Not revival but reinvention

A few weeks ago, I was at a music seminar about balancing creativity with business. We all have to do business nowadays. We always should have to some extent. Back in the day, many a band got ripped off because they trusted someone to take care of all that stuff, someone who in the end was not trustworthy. Getting stuck taking care of our own business at least has the benefit of keeping the business in the hands of someone we trust. The downside is that a lot of us aren't really good at business.

We're not supposed to be! We make music. We're artists, or at least people creative in an artistic sense. Ideally, artists have the freedom to create without having to deal with the grubby details of making money. But that ideal is long gone for most of us. And it's not easy to find the balance between creativity and business.

One of the panelists said something interesting when I asked the old question (because I'm old) about selling out. This person makes a decent amount of money writing music for advertisements. These days, that's a good idea, because at least you are doing something musical while making more money than a band or songwriter can make. But would Kurt Cobain have done such a thing? Doubtful. What the panelist said was telling about a younger generation of rock musicians: "Don't take it all too seriously."

That's easier said than done for those of us who grew up steeped in music, virtually pickled in the brine of rock almost from the womb. The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was 10. Growing up with the British Invasion, plunging into puberty to a psychedelic soundtrack. The high of Woodstock and the crash of Altamont. And for those in my generation who did not fall out of music or get stuck in the past, the rebirth of rock with early proto-punk and punk bands, the explosion of creativity of New Wave, and later the loud and irresistible force of Seattle bands.

Not take it too seriously? We're the ones who thought music could change the world! And it did. Not always in a big way, and not always for the better, but our music did change the world. And for many of us, it shaped our very existence.

The music world now is what it is. I get that. And I deal with it. But I don't always go along with it. I push against it sometimes. For me, that makes sense. I have to be who I am, and if I'm not in sync with the times, then so it goes. I think guitar bands continue to reinvent rock and roll for each era. Not with synthesizers, not with samples, but with steel and skins and sweat. And there will be someone who wants to listen to that.

We can't go back. I was watching a set by Rockpile on YouTube. I love Rockpile! But I realized when listening to them cover Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" that they sounded a bit like thousands of pub bands in the world. The best revivalists don't just revive but reinvent and reshape.

Will there come a time when kids will no longer make rude noises with guitars and bass and drums? I suppose so. But rock has endured long past the point that anyone could have predicted it would, and it has done so because musicians find a way to make it fresh and new. I will let others synthesize in their bedroom studios. Goddess knows I might even do that myself at some point. But I will continue to do what I love and to listen to what I love.

The rental car I'm currently driving around the other coast has Sirius XM satellite radio in it, and I was thrilled to find the Little Steven's Underground Garage. The coolest songs in the world, 24/7! I suppose it's oldies to some extent, but not always. The reinvention of rock music does go on.

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