Monday, July 9, 2012

Let's have a jam session

                                 Then and now....

Yeah, I know, I lied. I said I would post more. I've been dealing with writer's block and other projects for so long that I haven't written anything for this. I have also tried to become more of a twitter person (@fredfaour) and a lot of the things I would have posted here are going there. But I am over the block, writing like a fiend again and this blog is officially back, for good this time.

I got inspired to write this from a very cool conversation I had on twitter yesterday with some knowledgeable people. (They are all good twitter follows, by the way --

It started with a simple questions: Would the musicians of the 60s, 70s and 80s be better with today's technology? My honest response is no.

This is going to sound like the old man saying "everything was better in my day." I'm usually not like that. I think athletes are better now, TV shows are better now (Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, you get the idea). Technology is clearly better. But music is one place where I believe technology has stunted true musicianship.

Most of you know I am an old school 80s rock and roll fan, but I do like a lot of contemporary bands. So here is a simple question: How many great rock bands have emerged in the last 20 years, since technology developed to where we can punch a button and have a flawless drum beat. I think bands like Shinedown and Slipknot have potential, but are the truly great? Foo Fighters, perhaps? But even Dave Grohl now dates back more than 20 years. How many truly great musicians are out there that emerged after 1992?

There are a lot of lists out there. Let's start with Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. (I completely disagree, by the way) but the top 10 all date back as many as 50 years. has a list of the top 100 bands of all time. The most recent member of the top 20 is Stone Temple Pilots at No. 13 -- and they were born over 20 years ago.

That's longer that a lot of you have been alive.

The greatest drummer? Neil Peart of Rush. He dates to the 70s. Greatest bassist? Geddy Lee? Flea? Bootsy Collins? All decades old. Robert Trujillo is terrific, but again he doesn't break the 20-year barrier.

Certainly music is subjective, but as a former musician, I have to say bands were better -- especially guitarists -- during my heyday growing up in the late 70s and 80s.

Really, since the grunge movement -- another that started over 20 years ago -- no truly great bands have yet emerged. Part of that I believe is because technology does not force people to become skilled musicians. Shortcuts are taken. My favorite guitarists -- Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen, Eric Johnson, George Lynch, Yngvie Malmsteen, Slash -- are all from that era. But even guys like Vito Bratta (White Lion) who wouldn't make many top 10 lists is light years more talented than any guitarist that has emerged since the late 1980s.

The grunge movement eliminated lead guitar, which explains some of it. But I think technology is to blame. The same technology that made Rebecca Black a YouTube star.

Maybe I am just the venting old man who thinks everything was better in his day. It sucks getting old.


jaminwesley said...

I would have to agree totally. Technology has made it where learning an instrument requires no leg work at all. If i wanted to learn a guitar part i had to press rewind 20 million times or i had to have my ears tuned in aggressively. Point is i/we had to learn our craft. Musicainship has left the building. Click tracks are to convenient. Music has become one giant click. Sorry, i like to know my music was made by human beings. I like it that the engineer forgot to push stop when recording or that Ringo put pillows in his base drum to give it that extra punch. Nice read. - Rott

Anonymous said...

Agree, look at all that The Black Keys do now just to try and recreate the sound of the Animals, Zombies, and mostly the Guess Who. Its mot better because its older, its just better.

dmarsilia said...

Omar Alfredo Rodriguez-Lopez (The Mars Volta), Jack White, Tom Morello (RAtheM), Audio Slave), John Frusciante, Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)... point is musicianship is not dead though it may have disappeared from the top ten of popular music.

BigJazzCat said...

Proof that musicianship is not dead but has always been under-appreciated... Rodrigo y Gabriela and the low ranking of Steve Howe on many lists