Nostalgia and Pastiche in Music: Being Derivative Isn’t Always Bad

manufactured

“Now everyone has to be derived from somebody or something. Nothing new is born without parents. Poets stand on the shoulders of earlier poets and musicians, from the long-hair classicists to the long-hair popists, are also links in a chain of influence”

This is one of the best responses I’ve read about the concept of “manufactured” music being inferior to “real music” (what is real music and who decides, I wonder).

A lot of bands are criticized for being manufactured now, but the Monkees got much of the same critique when they came out. I’ve never understood who it was that decided that in order for music to be good and valued it had to completely break from the norms of what went before, so it’s nice to see a music critic in that era say the same thing.

I believe that nostalgia is just as powerful as something totally new. The Monkees obviously borrowed a lot from the Beatles and other successful British Invasion bands, but they also had an undefinable something that made them seem new and fresh, and stand out. That X-Factor, if you will.

A lot of great bands used nostalgia and derivative imagery and sounds in the development of their music and did it with 100% full intent and purpose.

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Davy Jones on the Ed Sullivan Show , Feb. 9, 1964

On February 9, 1964: More than 73 million people watched Davy Jones and the cast of Oliver! on the Ed Sullivan Show. The same show also featured the American TV debut of a band called the Beatles. Maybe you’ve heard of them.

Davy recalled: “I was performing a song from Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles made their American debut. I saw this amazing reaction and I thought “I want a bit of this- this is good.” I remember getting into the lift with Ringo Starr. I was always a cheeky little guy. He had a cold at the time and I remember saying, “Let me blow your nose for you, I’m closer than you are.” Ringo said, “I know.”

Why New Wave Isn’t Considered Classic Rock

New Wave Band Duran Duran“Classic rock” and classic rock radio is an extension of what was known as AOR radio formatting in the late 70s/early 80s [AOR= album oriented rock].

AOR program directors back then were almost always white men who thought their listeners wanted a radio rotation with a similar demographic, and generally played music by mostly white male artists in the rock n roll vein. They would also seemingly play “Stairway to Heaven” on the hour for no real reason. And were obsessed with the band Boston.

MTV was founded by people who previously worked at top AOR radio stations which is why it was a rock oriented TV station AT FIRST, though once they realized that hardly any classic rock bands had music videos, they were forced to play videos by unknown British art bands who wore makeup and weird outfits to fill the 24 hours in a day.

Which is why new wave/new romantic/synthpop took over in the 80s and things got interesting again.

By 1983 MTV was basically forced into playing music by black artists, mainly because of Michael Jackson and CBS Records. Until then they didn’t play any black music unless it was jazz or rock oriented.

Classic rock radio has gotten slightly better, I occasionally will hear new wave stuff like Blondie, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello, sometimes the Clash. Never anything with synthesizers unless it’s in the prog-rock vein or maybe “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

Current classic rock radio stations mirror these narrow-minded attitudes of only grouping certain bands in the classic rock genre, leaving out all bands who are synth based, glam rock, funk based, or dance oriented, and that’s fine and dandy.

I think a lot of why these bands [the New York Dolls, Roxy Music, Slade, Sweet, Adam Ant, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Japan, Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds, and T Rex] aren’t allowed in the classic rock radio world is because the male program directions were not comfortable with the makeup and the femme qualities of many of these musicians, but maybe that’s just me.

[BOWIE DIGRESSION]

We have to remember that even someone like Bowie didn’t become a mega-star in the US until his 1983 album Let’s Dance [his only real ‘hit’ in America in the 70s was “Fame”, which was a disco track basically]. His 70s output was still considered fairly fringe in America. Now obviously, classic rock radio plays Bowie a lot, but I think at a certain point in the 80s, he became so big they kind of had to. But Bowie was not considered classic rock in the 70s in America AT ALL.

Adam Ant’s influence on punk in the US, via Darby Crash

Darby Crash co-founded the influential LA punk band the Germs with Pat Smear. He died in December 1980.

From an interview with Darby Crash biographer Brendan Mullen

Question: What do you know about Darby’s trip to England and his subsequent obsession with Adam & The Ants? Who did Darby hang out with in England?

