Archive for the ‘Advice to Musicians’ Category

(A recent response of mine regarding the classical music works of Paul McCartney…)

Classical music listeners AWAKE!  If you can’t find “it” in the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Stravinsky, and all the artists before, after, or in between those I just listed, you probably won’t find “it” at all.  One thing is for sure – you will NEVER find “it” in the over-indulgent, “classical” works of rock artists – not even in the works of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (who I greatly admire).

And now, for a bit of a diatribe…

Unfortunately, when many artists become well-known, famous, sell a lot of wares (whatever those wares may be), they sometimes become a little too over-confident that their gifts will automatically transcend into ALL areas of the fine arts.  Across the board, actors become musicians, musicians become actors, painters become authors, and authors begin to paint.  There are WAY too many examples of this to list here.

It also happens when successful artists in one area of music try their hand in another.  One of the most infamous examples was when Garth Brooks released that Chris Gaines album.  Was it successful?  Eh…yes – financially.  But the album came out at a time when people would have paid money to see Garth Brooks stand alone on stage, reading from a dictionary.  Artistically, the album is tripe.

How about that foray Harry Connick, Jr. took into the world of rock?  That worked out about as well as Pat Boone’s heavy metal album.  Ouch.

How about the current trend of talented legends performing old standards.  Come on, guys – really?  Double-ouch.

This happens even in the sports world.  Remember when Michael Jordan woke up one morning and decided that he was a great baseball player?  Triple-ouch.

My beloved Beatles are not immune.  To this day, there are people who absolutely believe that John Lennon was a great artist in drawing and painting.  He absolutely WAS NOT.  To say otherwise would be like saying that artist/painter Stuart Sutcliffe was a great bass player!  Drawing on your own, in your spare time for fun or as a stress release is one thing, but to pretend even in your own mind that you are rock and roll’s answer to Picasso is just plain silly.  It’s just about as silly as the Merry Widow authorizing lithographs of your noodlings to sell to the masses at overly inflated prices.

Paul McCartney, who stated to Musician Magazine in 1980 that he would never “bore myself stiff” writing a classical piece of music seems intent on doing just that.  Only it is the public who he is boring, not himself.  To quote another fairly famous musician remarking about McCartney’s quality of work when he wasn’t really trying, “The sound you make is Muzak to my ears.”

One last thing –

Paul, dear Paul:

  • Stop feeling the need to constantly justify yourself publically regarding your role in the music world.  All those efforts are not needed, and are a huge waste of your time.  You’re one of the greatest artists of the last half century, if not all time – act like it;
  • Do what you do, and do it well;
  • That doesn’t mean that we want you to write or re-write us another Band on the Run, or Venus and Mars, or Tug of War, or even another Hey Jude.  We don’t need new ones – we already have the originals, which are perfect.  Just keep writing and recording what you do best.  It’s okay – get back to where you once belonged.  The well isn’t dry yet, is it?;
  • For the love of God, will you finally stop obsessing with misplaced anxiety over your errant thoughts of believing that the public feels that it was always LENNON and McCartney, and never McCARTNEY and Lennon?!  We’re not idiots.  We all know who did what, and other rabid Beatle fans like me probably know those things better than you remember them happening!;
  • Last, and most importantly, BE HAPPY!

 

The above represents only my opinions.  I reserve the right to be wrong.

I mean, what do I know?  I’m 47 years old and still struggling through my own Hamburg days to get to the next level.  But, hey – I’m having a blast doing it!

Respectfully submitted,

With Peace and in Love,

Tim McCarthy

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The Ramones were very much like Iggy Pop and the Stooges (or for that matter, the Three Stooges) in that they were never truly appreciated during the times they were active.  The Ramones always had poor record sales, terrible national radio play, and had no major concert runs of their own.  Regardless of these issues, the Ramones finished out their careers in 1996 as millionaires.

One reason for this was Johnny Ramone, the militaristic leader of the Ramones.  Johnny, fully understanding the drawbacks listed above, paid very careful attention to the business end of the music industry.  He was watchful of the Ramones’ money, never took unnecessary or stupid risks, made sure that the Ramones name and reputation remained true and intact, and gave undivided attention and genuine appreciation to fans.  He also understood where the Ramones niche did lay, and kept them relentlessly touring for the entirety of their 22-year career, which allowed them to make the bulk of their money in ticket and t-shirt sales.

During his retirement, the formerly anti-social Ramone befriended the likes of Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, John Frusciante, Pete Yorn, even Lisa Marie Presley, and often imparted to them words of wisdom about the performance and business sides of music.

Below are a few tidbits I’ve picked up over the years, slightly modified by myself:

 BUSINESS

  1. When your band is “playing for the door,” always have someone from your crew – preferably a large, somewhat menacing individual – standing right next to the club’s door attendant, watching his every move.  Make sure your person uses a “clicker” to record EVERYONE coming into the club.  When a door attendant “comps” people’s entry into the club, the club is responsible for their admittance, NOT the band.  A door attendant has no right to give away the band’s entertainment for free.  It might not seem like a lot of money at the moment, but it adds up after a while.  In the music industry, it is a matter of accounting for the pennies;
  2. Hard working roadies and soundmen are an absolute necessity;
  3. Always have a good piece of merchandise to sell at gigs;
  4. Set up unique and innovative ways of getting new fan email addresses at gigs;
  5. Watch the money!

 

STAGE PRESENCE

  1. Whether you are on stage or not, if people can see you, you are “on;”
  2. Never let the crowd see you set-up or teardown your gear.  Always have the roadies do it.  You play rock n’ roll, roadies set up equipment;
  3. Straight microphone stands only – boom microphone stands aren’t rock ‘n roll;
  4. No music stands.  Ever;
  5. Walk on the stage professionally, with a purpose.  Do the same when walking off;
  6. Look forward, and don’t look around.  Always face the crowd;
  7. “Own” your section of the stage;
  8. No stopping between songs.  “When the Ramones played live, there wasn’t enough room to slide a slip of cigarette paper between the songs!” – Joe Strummer of the Clash;
  9. No fiddling around on stage with your gear.  Amps should already be set;
  10. Work the crowd between sets.  Sign all autographs.  Always make time for the audience: be accessible;
  11. If something needs to be said between songs (due to a guitar switch or something), it should be short, planned and well thought out;
  12. Always play to the back of the room.

 

THINGS TO REMEMBER

  1. Always look like a rock star.  Have a great look;
  2. Know the music inside and out.  Know it so well you could play it backwards;
  3. Keep the integrity of the band true.  Never compromise what you do or who you are.