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Author Topic: does the romance of rock and roll exist anymore?  (Read 1884 times)
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Chet
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« on: Dec 15, 2011, 11:21:58 AM »

Pondering this while reading through my twitter time line and being confronted by a stream of conscious outpouring from Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus and thinking when does it become TMI?

It used to be that your favourite bands were made up of mythical beings who you barely knew anything about. Heck, even as recently as the early 00s before I had the internet I couldn't point out members of most of my favourite bands in a line up. I remember being horrified when I finally saw Jason Molina's unibrow. Nowadays with twitter, pitchfork and the blogosphere (sorry) there's this constant stream of information that's almost unavoidable. I know more about some of my favourite musicians than I do about people I hang out with. I'm not saying it particularly impacts my enjoyment of the music but it is definitely a different experience.

I'll freely admit that I sometimes get obsessive about certain artists and will seek out every press snippet and interview, but you used to have to work so much harder for it. I remember as a teen scouring the newsracks for news on Oasis, and I think pre-internet artists had much more control over their image and the mythology behind their existance. Can the rock star as an other worldy being i.e David Bowie exist anymore? Even a band like the Replacements had a highly mythologised story surrounding them. If they were around now we'd be reading about how Tommy is playing words with friends on his iphone and eating a big mac.

You can argue that someone like Lady Gaga has a finely crafted persona but we also know what she looks like in sweat pants at jamba juice or whatever. I'm not saying this kind of information didn't exist before, but it wasn't in every house at every second.

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: Dec 15, 2011, 11:33:21 AM by Chet » Logged

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Babar
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 15, 2011, 12:08:09 PM »



I may have some thoughts later, but for now I'll just put this picture of Marc Bolan here.
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Chet
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« Reply #2 on: Dec 15, 2011, 12:09:07 PM »

i was actually going to mention Bolan alongside Bowie
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Babar
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« Reply #3 on: Dec 15, 2011, 12:11:51 PM »

It helps that he never grew old, so he still has that mythical untouchability like he's not even a mortal... ironically...
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nonotyet
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« Reply #4 on: Dec 15, 2011, 12:18:55 PM »

Even a band like the Replacements had a highly mythologised story surrounding them. If they were around now we'd be reading about how Tommy is playing words with friends on his iphone and eating a big mac.

I disagree completely. And respectfully. I think that the Replacements were disgusted by the publicity machine as it existed in the 80s, and assuming that they were around now I think they would have become increasingly disgusted with all of this shit and gone to live in the hills or something.

And the way I romanticize music is by not looking at Twitter. 
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #5 on: Dec 15, 2011, 12:19:41 PM »

It's interesting that you specify 'rock and roll' in the thread title, because dance music and its numerous offshoots into DJ culture and experimental electronic genres is built on what once seemed like a really radical idea of an anonymous artist.

DJs in particular became for the most part, 'faceless superstars' in the 90s and offered a sort of alternative to the some of the very people mentioned above like Bowie and Bolan - while they had mystery, those guys also had very high visibility and were extremely image-conscious. Which can't be said for Autechre, Boards Of Canada, or Underworld. And these days, the principle is upheld even more strictly, with artists like Burial and Zomby guarding their identities and using masks and so on to completely remove the personality from the art(ist).

But I realise that's not exactly what you were talking about, and that anonymity/mystery aren't synonymous. There are certain electronic musicians who I've regretted 'following' on Twitter because they turn out to be somewhat less charming and intriguing in 140 characters than they are in 20 minute field recordings.
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Almanzo
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« Reply #6 on: Dec 15, 2011, 12:37:34 PM »



I may have some thoughts later, but for now I'll just put this picture of Marc Bolan here.

