Posts Tagged ‘Journey’
It must’ve been tough for 1970s “arena rock” heroes to transition into the MTV era.
Many of these outfits were seemingly born-and-bred to be anonymous in a broader sense. For 90 per cent listeners (and I’m assuming even for a large segment of self-anointed “fans”), they would be hard pressed to identify the individual members of Journey, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Kansas, etc. Even their names were fairly interchangeable and aesthetically none of them veered from the “white guys with considerable hair” template that was popular at the time.
The music was primarily crafted to be sold via cassette at your local gas station and sound decent blasting out of an FM radio in a panel van. Sweeping generalization but you get the gist. For once in “show biz”, looks didn’t (really) matter.
This model extended to Canada. We birthed outfits with names like Prism, Saga and Triumph. These might sound like video game studios or marketing agencies but NO! These were actual bands with guitars and drug problems and the like.
Occasionally in Canada, the model veered. Most interestingly, there was Aldo Nova and later, Alta Moda.
* Aldo Nova: Some dude from Montreal who was most notable for his butt rock classic “Fantasy”. The track featured a memorable video where Monsieur Nova emerged from a helicopter and shot lasers from his guitar. He did this while dressed like a leopard. While the clip is textbook 1980s cheese, the Wikipedia entry is almost as good.
Anyway, Rush were another top 1970s “arena rock” band. They were/are wildly popular in their native Canada and around the world. You could argue they were more well-positioned for MTV era since they were slightly more theatrical than Foreigner or Triumph. They spent parts of the 1970s wearing kimonos, after all.
Rush made a lot of videos during the 1980s. The clip for “Tom Sawyer” showed the boys trying to cram as many instruments as humanly possible into a really weird looking cottage. “Subdivisons” is a great video for spotting Toronto’s trash culture of yore and if you took out the music and added dialogue, it could pretty much double as an episode of Degrassi Jr High.
“Time Stand Still” was another Rush video of this era and it was a doozy! It was directed by Polish auteur/vowel hater Zbigniew Rybczyński, who boasted a long and really bizarre track record of working with artists who were completely dissimilar: the Art of Noise, the Fat Boys, Yoko Ono, Supertramp, Herb Alpert, Jimmy Cliff, etc.
The video was filmed in New York City against a green screen and features the band floating around while playing their instruments. Joining Rush in their floaty efforts was guest vocalist Aimee Mann, who was in the dying days of the underrated ‘Til Tuesday at the time this track was recorded in early 1987-ish.
Zbig’s motives for the clip weren’t and still aren’t entirely clear but one thing he knew: he simply MUST see the members of Rush floating around randomly and Aimee Mann must spend part of the time pretending to use a video camera(?!?). The effect is less “WTF” and more “Sure, whatever” in hindsight. Ostensibly, this was statement.
Here are a few thoughts from the clip’s editor from his website:
Zbig had shot footage of country landscapes for Rush. The idea was to shoot short pieces of Rush performing the song against green screen, then composite them together. When we started working, Zbig decided he loved the stage and wanted to composite Rush over that instead. I suggested that we shoot them live in the stage, but Zbig wanted everyone to “float” around it. He also insisted that everything had to happen “live.” Each new layer would be placed on top of the preceding layer without making protection copies or “laying off” a copy, as we used to say. The green screen footage was shot with the same giant studio camera Aimee Mann is using in the video. Zbig would give some vague direction to Rush; I would set up the effects, play the audio track and press record, causing multiple one-inch tape machines to roll up on the third floor. For 3 days in a row. It didn’t matter what time it was. If Zbig got an idea at 3 in the morning, he’d wake everyone up (I was sleeping in the control room) and we would all go to work. We started the Rush video on Saturday morning and finished Tuesday night. Wednesday morning Mr. Mister moved in.
The thought of Zbig waking up in a cold sweat and barking, “I must see Peart AND his drum kit upside down NOW!!!” is comical. However, it’s way too easy to poke fun at this video out context.
For those who have seen the great-even-if-you-hate-the-band documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage, the members of Rush reveal themselves to be as virtuous at comedy as they are at music. Therefore, it’s somewhat safe to assume that Geddy and pals knew full well the “Time Stand Still” video was a bit of a lark.
If so, this was pretty forward thinking for 1987. The “so bad, it’s good” post-ironic wave that hit popular culture in the 1990s was still years away. And yet Rush had the good humour (and good sense) to release a video that wasn’t artistic and wasn’t really anything beyond (yes) band members and Aimee Mann floating around over mildly-interesting file footage. The video was cheap and that was the point.
Lo-and-behold, this approach became common place years later, typified by the following high-concept clips:
“Time Stand Still”/“Time Stands Still” indeed.
Bold Statement: On some level, music needs to be consumed in a timely manner to be best “experienced” although not necessarily best “appreciated”.
There is an expression that some (lame) first wave Baby Boomers are fond of: If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t REALLY there.
Subtext: drugs, man!
This statement is ridiculous for various reasons. It glibly implies that to have REALLY experienced the 1960s, ideally, you’d have fried your brain on LSD and bad acid rock.
It’s also a tad insensitive to those who have friends and/or loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Or all grades of concussion victims. Or 90 per cent of pro boxers. Or old people, in general.
