3/3/13 - Bands and the land of compromise
So it’s been a while kind folks, sorry, not the most prolific writer. I always want to try to start writing something with a semi original thought and I guess that’s hard for me to come by . .
But a thought did strike me and hopefully I can be as honest about it as I can.
I think the myth of the 1960’s rock band is still alive in our hearts, and minds. You know the one I mean, where all the band mates live together in a big ramshackle house munching on homegrown lettuce. Where everyday is a party and brotherly and sisterly love overflows into every aspect of life. Where the quest for true art is the pinnacle of existence, and never mind bills and taxes as “we’re the fringe element man, and in the end people will follow us into the light!!” you know, that myth.
But in the ‘now’, let me hip you to how a band tries to get by. And by “band” I mean a collection of souls where there is no one clear leader, where everything comes down to a vote. I’m not talking about a single artist, that has hired guns to flush out the roster.
Bands form, dissolve and morph all the time. If a band survives for any amount of time, in any incarnation, it’s a true testament to something that, that band does right. Just running a band is hard work in and of itself, never mind the “art” of it all. “Art” is the whiney lil brat that gets shoved to the side and taken for granted in a band’s mad rush to survive.
For a band to make it today it has to have at least one tough, relentless, highly motivated individual that is constantly searching for the next leg up in the real world, be it networking, booking the band, and now more than ever inter web presence. . Gone are the days of smoking doobies with a cat that knows a cat, whose brother works as a janitor in Madison Square Garden and, “he can get you in, man!” It is hustle, hustle, hustle and it’s very stressful and hard for that one person in the band to keep trying to pester restaurant, and club owners, festival organizers etc. as 90% of the time they get shot down. So it’s a whole bunch of falling down and getting back up again. This kind of mentality is not conducive to the sensitivity an artist needs to flourish and usually, it takes the wind out of the sails of the individual that’s trying to do this for a band, leaving nothing in the creativity department. If a band has two or more people in it that can help do this organizational heavy lifting, usually a band has a better chance at survival in the long run.
As band mates you all have your duties whether talked about or not, but everyone must pull their weight or dissention sets in and then it gets ugly . . . I have played in bands where I haven’t necessarily loved a particular member as a person, but because their work ethic was so on point, it didn’t really matter to me. Unfortunately it doesn’t work the other way, and love someone as you might, even if they are the bee’s knees player, or singer, if they’re lazy or seem apathetic. Sooner or later, they, or you, gotta go . . .
A band is a bunch of individual artists with different visions of success or goals that must compromise in order to survive, yup, I said it, the band comes first! When you join a band that is the decision you make, you push your chips all in, or you didn’t really join a band.
A band has to talk stuff out, and be constantly reevaluating all the time. So communication is key, if a band can’t talk together, it dies. Seems like a no brainer but countless times I’ve seen members leave a band and not really say why, or leave in anger because they couldn’t voice their dissatisfaction with something that that happened in the past. Animosity builds up and pressure cooker explodes unless talked out.
Some of the hippy-dippy principles of the 60’s still apply though . .like trust. You have to trust each other. They don’t call it a “band” for nothing. You have to be able to lean on each other and sacrifice for each other if it’s going to work. And for me it does make things easier to know I have others in my court.
Also I believe for a band to survive it needs a strong sense of humor to balance out the harsh stuff. You must get goofy with each other . .
Objectivity is difficult sometimes, and most of the time a band is so busy looking down stomping out little fires it forgets about where it’s going, and you start to take each other for granted and don’t much appreciate what each member brings to the table. But you must value each other . .
As far as Moondog Medicine Show goes we’re not exempt from any and all of this. Musicians are passionate people, we’ve had our knockdown drag outs, our misunderstandings, and ultimately our collective compromise. What sustains us is a common vision of where we want to get to.
I feel very fortunate about being in this band with this bunch of people. A band must have hope, and with Moondog Medicine Show I have it in spades . . .
6/25/12 What Makes a Good Blues Song
Jomo here again, . .
Us Moondoggers are hard at work right now forging more songs for our next recording/CD.
So it gets me thinking, . . What is it that makes a great ‘blues song” as opposed to a great pop song? When you boil it down the line is pretty thin to be sure. As I believe a good song, is a good song no matter what genre it resides. In my mind a blues song is a pop song that kind of lost its way, and wound up in a smaller pond if you will. And, if it’s a good blues song, its way more appreciated by all the fish in that pond, as opposed to a smattering in the big pop pond across the way.
Some folks might view the blues song as too simplistic and banal, but in my book they’re wrong. Well, . . if you half step it in the writing dept. they’re right, but not if it’s done correctly.
If you examine blues lyrics in days of yore it seems to be the case that it was either a simple idea, or a euphemism for something else that the blues topics circled around,(I’m over simplifying, but humor me) ie:
My babe don't stand no cheatin', my babe,
Oh yeah she don't stand no cheatin', my babe,
Oh yeah she don't stand no cheatin',
she don't stand none of that midnight creepin,
my babe, true little baby, my babe
I had a little red rooster too lazy to crow for days,
I had a little red rooster too lazy to crow for days,
He keeps everything in the farmyard upset in everyway,
I remember reading on the back of an old Big Bill Broonzy record, how he’d write blues songs, I’m paraphrasing but it went something like this:
“Well let’s see, what can you do with a knife? You can sharpen it, you can cut something with it, you can kill some one with it . .ya got yourself a blues right there . .”
So you can say, well crap, those ol’ blues writers wrote one line and repeated it a bunch of times and added a kicker line and there you go, “Bob’s yer uncle” it seems like it’s cheating. (If that reasoning is sound then I guess Haiku is less valid than a western poem?)
These days I feel as though the above style of blues song writing is a bit out dated, as the world we live in moves fast and so does modern music but, . . a big BUT, . . Not the germ of where it comes from. That I feel is, and always will be the essence of blues. There is a big difference between a song that’s “Bluesy” and “the Blues”. To me good Blues has an immediate sense of authenticity to it, whether its humorous, sexy, angry or whatever it has to feel . . real and tangible. Maybe it only appeals to some, as to me, it is the everyman and woman’s music. It’s not high brow or pretentious, but it connects because it speaks a common language that we all can really relate to. Also I believe that a great blues song needs to be hand crafted to fit the artist singing or performing it. You have to envision the artist relaying the blues song in question and try to get a sense of, will this fly or not, as the performance is part of the oral tradition of the blues. And the main thing about blues performance is, it had better be in earnest, otherwise it loses its believability factor. If we have to generalize, the everyman and woman might not be as learned as the upper crust, but they can spot a phony instantly.
Musically these days we musicians take great liberties with the Blues form, we really stray from it. We add rock and funk licks, put in R&B kicks, and harmonize in a way that can really almost be thought of as jazz. To me it seems as though we can get almost as off track as we like, but we must not lose the soul. Once we do that we’re not grounded in the Blues anymore. The blues is sweat, the blues is toil, blues is sex, the blues is joy, the blues is pain, the blues is beauty, the blues is heart . . To me the Blues is a musical manifestation and bird’s eye view of the soul, if you didn’t soulfully feel what you wrote, you didn’t write a blues song . . until next time this is Jomo of Moondog Medicine Show over and out . .
8/1/11 Contemporary Blues