What Year is This Again?

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My wife and I were driving home from lunch today when we saw a sign for a ticket scalp…uh…”broker” selling tickets for upcoming concerts. The sign was brand new but the artists weren’t.

Simon & Garfunkel, Prince, Kiss and Rush were the names on the sign. Is this the 2000’s or the early 80’s?

In 1981, Simon & Garfunkel played their famous reunion show in New York’s Central Park. The year before, Kiss “Unmasked” and we got to see why they wore that makeup for so long. Yikes!

Prince released his famous Dirty Mind record in 1980 followed by Controversy in 1981, which began what most people believe to be the road to his best work as an artist.

Finally, Rush had their first hit single in 1980 with “Spirit of Radio” off of the album Permanent Waves. They would go on the next year to release Moving Pictures and move from prog rock obscurity to to arena rock stardom.

So, the turn of the decade from 79 to 80 seems like a time when these four artists could have been on the same bill. I mean, the famous US Festivals of 1982 and 1983 put on by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers, had artists as diverse as Van Halen, U2, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osborne, Berlin, Oingo Boingo, Stevie Nicks, Triumph, The Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson, Alabama, Ricky Skaggs, David Bowie and the Ramones.

Who’s to say Simon & Garfunkel, Prince, Kiss and Rush couldn’t have shared a bill???

What is probably most telling about this sign, however, is the absolute dirth of great music available today and the expense of tickets for concert goers.

The only people able to afford tickets and willing to spend the money are people who remember going to concerts for $20 or less. I remember seeing David Lee Roth one Saturday and Triumph the next in 1987 at the Summit. I sat on the floor for both shows and paid $19.95 per ticket. I bought a pair of concert shirts (one t-shirt and one baseball shirt) for $20 each. I spent less than $100 for both concerts and souveniers.

Now, $100 will barely get you in the door for one show!!!

Lollapalooza, the well-known alternative rock tour that, in its early days, featured Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and other heavyweights of the grunge era, actually cancelled its entire tour due to lack of ticket sales.

Several of my band members and I were talking the other day after rehearsal about the sad state of popular music today. It isn’t like we’re old fuddy duddies who don’t like music that is out. Many of us are big fans of artists that are popular today. But, the difference between greaat music today and, say, 1976 is staggering.

Just think about all the huge hit records that came out between 1975 and 1978 from major artists like Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, The Eagles, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Heart, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Elton John, Billy Joel and on and on. Compare that to 2000 – 04. There IS no comparison.

Much of the blame lies with a music industry that stifles creativity in favor of record sales. The five monoliths that control 99 percent of record distribution around the world have squelched talent development in favor of one-hit wonders. The problem is that you begin to hit bottom eventually because you’ve blown through everyone decent and are left with crap.

Now, we have TONS of reunions. Bruce Springsteen and Carlos Santana – both 50+ – should not have two of the best records released in the last 5 years, but they do. U2 is arguably the most popular band on the planet after almost 25 years of performing and recording. They were also, arguably, the most popular band in the world back in 1987.

I don’t have any answers, but it sure is frustrating as a musician to see talent wither and die and the constant stream of horrific music pouring out of radio stations also owned by multi-national corporations who care less about great music than they do about the bottom line. Hell, they care less about creativity than they do the cost of their on-air talent. In fact, great music is very likely at the bottom of their list of priorities.

It sucks, but welcome to the music business.

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