December 9, 2012

"Formulas are inevitable for 50-year old bands, not that there are many of them to prove the point."

"The trick, which the Stones figured out long ago, is making them imperfect."

Let's not just talk about The Rolling Stones here. Let's examine that abstract principle.

26 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

Formulas = the traditions of American folk music, specifically blues, country, jazz, etc.

These formulas go with the music. Most use the standard three chord arrangement. The basis for this music is church hymns.

So, it appears to me that this is just another argument that tradition is bad and should be discarded.

The great traditions of American folk music are what makes American popular music so great!

Shouting Thomas said...

The Rolling Stones are a good example of this.

They started out life wanting to be a great Chicago blues band, and the "formula" they follow is still pretty close to that genre.

Chordal invention is not at all what they are about, nor would chordal invention be an improvement in their style.

Chicago blues bands play the same damned three chord structure all night. Never varies. I can sit in (and have done so) with a Chicago blues band and fit in immediately without even rehearsing. The audience will never be able to tell the difference.

The great music explosion of the 60s was created by a return to what musicians call "roots."

The fact that the Stones are still out there doing this as old men shouldn't be a surprise either. That's part of the blues tradition.

Jimmy said...

The Rolling Stones' formula always included a bit of the "garage rock" sound; songs that sounded like they were recorded with one take and no mixing in someone's basement. Occasionally off tune or off beat. Imperfect.

Shouting Thomas said...

For those of you who haven't heard, the Stones have a great new song out, Gloom and Doom.

In their usual manner, the song is a wry comment on the current zeitgeist, which is just as they say.

Everybody is sitting around stewing in gloom and doom, aren't they?

Jagger's wise guy humor has always appealed to me. And, to everybody else it seems.

Clyde said...

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

-- Ecclesiastes 1:9

It's the problem that any long-running act runs into, from the Rolling Stones to The Simpsons to Garfield: It's all been done before.

All of the possible plot lines have been explored. All of the punchlines have been delivered. All of the chord progressions and lyrical topics have been been done to death. All that remains is endless reruns and recycling.

You can see this in the fact that the album that the Rolling Stones put out was yet another greatest hits album with a couple of new songs thrown in. Back in the day, people might buy the new album just to get the new songs. Now they can just download a couple of MP3s and their collection is complete again.

rhhardin said...

Imus quotes some bluegrass guy to the effect that nobody likes bluegrass music, not even the people that play it.

Other than that, I don't understand the sudden appearance of imperfect in the article, other than it ended a pointless review on a note of self-reference.

The prelude here is a real toe-tapper, with the imperfection that chords run into the bass wind up muddy. Bach's fault.

edutcher said...

Never a Stones fan, I can't speak to them, but the trick is to not let it start to feel like a formula - for the performers or the audience.

garage mahal said...

I saw Zappa plays Zappa last night at the Barrymore. It drew out some interesting Madisonians I haven't seen in a while. Great show. Dweezil has it going on.

Sam L. said...

Artie Shaw complained about Glenn Miller's band that they were too perfect--they weren't trying hard enough.

Mitchell the Bat said...

"The trick, which the Stones figured out long ago, is making them imperfect."

The object is to keep showing up.

wyo sis said...

I don't remember exactly where I read this, or who it's about, but I like the story.
An actor was asked how he managed to play a person who had limited talent, but kept on trying. He replied that he just went out every night and did the very best he knew how to do.

jacksonjay said...

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the schoolmarm with a comment that is unworthy,

rhhardin said:

Imus quotes some bluegrass guy to the effect that nobody likes bluegrass music, not even the people that play it.

All the people that bought the soundtrack for "O Brother Where Art Thou?" would beg to differ! A lot of people like that simple music!

BaltoHvar said...

The formula of Watts, Richards and Jagger is the formula. They have been able to keep that core sound, the two most important (crucial) being the drummer and singer. Remove one or both and the "formula" falls apart. There are any number of "acts" today that are thin facsimiles of the original band that are in no way anything like the originals in sound and style. Sure they may perform reasonable versions of original material, but by definition it cannot be the same.

