Wednesday, April 25, 2012
A long ago correspondent of mine, Richard Freeman, had an interesting theory. His theory was that popular songwriters, have only a limited period of time before their songwriting abilities deteriorate. They are just like sports stars in that regard. Freeman was referring mainly to their ability to connect with the zeitgeist of the marketplace, but also to their ability to write hit tunes, to avoid repeating oneself, and to continue to do so in a prolific manner. I argued the point at first, but I soon realized that for the most part he was correct. Usually most songwriters can't write their own hits for more than a decade. In the second and third decade their work is very unlikely to be among their best work, but occasionally they will produce an interesting album.
The great songwriters go longer, but their later work is also always weaker. It is rare for even the best melody writers to still be able to write hits after say 25 years. Think of Paul McCartney, the most successful songwriter, of the last half century. His last top fifteen hit on the American top 40 was in 1985. He has recorded some excellent albums since then, but no big hits. The 1989 songs , "Veronica" and "My Brave Face" written with Elvis Costello were his last top 40 hits He had hits for 25 years on the American top 40. Bottom line: it's doubtful that McCartney has written any classic songs since the 1970's. (2015 Update: McCartney finally had a hit-"Four Five Seconds" in collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West.)
Only a handful of songwriters have been able to write hits over a longer period of time.
Elton John wrote the melodies for songs that hit the top 40 every year between 1970 and 1997, he's had a few British hits since but nothing in America. Madonna has now gone 29 years between her first hit and her most recent hit, but she usually brings in somebody to write or help write the melody. Madonna appears to be the oldest major artist to write a new hit song. The Bee Gees went 30 years, but rarely had a hit in the last 15 of those years. Eric Clapton, might have gone the longest he had self written hits between 1967 ("Sunshine of Your Love") and 1998 ( "My Father's Eyes"). This is odd in that Clapton is only an occasional songwriter. What of more recent artists? Bon Jovi has written hits since 1983. Mariah Carey has gone since 1988 or 23Plus years, but she always has brought in outside writers, and her last decade has been less successful.
Most songwriters slow down well before twenty year mark, and stop having hits or bring in outside writers to help them write hits, some good examples of the "I need help" phenomena are Rod Stewart, Heart, Aerosmith, Train, Lionel Ritchie, Michael Jackson, Stevie Nicks.
The Rolling Stones' only radio airplay hit of the past few years was ripped off from K.D. Lang, they have not had an American Top 40 hit since 1989. U2 no longer has big hit singles in the US, though they still have them in the UK. Springsteen had 22 years of hits. Jimmy Page has not really written much of significance after the demise of Led Zeppelin, Most most mature artists just simply don't write new music that gets played on the radio after a certain point in their careers.
Some artists just stop recording -Garth Brooks (who often used outside songwriters) , and Billy Joel have effectively stopped recording new material altogether.
With the advent of American Idol, the era of singer-songwriter ended and a majority of the hits on the American 40 are written in collaboration with / or totally by writers who are not the actual artist on the recording.
The phenomena doesn't necessarily apply to writers of classical music or musicals. Beethoven wrote his classic ninth symphony at age 54, and Richard Rogers composed the music for Sound of Music at age 57.
Below is Stevie and his older brother
at, Nobska a famous Cape Cod lighthouse. It has wonderful 270 degree view of the surrounding waters...
Stevie is also famous for portraying the character of Felpin in a bunny suit!
Friday, April 20, 2012
Random things ...Pennies, President's Day, Daguerreotypes
Daguerreotypes actually had something good about them.
Daguerreotypes were the first commercially successful photographic process. There were widely used in the mid 1800's. The process was cumbersome, expensive & inefficient. Eventually, they were superseded in the marketplace by other methods of photography. What was good about them? Well apparently, the image quality of a Daguerreotype is so high that one can use a microscope to find hidden detail on them. This article in Wired Magazine has more about them....
1848 Daguerreotypes bring past to light
That the Canadians are about to stop making the Canadian penny, apparently, in the future Canadians will be expected to either round up or round down, though the old stock of pennies are still in circulation. It costs more to make a penny than it is worth. We Americans would get rid it over here too, but for the fact, that it would require actually making a decision.
President's Day is a sort of a misnomer. This February holiday is still officially called Washington's Birthday. In recent decades it has come to be known as Presidents Day, but it was never changed to that. Some states officially call it Presidents' Day, to make note of the fact that the beloved President Lincoln, was also born in February.
|Roy Rogers Congressional Plaza -1960's|
Vintage Roy Roger Commercial from Youtube
The 1970's and 1980's were the golden age of Roy Rogers Restaurants. Their food was a cut above other fast food chains, and I think that was true of most of the food I ate there, though the chicken was not as good as KFC. Roy Rogers were owned by the Marriott Corporation, which at the time was known primarily for it's restaurants until it sold or shut them all down to focus on providing mediocre food for airlines. In 1990, Marriott sold Roy's to Hardee's, a lower quality fast food restaurant, that excelled at breakfast and little else.
Hardee's quickly switched most of the Roy Rogers Restaurants to the Hardee's brand name, which was greeted with wide disdain, to the point where many of the switched Hardee's had to be switched back to the Roy Rogers nameplate. But the damage was done, and eventually most of the Roy Rogers leases were sold off to other restaurant chains. Surprisingly, today, Roy Rogers still exists in a much smaller chain, it is now owned by the sons of one of the men who created the chain.
Posted originally April 2012 by J.C. Bernhardt
|Mary Margaret O'Hara at her prettiest.|
Long ago, when I was teenager, and a young adult, I had a fairly substantial interest in music and recordings. My tastes in music usually leaned to pop music, ABBA, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Top 40 in general, but I did have a few more esoteric interests, especially in women singers. In the 1970's and 1980's I was especially interested in singers like the Roches, Kate Bush, Jane Siberry, the Pretenders, Sandy Denny, The Bangles and the 10,000 Manics (before the latter two were popular).
Well in recent years,...it's unusual that I have the experience of discovering (as it were) new talents. In fact, I find it easier to go back in time, and learn about artists from the past who are well regarded and see what the fuss was all about. A few weeks ago, it was the fairly obscure, but well admired, Canadian singer/songwriter , Mary Margaret O'Hara. Mary is the younger, prettier sister of SCTV /Home Alone actress, Catherine O'Hara. Mary released a critically acclaimed solo album called Miss America in 1988. It is the only album with her name on it, to date. She has also worked with other artists and recorded a movie soundtrack album. For more about her career go to Ectophiles Guide -Mary Margaret O'Hara .
M2OH (as she is known) is regarded as a talented but mannered singer with an eccentric stage manner. Her angelic voice seems to be almost a cross between Doris Day and Bjork. I am not sure I have really loved much of what I heard from her, but I did find one song she wrote particularly touching. The song is called " Dark Dear Heart", she performed the song at the funeral of the legendary actor , John Candy in 1994. She seems to be channeling Patsy Cline on this performance , and she was so overcome with emotion that she lost her voice. (That's the video above) She had originally recorded the song with The Henry's and did an excellent live version with them on Canadian TV. (That's the video below.)
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