Segarini: You think Rock is dead? Go fuck yourself…

by Segarini on October 20, 2010

If you judge the current state of rock music based on what you hear on terrestrial radio and what the Major Labels are signing, and what brick and mortar retail stores find shelf space for, you are missing the revolution taking place on the net, in the clubs, and in every rec room, basement and garage on the planet. Rock is alive and well, comes in many sizes, shapes, and flavours, and is as vital and compelling as it always was. We will never see another Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, or Floyd, but we do have a Research Turtles, Rival Sons, Jumple, Courage My Love, and Blackheath Hounds…and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks to radio and the majors, most people think that Nickelback is the end product of the rock music that has gone before. In order to get signed and receive airplay, very few bands stray far from the template created by the Chad’s and Bono’s of what passes for the rock elite these days and have pretty much reduced the creativity at the very heart and soul of rock music down to a few simple rules and guidelines. There are no rules to great music. There are rules to manufacture product or fill a demand, even if that demand has been invented and constructed by men and women whose goal is not to create music, but to control the people who will generate income over a short period of time. Indentured slaves designed to sell massive quantities and then get out of the way for the next wave of fresh faced boys and girls. Once in a while, this practice works. Mostly, it just uses up the dreamers and innovators and rewards the body politic. Conform or perish.

There is an insanity to great rock music. Personality quirks and a self awareness built not on ego or the desire to succeed, but a deeper motivation to reach out, penetrate, and express inner feelings and beliefs in the hope of connecting with others who get you. People who understand what you’re talking about, can relate to you, or can tell you that yes, they have been through that, felt that, experienced that. Women (and men) will want to fuck you, men (and women) will want to be you, and you will be compelled to reach further next time, dig deeper next time, continue cutting through the jungle over-growth of explaining life as we know it with 3 minute machete slashes of organic brilliance, not calculated small talk presented as philosophical depth, not committee written sure-fire nursery rhymes, not tripe.

Real rock exposes who you are…and there is no greater risk an artist can take.

No one could have predicted or constructed Elvis Presley, but the music industry tried to duplicate him for years. They failed. So they neutered him.

No one could have imagined The Beatles, and even if they could have, there is no way they could have known how the Beatles’ music would evolve, grow, and mutate, and how even their individual songs would fuel genres and sub-genres for decades to come.

The Rolling Stones materialized out of the need to play music they considered important, to spread the word about American blues out of a genuine love for the music. Without constraints, they managed to develop into a unique musical entity themselves. How could Lady Jane, Satisfaction, Ruby Tuesday, and Paint it Black be from the same group, the same writers, the same label? She’s a Rainbow? Beast of Burden? Miss You?  Today, The Rolling Stones would be an impossibility.


Pink Floyd? The Doors? Mothers of Invention? Alice Cooper? Neil Young? None of these acts would be able to get a deal or airplay today. They are ‘classic’ because they made their own music, went their own way. Radio and majors are no longer in the business of finding music to share with the world. They are in the business of creating product to make money…not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just doesn’t have anything to do with music.

If you love music, especially rock music, the toughest job you could possibly have these days would be to be in the employ of a major record company, radio station, or agency. What were once considered the best jobs you could possibly have when you were a muso but lacked the skills or talent to create music, was to find yourself on the front lines of discovering it, spreading the word about it, playing it to the public, or booking it into clubs and on tours.

When I was touring constantly in the 60’s and 70’s, everyone you would meet in your travels were as big a fan as you were of the bands and records that fueled the industry. Individuals of a like-mind, a community of believers and enablers whose biggest rush wasn’t the paycheck that came with the job, but the job that generated the paycheck. The money was a bonus, a miracle, a gift from a benign God that rewarded your passion for music in a fashion that allowed you to do nothing other than to follow your dream of being on the inside of the single most important cultural touchstone of any nation, any generation. The world occupied by the people that made the music. The leaders of each generation that rewarded its creative community with a career and success instead of passing interest and a blind ear to anything that was created that didn’t sound like the previous hit, or that wasn’t a hit at all.