"Whatever happened to the Teenage Dream?"
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Almanzo
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« Reply #7 on: Dec 15, 2011, 01:19:37 PM »

There is definitely something to be said for that mystery, and how it helps us relate to artists that we love as something more than mere mortals, as these mythic superhero icons. It's a shared hallucination and delusion, but it's entered into consensually and willingly by the fanbase because it actually enriches the experience of following the artist's output by divorcing the "real human" from the equation and replacing it with this theatrical sort of avatar. The quickest and laziest but reasonably effective metaphor I can come up with is that it's the difference between watching a great movie that's properly edited and watching one where you can also see the crew hanging out, the boom mics, the cameras, and the green screens and wires. There's something to be said for consenting to the illusion, and something tangible to be gained from it.

For a good chunk of the past decade, I had the bizarre and rare pleasure of becoming involved with one of my favorite musicians and became a member of his band and toured with him. This guy had been my personal idol when I was a teenager and in that decade of alterna-excess (the nineties), he was the equal of a Corgan or Cobain in my mind - I had no idea how tiny and unglamorous the indie world actually was compared to the alterna-stuff I saw on MTV. Going on tours with him was a surreal experience, but what struck me the most (and uncomfortably at first) was the way he'd "game face" (my words, not his) whenever we'd show up at venues - just go into Serious Artist mode in a way that was standoffish and cool compared to the goofy, wise-cracking, farting-in-the-van guy I had just spent 8 hours with across state lines from one show to the next. I talked to him about it, and his exact response was "I mean, you've got to maintain some sort of mystery, some sort of detachment, some sort of veil between you and the fans. It's one of the things that keeps them interested, hungry, and invested. When a kid comes up to me after the show and raves about how great my last album was, I'm not going to be all [goofy and enthusiastic] "Gee, thanks, I tried really hard and I really hope it was good enough and you liked it!" even if I totally feel that way. I have a responsibility to be the icon that that kid wants me to be and thinks of me as and to play and maintain that role for him as a die-hard fan." And there's really something to be said for that commitment to the role - when we were playing to 100 people in the middle of nowhere Indiana on a Tuesday night, there wasn't a single person in that audience that didn't hold that guy with such reverence and fervor that it was like they were seeing Bruce Springsteen or Leonard Cohen or someone of THAT iconic and mythic stature...who they can then still, knees trembling, come up and talk to after the show. And this is a guy that's maintained that standing among his little group of die-hards without ever giving into twitter and tumblr's "all access to the artist" mandate.

I remember being 16 and trying to imagine the aforementioned guy going through the McDonalds drive-thru or filling up his tank with gas [I've since done both things with him] and it seemed completely absurd, like such things were somehow beneath him or simply impossible to imagine this God-King Hero of mine doing. Though it's not always healthy, that sort of mythic stature - the teenage ability to really Idolize in every sense of the word - is probably the singular essence of that myth and romance of rock-and-roll.

The one hybrid angle that I've seen that somewhat works - and could theoretically become the new way of providing constant content and access while maintaining this mystery - is the whole "constructed persona" or "carefully-maintained illusion" that some artists do on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/etc. wherein the full fan/aficionado experience of the artist requires following them on such services in order to get the full story/whole picture/ongoing performance narrative. This kind of geeks me a bit. Obvious examples are Lil' B and his presence on youtube and twitter in particular but also his "Dior Paint" tumblr ("I'm the stylist for Lil' B" - when it's clearly just him), and to a lesser extent the Ghost Box label in England which is merely three guys working an almost alternate reality game at this point wherein they give the illusion of about 20 different musicians and librarians and researchers and technicians working together to discover and reissue old lost recordings by other musicians, which are of course more music made by those three dudes under different aliases. The whole thing plays out over their physical releases, individual tumblrs, alias tumblrs, and then of course twitter.

That last paragraph is actually a component of a now book-length longform article I'm working on about Lil' B for publication in early 2012.


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Nick Ink
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« Reply #8 on: Dec 15, 2011, 01:47:48 PM »

Mind you, not every artist works that way. Kristin Hersh is an example of someone who has continually tried to close the gap between her band and her fans, lately through social media, but 10-15 years ago, through things like the Gut Pageant events Throwing Muses hosted for fans. Although, regarding those (which were kind of big weekender barbecue-party-gig affairs in which 30-40 diehard Muses fans and all the musicians involved mixed together) she was quoted as saying she was a bit disappointed at how fans still treated her in such a reverential way.