The frustrating part is that I guarantee that ANYBODY who ever uttered this phrase without irony would also contend that you can’t really “get” the Beatles or the Jefferson Airplane or Barry McGuire or whoever because again, you weren’t REALLY there.
This hypothetical person needs to be hypothetically slapped. However, he… she… this “spirit animal” actually raises an interesting point…
Is a person’s understanding (… and by understanding, I don’t mean appreciation) of music going to be predicated on whether they lived through it?
One could argue to the answer is “Yes”.
From about 1995 to the fall of 2004, I loved the Pixies. LOVED them. Even in 12th grade and more-or-less pre-Internet (pre-dawn AOL barely counts due to the five hours/month limit), I was somehow aware that I was supposed to like the Pixies if I was going to be a supporter of “cool music”. This was known. Even in Thornhill.
Big picture: it was an easy sell. For a supposed underground band, the Pixies were immediate. Their songs were exciting. They only had 60 or so songs total, which in a pre-iTunes age, made them easier to fully digest than somebody like Frank Zappa or the Smiths or Hagood Hardy.
They rocked in a conventional sense, wrote interesting lyrics in a literal sense and were weird in a non-threatening sense (with the possible exception of the track “Broken Face”, which would have been menacing if it wasn’t sung by a guy who looked like a really tall 5-year old).
Anyway, here is the point.
The Pixies shockingly reunited for a world tour in 2004. Most assumed that it’d be a one-and-done affair and the simmering tension between Black Francis and Kim Deal would give the reunion a shelf life. It was thought they might strike each other. I went to see them play by the airport in Toronto that fall. It was great and a bit surreal to see my (1a) favourite band of all-time in the flesh.
In the end… well, there actually isn’t an end to this annecdote. Because it’s almost a decade later and the Pixies reunion tour is STILL GOING ON (I think). No new music. Just reunion shows and then some reunion shows and then some gimmick-y reunion shows Let’s play Doolittle in its entirety! Let’s do a tour of places we’ve never played before!
Yeah. I don’t really begrudge any band for cashing in if/when they can since a majority of bands are going to get screwed by some combination of managers, agents, record labels, drug dealers and/or “dear, dear friends” at some point.
Bands come and go. Reunions happen. They don’t happen. They implode. Whatever! The fact remains, I pretty much stopped caring about the Pixies by spring of 2005. A year in, I was tired of reading about the reunion tour (already) and I had been listening to the same five dozen songs for the last decade. Vamos!
Token nautical reference: the ship had sailed.
The Pixies were not hard to give up. I loved them but they were easy to compartmentalize when the time came.
The reason is simple. By the time I got into the Pixies (1995), they had already been broken up for two years (that’s 1993 for all you dullards). Therefore, even when I discovered the Pixies, I was doing so in retrospect.
I was alive during their first incarnation but I was pretty much unaware of them so they might as well have been Black Flag or Mozart in terms of my ability to truly experience them with any sense of immediacy. I existed (in my own way) when they did. I just wasn’t paying attention.
I never had the experience of anticipating a new album, seeing fresh press photos, speculating on tour dates and other aspects that us music dorks lap up like so much rancid consommé.
To re-hash (see what I did there) what our hippie friends told us, I wasn’t really there.
Does this matter? Should this matter? Maybe. What I do know: it does to me. Dammit.
That’s OK. I think it’s true.
This is a major issue I take with music writers and record store clerks who laud a band like Kraftwerk. I have no doubt that Kraftwerk sounded alien in the mid-1970s. And I get that a lot of early hip-hop DJs would go squirrely mixing these austere pieces of German vinyl. That’s great. Sincerely.
However, there have been sooooooo many bands post-Kraftwerk that have morphed, evolved, adapted their bedrock into music that is denser, more soulful, more engaging and frankly, more memorable.
It’s opinion. I get it. But I can’t be in the minority here.
That’s not at all to suggest that Kraftwerk can’t be appreciated and it’s not a judgment on whether they were important or not. What it is is a statement saying that the segment of the population who TRULY experienced Kraftwerk is very small. Again, it’s resigned to serious music geeks of the mid-1970s, a few primordial hip-hop crate carriers and (assumedly) some random German people.
This leads to the phenomenon of the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’” and it’s preponderance amongst many under the age of 30. Largely, this song was introduced to a younger generation by the TV program Glee and less largely (but still significantly) by the final episode of The Sopranos.
I’d imagine that if you took a cross section of people who identify “Don’t Stop Believin’” as their favourite song (and it’s a big cross section considering it’s allegedly one of the top-selling songs in iTunes history), a good chunk of these individuals would picture the song being belted out by a bevy of SAG members in lieu of Steve Perry mincing about in a stained undershirt.
Again, I can not judge. I will not judge. However, I think it is fair to say that the Steve Perry/stained undershirt “vision” (and what a vision it is) is certainly a more accurate depiction of what the song was supposed to be… even it is not a reality of what it ultimately became.
So getting back to my Pixies example, I haven’t fully relapsed back into the outfit since they fell off my radar in 2005. Maybe I will some day. Maybe I won’t. But a consideration for why I likely won’t? I didn’t have the guttural pleasure of experiencing them in their original incarnation and therefore, something intrinsically is missing in my fandom.
And that’s the reason I’ll always feel more ownership and authenticity over my Eria Fachin/”Savin’ Myself” experience than anything in the entire pre-1992 4AD catalogue.
It’s reverence in hindsight.