I watched some of the new Led Zepplin DVD video. Very, very good for their style and the power it takes to perform many of those tunes. Then a quick swap to YouTube with Bonzo, and the difference was clear. The new performances were quite enjoyable, but the formula is different - sort of "New Coke."

bagoh20 said...

I love bluegrass, especially on a Saturday morning. It really works with carbs, coffee and sunshine.

Surfed said...

For a guy the best job in the world is to be 20 and in a rock & roll band. The worst job is to be 50 and in the same band. One of the long term problems of being in a long term band is that you start covering your own covers that are just covers of other artists. That's why Bob, The Stones, etc., use different arrangements which in and of themselves are "imperfect" to our ears fed on the studio versions.

EDH said...

Watched a little of "Brit Floyd" on PBS last night. My first thought: a (licensed?) tribute act playing that kind of music really must be a more stressful tight-rope act, where any deviation from the album version is highly visible and a problem for the audience assembled there. There's no musical license for a tribute band.

And it's not that the Stones don't rehearse long and hard. I've been through probably close to a dozen all day/night closed rehearsals sessions with them over the last 25 years.

I think there are little parts they want to perfect (e.g., to change a song yet keep the piece together), but overall I think they want to keep it loose.

Skill begets confidence, and then confidence becomes a skill all its own.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

jacksonjay said...

All the people that bought the soundtrack for "O Brother Where Art Thou?" would beg to differ! A lot of people like that simple music!

Those poseurs? Tell them to go listen to some Mac Wiseman or Reno & Smiley, then we'll talk.

St. George said...

Mick's dad was a prominent exercise expert in the UK. He introduced basketball to the nation. He also made young Mick do all manner of calisthenics before he went out to play, thus all of his pre-pubescent stage waggling.

Shouting Thomas said...

Watched a little of "Brit Floyd" on PBS last night. My first thought: a (licensed?) tribute act playing that kind of music really must be a more stressful tight-rope act, where any deviation from the album version is highly visible and a problem for the audience assembled there. There's no musical license for a tribute band.

True. I've been asked to play in a Doors tribute band.

The demand is to play the songs note for note as they were recorded.

Which isn't what The Doors did onstage.

Bob_R said...

Imperfection (call it soul or swing or spontaneity or imagination or musicality) is crucial to making great music. Perfection is pretty boring. A perfect classical or jazz musician gets sneered at as "just a technician." (There are a ton of people who were top of the class all through music school and can't get gigs after who fall in this category.)

The Imus knock on bluegrass and Shouting Thomas' comment about the tribute band are relevant to the stones. There is a segment of the bluegrass audience that wants every concert to be a classic bluegrass tribute performance - note for note reproductions of Bill Monroe or Flatt and Scruggs. Can't have female vocalists because you have to change the key! Can't have nontraditional instruments! Can't throw in any "strange" harmonies! If you define that to be "real" bluegrass, then there might be an element of truth in the Imus comment. On the other hand, Sam Bush, Sarah Watkins, Punch Brothers, Union Station all seem to be enjoying themselves.

jacksonjay said...

The O Brother soundtrack includes Dr. Ralph Stanley,The Stanley Brothers, The Cox Family, The Whites and perhaps the best ambassador of bluegrass, the divine Allison Krauss! That ain't posing!

William said...

Fifty years isn't so long. Look how long the London Philharmonic has been carrying on. I think Glen Miller's band went on for a generation or two after his death.

ken in sc said...

Major Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps Band is still playing under the name of The Airmen of Note. They are part of the USAF band group.

Amartel said...

Critiques of this band have consistently included snide references to their age - ever since they were in their late twenties/early thirties. And it continues ... That's a formula. "Strolling Bones" etc. Never gets old. Ha.

The Stones' music is based on musical traditions developed in the American south and west, blues (obviously) but also early forms of country music. There are formulas but the Stones always have left their own unmistakeable touch on the songs so the musical formulas are more like tributes.

Kirk Parker said...

"making them imperfect"

The Band + Dylan, Isle of Wight Festival, 1969, "Quinn the Eskimo".

I rest my case.

McTriumph said...

I bet back in the 60s when the radio DJs polled, "which band, the Beatles or Stones, was better and be around longest?", Camille Paglia called in to vote for the Stones. I did the same, but I think the Stones got douchey about 1980.