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Tags:80s, frank zappa, music industry
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Comment count is 19
craptacular - 2014-12-12
who is today's Zappa? who is the writer, performer, producer, satyrist, trouble maker of our age? has that position been supplanted by Lady Gaga and other performers who do their own thing, to get their point across about society at large? or is it someone else?
Old_Zircon - 2014-12-12
There is no Zappa because the rock star is a dead social role. There are a few hangers on, but between the old music industry's tireless quest to split everything up into convenient market-research driven genres and Web 2.0's tagging fetish letting people completely filter out anything that hasn't already been preapproved for them in some way, there just isn't a cultural framework for any kind of musician to have much of an impact outside of their niche (even if the niche is being a corporate-funded superstar like Kanye or Keith Urban or Lady Gaga, they don't really have much substantial impact outside of the worlds of corporate-funded pop music and possibly fashion).

On the other hand, there's more good music being made and released than there has been since the dawn of recorded music. And also more crap.

Cena_mark - 2014-12-12
Its great that we have so much great music out, but it seems to me that we'll never again see music that had such singular impact as that of the likes of The Beatles and Elvis. I don't even recall a time since Eminem came out that an artist has even been able to shake up the ire of conservatives and moral guardians.
I'm at least hoping there will be an awakening in hip hop. I believe Ferguson will get more rappers away from the narcissism and commercialism and back to fighting the power.

Old_Zircon - 2014-12-12
True, though the flip side is that it's becoming harder for marketers to make artists like The Beatles and Elvis so much more popular than the actual quality of their music warrants. I like both of them well enough, but they were neither innovators nor masters in their fields. Not that they had to be, pop music isn't about doing something new it's about taking elements of whatever is innovative at the time and reimagining it (or, more often, just dumbing it down) into something with mass appeal.

Elvis' biggest accomplishment was that he was a white guy. The Beatles' biggest accomplishment was that they had a really good producer and manager.

craptacular - 2014-12-12
you leave my beatles alone!
it's also interesting that there's no one cultural driver now, like elvis, the beatles and, i dunno, zeppelin, or the clash. Zappa encouraged discussion and consideration of what public policy was doing to music in general, plus he was his own driving force in the rock genre itself. OZ is right in saying there's no call for rock stars anymore, but what's left over is just leaders in their genre, and that's left up to subjectivity. i don't like jigga or kanye at all, and they're supposed to be the best we have. yeah there's Talib or Blackalicious but they don't inspire too much commercial following and they don't seem to inspire waves of imitators. also they don't sell as well as the gangstas.

also OZ you're right about marketing, it's muuuuch easier to drone it all out now and find your own music than to follow along and believe it's the best thing. i suppose as unsigned acts move away from the record labels towards internet releases, there will be even less marketing to trumpet a one-size-fits-all artist. but still, where are the enlightened zappas of today?

Old_Zircon - 2014-12-12
I don't know, probably some IDM guy.

I like The Beatles, but for anything they did you can always find at least a handful of artists who released something that took the same thing further a year earlier. That's the way of pop.

Bowie's another good example, he's great but you can also make a timeline of who he was copying at any given point in his career.

First it was Anthony Newley, then he got into Biff Rose (it's well established that he was super in to Biff Rose around when Hunky Dory came out, and you can REALLY hear it in the song structures and singing style) and kind of knocked his sound off for an album or two, then he got in to arena rock/glam, then he met Eno and together they (sometimes literally in the case of the Harmonia tapes Eno made off with) ripped off some of the better Krautrock artists, and after that I lose track if both him and his influences. What makes him great is no matter how hard he's biting someone's sound he makes it his own, and he had good taste so he tended to bite the right stuff at the right time.

C.F. the story about Dylan meeting Ramblin Jack Elliott in Woody Guthrie's hospital room and then almost immediately getting a leather jacket and skewing his sound from a Woody Guthrie thing to a Ramblin' Jack thing.

Led Zeppelin doesn't even bear mention, suffice it to say that any time Jimmy Page touched an acoustic guitar he should have paid royalties to Bert Jansch or Roy Harper. At least he gave Harper a shout out and played on a lot of his albums.

Tom Waits is Captain Beefheart for communications majors.

Etc. Etc.

Old_Zircon - 2014-12-12
With the exception of a lot of Tom Waits' stuff (I like The Black Rider and a lot of his other albums will have one or two standout tracks) I really like everyone I mentioned above, I just hold no illusions about them being innovators.

Cena_mark - 2014-12-12
Don't get down on Waits. I love all his stuff. I love both Waitses from drunken jazzbo to the crazy composer.

Old_Zircon - 2014-12-13
I like some Waits and other Waits leaves me cold. I like almost all of his music and I think he's got a fantastic ear as a producer, but for me more often than not his lyrics sound like a sophomore theater major who just got into Bukowski.

I have no doubt that the reason The Black Rider is my favorite Waits album by a wide margin is that he didn't write the lyrics.

Really I've got the same issues with his lyricism that I do with Nick Cave or Amanda Palmer or Donald Fagan, except less so than them (especially Palmer and Fagan, who both make my skin crawl). It all just sounds too theater-nerd for my taste.

And you've got to admit he's really taken a lot from Beeheart throughout his career, especially the way he arranged percussion in his late 80s and 90s stuff.

Old_Zircon - 2014-12-13
I'm saying this as someone who has a modest but respectable stack of Tom Waits records and CDs (although I returned Real Gone to the store after one play).

Cena_mark - 2014-12-13
I wouldn't know, I need to give Beefheart a try.

EvilHomer - 2014-12-13
>>Really I've got the same issues with his lyricism that I do with Nick Cave or Amanda Palmer or Donald Fagan, except less so than them (especially Palmer and Fagan, who both make my skin crawl). It all just sounds too theater-nerd for my taste.

See, your mistake is in caring about lyrics when there are far more important things to consider, like Amanda Palmer's legs.

Also, I always thought Capatin Beefheart was Tom Waits for slackers...?

EvilHomer - 2014-12-13
(in all honesty, Ms Palmer is a great pianist, and a much better musician - from a strictly technical standpoint - than M. Beefheart ever was. Regardless of one's opinion on the subjective merits of her lyrics vs those of Beefheart, one has to admit that she is a verifiable key-monster.)

Scrimmjob - 2014-12-13
Tom Waits borrows from Beefheart who borrowed from Howlin' Wolf amongst others. I guess that just leaves the question of who the fuck is Amanda Palmer?

OZ's connection between Waits style and Bukowski made me laugh, so true about Waits writing, and most of the people I know who obsess over Waits.

EvilHomer - 2014-12-13
Amanda Palmer is the chick from the Dresden Dolls. She does solo work now, too.

Scrimmjob - 2014-12-13
Oh, right on. I didn't get the connection between her and Beefheart, or where she came into the conversation, until I reread the thread.

That guy - 2014-12-14
Christopher Marlowe < William Shakespeare
The originator is not always the perfector.
Beefheart and Bukowski are third-rate shit heels that inspired a better artist. End of fucking story.

erratic - 2014-12-14
a little late to the discussion, but I'd say that Russell Brand is today's Zappa. I'd give my left nut to watch a conversation between Zappa and Brand.
giygusattack - 2014-12-15
That would be fun to see, if only for the clash between Zappas grumpiness and Brands high-energy.

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