I think some musicians need that distance and mystery, while for others it's an artificial fourth wall that they try to break down. An extreme example of that in these days is a band like Lucky Dragons, who incorporate technology that basically means the audience are influencing the music produced at their shows.
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Black Amnesia of Heaven
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« Reply #9 on: Dec 15, 2011, 03:41:04 PM »

being confronted by a stream of conscious outpouring from Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus and thinking when does it become TMI?

This fucking dude.
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Black Amnesia of Heaven
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« Reply #10 on: Dec 15, 2011, 03:46:45 PM »

Going on tours with him was a surreal experience, but what struck me the most (and uncomfortably at first) was the way he'd "game face" (my words, not his) whenever we'd show up at venues - just go into Serious Artist mode in a way that was standoffish and cool compared to the goofy, wise-cracking, farting-in-the-van guy I had just spent 8 hours with across state lines from one show to the next. I talked to him about it, and his exact response was "I mean, you've got to maintain some sort of mystery, some sort of detachment, some sort of veil between you and the fans. It's one of the things that keeps them interested, hungry, and invested. When a kid comes up to me after the show and raves about how great my last album was, I'm not going to be all [goofy and enthusiastic] "Gee, thanks, I tried really hard and I really hope it was good enough and you liked it!" even if I totally feel that way. I have a responsibility to be the icon that that kid wants me to be and thinks of me as and to play and maintain that role for him as a die-hard fan."

This is awful and I'm glad no one is able to do it anymore
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alistarr*
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« Reply #11 on: Dec 15, 2011, 04:30:31 PM »

I think it exists for teenagers but you are not a teenager any more.

I also think that if that romance didn't exist for anyone then people would on balance be happier.
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clare
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« Reply #12 on: Dec 15, 2011, 05:03:58 PM »

That whole "persona" thing is an interesting question. I have a friend who is a performer with a persona, and recently I tried to catch up with him in the middle of a tour. He was too busy, but said "come to this public open event" (a tribute to a former band-mate) but I declined. I wanted to spend time with *him*, not his persona on this occasion.

In general, I don't think it's a bad thing that there's more info all the time about artists, but it does mean that they need to figure out how to exercise control. One particular artist of whom I am quite fond has a reputation amongst his fans for sometimes being a total arsehole about photos, and meeting people after shows. Now I'm not saying that all artists *should* do this all the time or whatever, but the fact that information is dispersed so fast now means that the fact that this bloke can be nasty is widely known, in a way it might not have been pre-internet. He's also weird about his website, that has a fan-forum. The admin has said privately, that he's been asked to delete posts that the artist didn't like. I'm not sure how I feel about that - on the one hand, yeah, he's a private kind of guy trying to live his life. On the other hand - he's this well-known figure, and isn't that what he signed up for?
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dieblucasdie
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« Reply #13 on: Dec 16, 2011, 09:27:58 AM »

You can still game the current system to create "mystery" or a constructed persona or whatever. Remember Girls?
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elpollodiablo
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« Reply #14 on: Dec 16, 2011, 11:31:02 AM »

I've got pretty much zero interest in the personal lives of the artists/writers/musicians I admire. Mystery/romance/what have you is what you make of it; you're still in control of the media you consume.
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elpollodiablo
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« Reply #15 on: Dec 16, 2011, 11:32:09 AM »


In general, I don't think it's a bad thing that there's more info all the time about artists, but it does mean that they need to figure out how to exercise control.

See I would argue that if this is your opinion, the control could be much more effectively exercised on the other end.
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fishjim
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Posts: 1982


« Reply #16 on: Dec 16, 2011, 11:59:56 AM »

Chet, you master thread maker!

I'll add some thoughts when I get a chance later today.
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Thermofusion
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Posts: 10000


« Reply #17 on: Dec 16, 2011, 04:22:30 PM »



I may have some thoughts later, but for now I'll just put this picture of Mack Bolan here.

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dieblucasdie
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« Reply #18 on: Dec 16, 2011, 05:59:03 PM »

I mean really you guys should just stop listening to everything except rap, where the artists' ridiculous personas are half the fun
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fishjim
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Posts: 1982


« Reply #19 on: Dec 16, 2011, 08:47:55 PM »

I mean really you guys should just stop listening to everything except rap, where the artists' ridiculous personas are half the fun

Yep. And it makes sense to me that these personas are most prevalent in hip-hop, given the lyrical experiments going on. Same goes for the Gandalfs.

Almanzo, so glad to hear you're going longform on Lil B. I'm finishing a long piece myself right now on music & poetry, but my ears are too new to Lil B (not to mention the last decade of hip-hop) to really feel confident saying much beyond a shout-out. But really, he deserves like 5,000 words of my 10,000.
« Last Edit: Dec 16, 2011, 11:21:45 PM by fishjim » Logged

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fishjim
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Posts: 1982


« Reply #20 on: Dec 16, 2011, 11:48:05 PM »

Going on tours with him was a surreal experience, but what struck me the most (and uncomfortably at first) was the way he'd "game face" (my words, not his) whenever we'd show up at venues - just go into Serious Artist mode in a way that was standoffish and cool compared to the goofy, wise-cracking, farting-in-the-van guy I had just spent 8 hours with across state lines from one show to the next. I talked to him about it, and his exact response was "I mean, you've got to maintain some sort of mystery, some sort of detachment, some sort of veil between you and the fans. It's one of the things that keeps them interested, hungry, and invested. When a kid comes up to me after the show and raves about how great my last album was, I'm not going to be all [goofy and enthusiastic] "Gee, thanks, I tried really hard and I really hope it was good enough and you liked it!" even if I totally feel that way. I have a responsibility to be the icon that that kid wants me to be and thinks of me as and to play and maintain that role for him as a die-hard fan."

This is awful and I'm glad no one is able to do it anymore

Agreed, but I wonder how I'd have reacted to Tom Waits telling me as a 16 yr-old, "Gee, thanks, I tried really hard on Small Change and I really hope it was good enough and you liked it!"

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cold before sunrise
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Posts: 2500


« Reply #21 on: Dec 17, 2011, 02:48:04 AM »

does the romance of rock and roll exist anymore? of course, but it's a different kind of romance and a more superficial one due to mechanisms that fail to foster the magic of the unknown. there's less heart in modern music and i'd like more older artists to make new albums. the quietly good ones who have dropped off the map, while continuing to progress into practiced ages. tom waits is back!
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fishjim
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Posts: 1982


« Reply #22 on: Dec 17, 2011, 11:39:14 AM »

Going on tours with him was a surreal experience, but what struck me the most (and uncomfortably at first) was the way he'd "game face" (my words, not his) whenever we'd show up at venues - just go into Serious Artist mode in a way that was standoffish and cool compared to the goofy, wise-cracking, farting-in-the-van guy I had just spent 8 hours with across state lines from one show to the next. I talked to him about it, and his exact response was "I mean, you've got to maintain some sort of mystery, some sort of detachment, some sort of veil between you and the fans. It's one of the things that keeps them interested, hungry, and invested. When a kid comes up to me after the show and raves about how great my last album was, I'm not going to be all [goofy and enthusiastic] "Gee, thanks, I tried really hard and I really hope it was good enough and you liked it!" even if I totally feel that way. I have a responsibility to be the icon that that kid wants me to be and thinks of me as and to play and maintain that role for him as a die-hard fan."

This is awful and I'm glad no one is able to do it anymore

Agreed, but I wonder how I'd have reacted to Tom Waits telling me as a 16 yr-old, "Gee, thanks, I tried really hard on Small Change and I really hope it was good enough and you liked it!"

After sleeping on this, I've decided that while my 16-yr old self would've felt betrayed, I'd have thanked Tom for being straight with me soon enough. Chances are I wouldn't have modeled my emerging sexuality after "Pasties and a G-String", and gotten laid a lot earlier.
« Last Edit: Dec 17, 2011, 11:43:56 AM by fishjim » Logged

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