current music genre sensation. KISS will always remain the true undisputed champion of whoring themselves to sell records. You might think I'm talking about the song, "Beth", but I'm not. The reason "Beth" was a hit is, oddly enough, it's just a good fucking song. That's it.
When I was a kid, KISS was the shiznit times infinity to me. There was no better band, ever. At least, that's how I saw it when I was 15.
I'll never forget the anticipation I felt when it was announced that KISS was going to perform on some TV show back in 1976. I mean, this was seriously big stuff to me. KISS was the demon band from Hell, spawned by Satan himself, and they were going to be on TV! This was 1976 TV, kids. It was not normal to see a band like Alice Cooper on TV back then, unless it was a Vincent Price Halloween Special or some shit. You NEVER saw KISS on TV, ever.
Yet, they were going to be on TV! I was so fucking stoked. I was planted in front of that TV. My parents indulged me. I supposed they were mildly curious to see what it was their son was so excited about. They knew I had been working my paper route, saving my money to buy an electric guitar. A guitar I could play KISS songs on. I had read all the magazines, like Creem and Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone, I had heard "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock n Roll All Night" on the radio, but I had never seen KISS. Never SEEN them.
Their show was a total spectacle that I had only seen still photos of in magazines.. I was glued to that TV. I was beyond pumped when they announced, "And now, performing their hit, "Beth", KISS!
Then the lights went down and a single light came up slowly on Peter Criss, in full KISS regalia, seated at a Grand Piano like fucking Liberace, as he played and sang, "Beth". Not that he did badly-- he was quite good, but 15-year-old Vinni was like, WHAT THE FUCK??? THAT'S NOT KISS!
That's a guy dressed like a space kitty singing a ballad.
I was devastated.
Despite my life-long pain, "Beth" is not in fact the KISS song that disappoints me. It's a good song, despite it's being somewhat out of character for the band as a whole.
This is an example of "Beth", but it's not the version I cited. View it Here.
No, the ugliest song ever written in the true whoremongering tradition of just sell records is beyond a doubt, "I Was Made For Loving You". This was beyond a doubt the brain child of Gene Simmons in the wake of the Disco era. He'd sell anything with a KISS logo on it, and his musical integrity can't hold a candle to his drive for wealth, but this song is inexcusable. It is the single best of example of "I'll swallow your cum for an extra ten bucks" I've ever heard.
The Champion of the Concept Album.It predicted it's own demise.
Perhaps the true master of the concept album is Frank Zappa. With "Joe's Garage, Act 1", he chronicled, in his own inimitable style, the trials and tribulations of being in a band, and the often disappointing results of the search to be a 'rock star'.
"Joe's Garage, Acts 2 and 3", was a disapointment in both fan reaction and sales. It had very little on it in the way of, "radio-friendly" music and instead, devolved into an honest and albeit truly dark representation of the music industry, and, in fact., society as a whole.
In many respects, "2&3" was confused and depressing. Perhaps, again, his genius showed through as he predicted the end of the music industry by suicide. Unfortunately, his vision did not translate to album sales.
PITTSBURGH LEGENDARY DJ PORKY CHEDWICK DIES AGE 96
Porky Chedwick was a disc jockey on WHOD in Homestead, PA., who then moved up to WAMO radio, going back to the early 1950’s. It was a different time in America, where “whites only” was still the norm in many cities, and I swear, I think he was the only white guy at the otherwise all-black employees station.
Read more: Remembering Porky Chedwick. by Pat DiCesare
After attending the service for Tommy Osh tonight, I wrote the following story in our band group and felt like it was worth sharing here. If you are wondering why I feel the loss of Tommy Osh so deeply, it's because he embodied the very spirit that drives me to do this and he recently reminded me of that. This is what I told the band:
Read more: An Ode to Tommy Osh
Most of you probably have no idea who I am, and that's OK. "Who I am" is one of the luckiest musicians in Pittsburgh. I've been playing professionally, meaning I get paid to play music, for just shy of 35 years. I was 13 when I got paid the first time as a musician. I liked it! At the time, I was just a kid in Ohio..."that kid who can play like Hendrix" was pretty much all I was known as. I soon got my first real lesson in the realities of being a working musician.
I quickly tired of playing the same old same old, and as I got deeper into punk rock, that's what I wanted to play. Probably not the best idea in an area better known for old time country, disco, and Top 40. I went from being snuck into bars to perform to playing the extremely rare house party. The little bit of money I had become accustomed to earning disappeared. But still, I had fun.
Within a year or two, I joined my first rockabilly band. Thanks to bands like The Stray Cats, the genre was enjoying quite a bit of popularity and we were working every weekend. We never made less than $50 per man AND we got free drinks. With the legal drinking age only being 18 at the time, 16 looked like 18, if you get my drift.
Read more: "We Ain't In This For Our Health"
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AWARENESS, COMPASSION and ACTION. Sages Message is a simple one if you know someone that uses drugs then support him or her.