I have never been in a band that had major success, but we all toured because our labels (RCA, Elektra, CBS, and Bomb) believed in us because of the music. Everyone connected to the labels came out to see us when we played. The promo reps, rack jobbers, and disc jockeys hung out at shows, took us to dinner, found us pot or took us to the local hot spots. We met record store employees and owners, and many of these people became friends beyond the confines of the business, bonded together by our mutual love of music, of what was happening, turning each other on to our latest musical discoveries.

There are still a lot of wonderful people working the trenches and carrying the torch for music working in the record and radio and retail businesses. Of the stalwarts I know, many feel hamstrung by the product they are charged with, the shift from championing the music, to touting the lineage of a record (the producers’ existing track record, the bands’ image, youth, or energetic stage show, management team, or TV/Movie/Video game placements) whose soul purpose is that it was produced to get on the radio, fit a format, be a hit. The difference between a real tortilla chip, fresh and warm and delicious, and a Dorito, whose main selling point is how loud a snack it is.

Is there any good rock on radio now? The good news (in Canada, anyway) is that yes, there is, and there has been for the last several years. Almost all of it the product of independent thought, smaller labels, and local support from a radio station that still believes in music and home town fans. Some remain on the outskirts of complete success, but others have crossed over into the mainstream, been picked up by a major label for distribution or more, and all tour constantly all over the world. These bands still put the time in, sleeping in vans and tour busses, catching naps in airports, and writing and playing music they believe in, are connected to, are proud of.

Has their music been compromised in order to accommodate radio and labels criteria? Some have admitted to me that yes, their music has been impacted to a degree, but that the belief is that once the band establishes itself on the radio and connects with a larger audience, they will gain more control of their music and the way in which it is recorded and presented.

In the old days, we used to call that “infiltrate and double-cross”. It is easier to change things from the inside than it is from without.

Radios’ decision to format and homogenize its content has resulted in an interesting subculture where rock music thrives. Good bands that do not fit the formats of terrestrial radio, or the control requirements of the major labels have simply moved to a different playing field where those of us that still search out creativity and genuine music have turned our attention. This new playing field is becoming so powerful that the major labels now regularly check it out to see if there is something they can take to the next level. Depending on who is doing the checking, this can be either a good, or a bad thing.

Radio has failed to understand it yet, or you would see terrestrials adding streams to their websites to augment their stations by exposing new music and artists and drawing those artists’ fans to their sites.

This new playing field is a combination of the internet, clubs, organized fan support, and bands that put the music first and the money second. It is a tough way to do things, but it is the most honest way to become a great band, and is actually how it has always been done when it comes to music.

Years ago, real bands, hard work, word of mouth, and local support is what fueled the wild successes of record companies and radio stations.

This time, it could topple them.

Next: The Rock Files: You think Rock is dead? Part Two

Cherry Cola’s on Facebook

www.cherrycolas.com

That’s enough for now. Email me at segarini@fyimusic.ca with your comments, complaints, and thoughts…and remember…don’t believe a word I say.

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gutch Jr. October 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm

This may seem like a rant, but it is a rant that everyone who loves or knows anything about loving music feels in his own soul now and again. Music is dying? Only in some people’s worm-eaten brains. All it takes is a pair of ears, a love for music and enough energy to occasionally follow a link or two to find out. If you’re not willing to do that and still think music is dying, the only thing dying is you. In that case, I echo Seg: Go fuck yourself….

colin October 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm

like that

Kitty Meat October 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I agree with this whole article…but Courage My Love? really?

Linda Dawe October 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Bob: You are so on the money, it is frightening. I applaud your candor and your guts.
I too, know that there is so much new and amazing music, aritists and bands. Our office is inundated with great music from musicians from all over the world. Thank heavens that corporate North America cannot kill the true spirit of music _ it’s players, _ creators.

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