Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Turn On, Tune In, Sell Out

No financial gain from any large corporations was received while writing this joint post with Cody, the author of the It Is What It Is blog. This time the left v right, limey v yank, men v women difference of opinion is over concept of musicians 'selling out'. Cody's view of things can be found here.

Musicians "Selling out" means different things to different people. To some it means compromising one's principles in exchange for money, success or other personal gain. For others it has a more political flavour with a group pretending to adhere to a one ideology, while following another.
A case in point would be the political group, Rage Against The Machine, who through the 80's and 90's preached social activism against 'lying corporations' while signing a multi-million pound contract with Epic Records.
If ever a band could be castigated for betraying their core values that are represented in their music it is RATM but there are not many bands who have avoided the inevitable shout of selling their soul for the corporate shilling.
I grew up listening to the likes of the the Damned, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Green Day, Guns n Roses and Nirvana, all angry rebels dispelling the myth that we have to toe the line set out by the squares in charge.
Then came Johnny Rotton, the man who called for Anarchy in the UK, advertising Country Life butter and Nirvana doing a semi-acoustic set singing Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam. Bah.
It would be naive to think that people don't change, that bands never mature and their ideas and direction doesn't evolve but music has a strong effect on us and bring memories flooding back. That song that inspired you, gave you confidence or spoke to you and made you feel that you were not alone in fighting a perceived injustice should not turn up a decade later advertising pet food or kitchen roll.
The Indy movement of the late 80s and early 90s spewed forth such bands as James, Skunk Anansie and Carter USM who built up a huge following and then lost them again when they signed to large labels and went from angry, edgy musicians with a message to turning out safe pop tunes. This should be an example of what happens when you make a deal with the devil, your integrity is compromised and safe and boring never inspired anyone except the equally safe and boring.
Maybe the message is to not look too deeply into the lyrics our heroes are singing, to recognise that it is just a song with a bunch of words strung together in poetic couplets and the angry young singer whipping up a frenzy with their music is actually going to get in their car and drive back to the life of luxury that they came from. But then where is the fun in that? I want my musicians angry and spitting venom at injustices and if i dip out and return a decade later, they are still just as angry and still looking for targets to aim their barbs at. I don't want that song that made me go 'Hell Yeah' to turn up advertising Washing-Up Liquid and the man i revered telling me to buy a Vauxhall Vectra.
Musicians have a duty to their fans to not sully their memories for the sake of a few pounds.


Cody Bones said...

"I grew up listening to the likes of the the Damned, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Green Day, Guns n Roses and Nirvana, all angry rebels dispelling the myth that we have to toe the line set out by the squares in charge."

One of the worst things about the aging process for me has been my loss of faith, in almost everything, especially the mythos of the rock rebel. Johnny Rotten and Axle Rose never were angry rebels, just angry pratts, who had some ability to sing, and in Axle's case, surrounded himself with incredibly talented musicians. Green Day, was a packaged "post punk" band, and Nirvana? If Mr. Cobain had not offed himself, I'm sure he would have grown up as well, sure to disappoint all of us who had given him mythical status. My point to all of this is not to say that I'm not a fan of the music, I am, especially the above listed bands, but to say that I have reached an age, where I don't see the reason for deification, where the only inevitable future is a fall from grace. I know I sound like a huge cynic, but I just wish that we can understand that these artists, whether we like it or not, are human, and that the true rebels and world changers are not flying around in a private jet, snorting coke, banging chicks, and playing three chord monty with a distortion pedal, singing about whatever. They are among us, and not really hard to find.

Enjoy the music, that's what it's there for, but don't elevate the artists to a status that isn't sustainable. To quote one of the few that actually get it.

"I don't believe in Beatles,
I just believe in me"

I miss innocence

Lucy said...

It isn't just a music thing cody, but it seems a general trend that as you get older or 'grow up', most people tend to get more accepting about things and lose the willingness to get angry about the stuff that goes on. We need rebels and music that inspires us to fight against the man. Dig out your old punk records and turn the volume up to 11 and get that fighting spirit back Cody!! HELL YEAH