Mullen: He went to England for a month or so in early summer of 1980 with a woman named Amber, his latest patron, a woman he lived with for a while who picked up the tab for everything. They stayed with Amber’s friend Jordan who was a key designer-stylist in the classic Britpunk fashion look. According to Amber, Darby asked Jordan to give him what people called the “Mohawk” hairdo, although “Mohican” was actually the correct name, something Darby kept pointing out, but to no avail. Mohawk stuck in the vernacular. Mohican didn’t. Still is that way. Darby’s role model for the Big Make-Over-in-London was clearly Adam Ant and his Antpeople entourage of post-punk fashion casualties.

Here are some photos of Darby Crash sporting his Adam Ant inspired getups and his influential Mohawk haircut:

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Adam Ant in 1980

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My Favorite Albums of 2013

disclosure settleListed somewhat in numerical order with absolutely no editorial comments.

1. Disclosure- Settle

2. Kanye West- Yeezus

3. M.I.A- Matangi

4. Drake- Nothing Was The Same

5. Savages- Silence Yourself

6. CHVRCHES- The Bones of What You Believe

7. James Blake- Overgrown

8. Arctic Monkeys- AM

9. Janelle Monae- The Electric Lady

10. William Onyeabor- Who Is William Onyeabor?

11. Jessy Lanza- Pull My Hair Back

12. Daft Punk- Random Access Memories

13. Sky Ferreria- Night Time, My Time

14. Charli XCX- True Romance

15. Ciara- Body Party

16. AlunaGeorge- Body Music

Honorable mentions: David Bowie, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, Blood Orange

Most improved: One Direction

Most Overrated: Duh, Arcade Fire and Haim

I Should Probably Listen to But Haven’t Yet: Vampire Weekend, Kacey Musgraves, Pusha T, Justin Timberlake.

*yes my list is skewed towards r&b and electronic music sorry not sorry

Neko Case dressed up as Adam Ant for Halloween

neko case as adam antPretty rad costume, in my humble opinion. I love when famous people stan for other famous people and the fact that Neko Case is a huge Adam Ant fangirl makes me want to discover more of her music.

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goth style

A goth inspired outfit currently sold by Forever 21

Goth is Dead, Long Live Goth

Everyone is going goth– again. Yesterday the New York Times did a trend piece on goth that’s worth a read.

Choice quote from the article, “Google searches for “creeper” style shoes have grown by more than 530 percent between September 2010 and September 2013. “The goth trend is no longer reserved for an underground subculture,” said Heidi Ware, head of fashion editorial and creative for eBay. A choker necklace is sold on the site every 55 seconds.”

This is on the heels of the recent Kanye West album, which bares an influence of goth and Nine Inch Nails industrial sounds and Rihanna tagging photos on Instagram as “ghettogoth” and posting photos of chokers for fashion inspiration. Goth is back, but did it really ever leave?

RIP Lou Reed

the velvet underground and nicoI’m always shocked to find people who were not affected by the Velvet Underground and Nico album during their teenage years. That album is a perfect soundtrack for those years of discord and boredom. The glimpses of kinky sex and drug use and the day to day life in a big chaotic city showed us that things were gonna be exciting and dangerous and dark in the future, and life was worth living.

RIP Lou Reed. Thanks for the tunes.

Disco

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Disco broadened the contours of blackness, femininity, and male homosexuality. African-American musicians and producers experimented with lavish, sophisticated arrangements that didn’t always sound recognizably “black.” Their lush new sounds became the foundation of disco. With this sonic turn, black masculinity moved away from the “sex machine” model of James Brown towards the “love man” style of Barry White. As for gay men, as they became newly visible, largely through the dissemination of disco culture, their self-presentation shifted as effeminacy gave way to a macho style recognizable to anyone who has ever glimpsed the Village People. Feminism’s critique of three-minute sex found its voice in disco, and black female performers broke with representational strategies rooted in respectability. There’s no way to make sense of how we got from Diana Ross to Lil’ Kim without exploring disco.

Alice Echols, author of Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture