The Legends Club
IN THIS PHOTO: Paul Simon/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Artists Who Have Endured and Continue to Inspire
A couple of interesting things have come out of this weekend…
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
that has made me reflect and look carefully at the music industry. Paul Simon, as we know, will soon be retiring from touring forever. He is on his Homeward Bound tour and has played at London’s Hyde Park. It is sad to think the American legend will not take to the road after he has completed this tour. Many artists say they are going on a ‘farewell’ tour but they come back for the money and milk it until the cow is dry. It is a good tactic, I guess: scaring the fans and letting them believe this is the last time you will see your heroes on the road! It reminds me of a sale where a shop is closing down and you need to hurry now! It goes on and on and then, when they have enough money, they keep trading as normal! Paul Simon, sadly, is sincere and serious regarding his declaration. The man has won his right to spend time with family and take things a bit easy. Not that a lack of touring miles translates to ‘taking the load off’. Simon is still going to record material and, in fact, has announced he is to release In the Blue Light: a record that sees some of his best-loved material reworked. This is not a new thing in music.
Kate Bush did the same with Director’s Cut. She took songs like This Woman’s Work and added a new spin to them. Paul Simon, on the album, will reinvestigate songs like Love and How the Heart Approaches What It Years. You can learn more here and discover the blend of material that is being reworked by the master. The article I have just quoted provides some useful and revealing information:
“Simon writes in the liner notes: “It’s an unusual occurrence for an artist to have the opportunity to revisit earlier works and re-think them; to modify, even completely change parts of the originals.
“Happily, this opportunity also gave me the gift of playing with an extraordinary group of musicians, most of whom I hadn’t recorded with before.
“I hope the listener will find these new versions of old songs refreshed, like a new coat of paint on the walls of an old family home”.
In any case; it is another solo album from Paul Simon; a career that started back in 1964 with Simon and Garfunkel’s debut album, Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. It seems extraordinary to think Simon has been releasing material for over fifty years! His thirteenth solo album, Stranger to Stranger, was met with critical acclaim and it showed, at the age of seventy-five, he was able to produce work that rivalled his very best. Only two years later and we will get ANOTHER record from Simon.
IN THIS PHOTO: Fleetwood Mac/PHOTO CREDIT: Rock Hall Library and Archive
The fact Simon is still producing work and looking ahead makes me think about the legends of music and how they have endured. I will mention a few more but look at Rock gods such as The Who and The Rolling Stones. With so many of their peers biting the dust or unable to get along – Pink Floyd springs to mind! – it is amazing to consider they have not stopped playing/recording since the 1960s. Fleetwood Mac, another band that has endured some turmoil and upset, are still going – without Lindsey Buckingham, mind – and show no signs of quitting. They are embarking on tours and, whilst another album might be a way away; it is good to see the band going strong and in love with music. I will bring up another music-based revelation that has got me thinking about sustainability and endurance. Today, many argue, is a very different scene to that of the 1960s, for instance. Artists need to promote themselves endlessly and be kind to themselves and each other – look after their mental-health and be as supportive as possible. A couple of articles look at longevity in the industry and give helpful hints to musicians. This article looks at social media and creating a brand:
“The next question is – how do I develop myself enough today to get longevity in the future? Hard work and dedication are two of the most important values that you have to think about when you’re in the music industry.
When you’re first starting out, you need to be able to find a fanbase. These fans might already be focused around one particular artist that fits in with the music you are producing but you’ll appeal to them with your own, unique brand. Establishing a brand is extremely important because that is how your audience will know who you are and why they should like your music beyond “it’s good.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
The first thing to ensure that you have a solid brand would be getting a social media. This is important to have if you want to continue to build your brand and to make sure that you are consistent on each website that you use. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat can engage both current and new fans. It is also important to get your music on as many different platforms as possible, either by streaming it online on Spotify, Soundcloud, or Apple Music or by selling physical copies if that’s a profitable option for you”.
How do the Rock titans like Mick Jagger, Robert Plant; Roger Daltrey and Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) ensure and survive? This article, written ten years ago, put Rock stars under the microscope and theorised why they continue to work and retain a fanbase. One pointer that struck my eye was the issue of changing your style. Do you keep the same character/sound going or change it up or risk losing some support?
“So does one evolve within a particular way of writing as Nick Cave has done slowly and spectacularly, or constantly try new things? Both can work if done well. I know many people who, after a youth pursuing the shock of the new through Frank Zappa or Naked City, are now beginning to "get" Bruce Springsteen. Why are they warming to these conservative chord sequences? It seems Bruce sustains a career thanks to generation after generation of youngsters growing up just enough to get his romanticism of the everyday. Whereas Joni Mitchell, Björk or, occasionally, Neil Young maintain a hardcore following while gaining and losing admirers from project to project, Bruce just accumulates through maintaining a general level of solid quality”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Bruce Springsteen/PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Clinch for Variety
I guess you could say it is as hard to survive now as it was back then. By that, I mean artists like The Who and Paul Simon started in a different time when music was very different and they did not have to promote in the same way. There were fewer competitors and they did not have to face up against a mass of new and unsigned artists. On the flip side; those who were releasing albums and in the charts were incredibly good and determined. Not only have these musicians overcome a tough scene and quality rivals but they have managed to settle in the present time – where there is social media, a new way of working and fresh demands. Not only do the long-standing artists have to think about retaining fans and winning new ones but they have to make that decision whether to change their style or keep going as they are. Consider Bob Dylan and Neil Young and how radically their music has shifted since the 1960s. In fact…it isn’t such a leap, really?! They have not succumbed to the need to add synths and pumping drums to their music: they have kept that solid and reliable foundation and adding the odd touch here and there. Look at someone like Madonna, mind, and she has taken bigger gambles. I guess a Pop artist is in a different position to a Folk act.
She could not really produce the same sort of music she was producing back in the 1980s. Consider her pumping out Like a Virgin and Cherish in 2018 and it would not really sound right. Ironically, 1980s-inspired music is big now and many artists have taken from Madonna. The Queen of Pop turns sixty next month and it will be a fantastic opportunity to pay tribute to her influence and legacy. She continues to tour and release material and reinventing herself at every turn. Consider how she has shifted from her 1980s albums such as Like a Virgin and Like a Prayer and what she came up with on 1998’s Ray of Light. She took a gamble adding darker electronics to her sound at the end of the 1990s but it paid off; she entered a new creative phase and continued to score big reviews and sell-out venues.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tabak/Sunshine/Retna UK
Even as she enters her sixties; the Queen of Pop puts out spirited, raw and sexual material that shows immense confidence and direction. She has updated her early-career sound and add modern touches and hooked up with the best talent of today – rather than resting on her laurels and assuming she does not need to change a thing. Madonna has always influenced and directed music. Matt Cain, when speaking with The Guardian, discussed how Madonna opened up gay culture and made self-expression and sexual revelation more acceptable. She
“…But I love how Madonna’s never wanted to be seen as a nostalgia artist and how in recent years she’s become even more politically outspoken. Her speech at the Billboard women in music awards in 2016; she called out the “blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse” she’d experienced as a woman in the music industry. So many people have relied on Madonna’s music for emotional support in their lives and I’m so glad she’s still here, still expressing herself, absolutely on her own terms. Because if she hadn’t been doing that when I was younger, I’m not sure I’d be here now – and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today”.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images
Madonna opened up discussion about sexuality and feminism. She continues to speak out about misogyny and sexism in the industry – it is that strong voice and passion that keeps people hooked and compelled. Madonna changed popular culture and transformed the way we look at women and music in general. It is not a surprise, therefore, as she approaches sixty that she has that huge fanbase and a big demand – there are whisperings she might appear at next year’s Glastonbury Festival. Madonna, like Paul Simon, has produced such a vast body of work and created different personas. She has survived and managed to change skins; keeping fascination high and inspiring generations. When she hits sixty on 16th August; it will be a great opportunity to mark her endurance and what she has given musicians. Sadly, a lot of icons have passed because of addiction and drug-related deaths. Prince, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson are a few who have succumbed to drugs – whether accidental or not. I know bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones have ‘dabbled’ in the past but they remain clean and focused today – they know they need to stay healthy and, essentially, alive to continue their careers.
IN THIS PHOTO: Paul McCartney leaving Apple headquarters (London) in 1969/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I have been thinking about others, like Paul McCartney, have had decades-lasting career and continued to evolve. McCartney has gone from The Beatles to Wings (who, he claims, were not a great group) and has endured a successful solo career. If Madonna has survived criticism and attacking voices – against her promiscuousness and confidence; others who feel she is a diva – and not embarked on farewell tours and the ‘comeback trail’. McCartney, too, has received criticism – not the same sort but he has overcome doubting tongues – but shrugged it all off and remained level-headed and professional. McCartney, during an interview last year talked about balancing fame and fortune with being grounded and normal:
“For someone who's been so famous for so long, this particular billionaire vegetarian seems surprisingly charming and self-effacing. But with anyone whose life and work has been explored at length from every angle, it can be difficult to separate the myth from the man.
How would his friends describe him, does he reckon?
"They'd say 'Paul is one of the best guys you could ever meet. He's honest. He's loyal. He's friendly. He's funny. He's a great mate, generally'."
He forgot devilishly handsome. "Yes, true. Also, devilishly handsome. Or do you want the real version? But yeah, I'm lucky. I've got some great mates, and they keep me grounded. One of my big fears in life was gettin' too full of meself. When you have the sort of success I've had, it would be easy to go 'You know what? I'm dead cool!' But coming from Liverpool, that's not the cleverest thing”. When I go back up to Liverpool, if there's any of that, it's like, 'Eee, Paul. Whatcha doin'? Now f… off!'. I get pulled back to reality real fast. "
Musicians today could learn a lot about remaining settled and grounded. I feel so many musicians from the 1960s and 1970s do not get too carried away.
Some might argue against that point but there is little room for egos if you want to keep growing your fanbase and winning critics – unless you are Kanye West, I guess! Discipline and that experience all make a big difference. A lot of new artists have just arrived on the scene and have to adapt very quickly. The big, long-lasting artists have been there and know what it takes to succeed. There is no secret to succeeding for so many decades. Some bands/artists split up or succumb to excess whilst others change their music and lose their fanbase. Those who keep releasing music and packing people in have changed with the times but not lost what made them special in the first place. I guess it is their love of music and passion for the fans that keep them going and drives their creativity. They act as a guide for new artists that you can endure for a long time and succeed in music. Whilst Paul Simon releases a new album and Paul McCartney gears up for touring a new solo album (Egypt Station); Madonna continues to perform and is sixty next month – The Rolling Stones, against all odds, are still kicking and owning stages around the world. We thank and celebrate them for their immense work and lighting up music for so many years. As we talk about disposability, commercialism and come-and-go artists today who do not last for that many years; have a look around at the legends of music that have changed music as we know it and continue…
IN THIS PHOTO: The Rolling Stones/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
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