This month, Big George takes a swipe at a few sacred cows in the name of fair play.
The first thing to know about the music industry is that it's nothing like what you think it is. The second is that you are NOT going to become the next Pink Floyd — no-one is! In fact, if you want my opinion, Pink Floyd are a big part of the current problem within the music industry. What? I'm not falling at the feet of the greatest band the universe has ever seen? OK, I'll admit it: I'm not a fan of public-school meandering mediocrity as it makes its way meaninglessly towards octogenarianism, but so what? Personal preferences aside, I stand by the contention that they're a major part of the problem we're suffering from in the music business today. And before the progressive elite of the world start to type a strongly worded email to the editor (who, by the way, is a fan), I'll explain myself, as I'd hate you to think of me as gratuituously kicking a bunch of old men when they're still on the up.
Could you imagine way, back in 1966, when Pink Floyd were starting to make their mark on the artistic consciousness of an experimental generation, the entire music press, the national newspapers and the mainstream media at large still glorying in the genius of the likes of Al Jolson and Caruso? Of course not! But today you can barely open a serious lifestyle music mag without being confronted by a 20-page homage to some bunch of old duffers and the inspiration they captured whilst putting their feet up in their 50-bedroom castle after bathing in vintage champagne. It makes no sense. Their career highlights came way over a quarter of a century ago! And the rot doesn't end there.
If we're going to make the music industry a fairer place, there's no sacred cow we can't dispatch to the dark side of the moon. But where to start? Oasis are still winning best band after slagging and shlanging their way through a complete songbook for twice as long as the Beatles were together. The (half) Who, out touring with yet another (c)rock opera, are gaining more coverage now than they did with anything they put out at the end of their '60s prime. U2, decades down the road, are still seen as new kids on the block. The Rolling Stones continue to wig out audiences who want to hear the hits of yesteryear, although fortunately everyone has the taste to ignore their recent, and individual solo, recorded output. Then there's the pantomime dame of British music, the wonderfully philanthropic Elton John, still going into the studio to record more irrelevant records with anyone who fancies it, that no-one will give a toss about in a year's time — but for now, let's swamp the market! Where is the space for new, talented, ugly bands to get through this iron-fisted, old-guard stranglehold?
Now, you might think I'm being a bit unfair on our national treasures. You ain't heard nothing yet! Not only do I think they're hogging the limelight, they're also scooping up the cash and becoming the pillars of the capitalist establishment most of them set out to destroy — even if they do appear on charity stages for an hour to show their heartfelt empathy with the cause of the day, whilst exponentially boosting their latest CD sales.
Why aren't these multi-millionaires putting something back into the industry that has given them such decadent lifestyles? Why don't they get young up-and-coming bands on the bill at their concerts (and pay them for their performances)? Why don't they finance an album or 10? And, more to the point, why don't they just retire and leave us with the great records, old concert videos and good memories? The answer is ego, although we shouldn't forget the fact that the media seems to be controlled by old rockers who give acres of newsprint or airtime in return for chummy golfing weekends and motor-racing outings. (At this point, I'm not accusing anyone of corruption or payola, as everyone involved is stinking rich and totally out of touch anyway.) End result: at least two generations of potentially world-shaking bands being sidelined because the same old same old get previewed, reviewed and interviewed.
So what do I suggest? Well, the thoughts I have that are both printable and practical include... umm, to be honest, not much, as there's not much that can be done while the rock & roll pensioners and their pals in the media and retail keep the doors firmly closed. Perhaps me putting my head on the chopping block (and, make no mistake, I will be inundated with poison-pen emails, get doorstepped by bad-mouthing 'serious' music fans and dodge a few death threats... as if I care!) might help the world see that if the music industry is to survive, we need to allow new talent to breathe, develop and have access to the ears of the planet. If Bowie was starting out today, he would be dropped after his first album. And how would the Beatles fare after only reaching number 17 with their debut single?
By the way, did you notice that I haven't even mentioned the X Factor? (X F*cked Up, more like!)
Big George is an award-winning BBC broadcaster who has also composed and arranged several popular and enduring British TV and radio themes over the last 15 years. He started out as a teenage session bass player in a mythical time now known as the '70s and has done everything possible to avoid getting a proper job ever since. He began writing for SOS nine years ago and we can't shake him off!