Lifestyles: James Skinner adrift on his desert island alone with Elvis
and Johnny Cash
HAS ALL THE MUSIC GONE?
I fall in love, it will be forever. When I fall in love with you.
Who can forget
the immortal lyrics of Nat King Coles most famous love ballad?
Or how about Louie Armstrong as he crooned Give me a kiss to build
a dream on, and my imagination will make that dream come true,
in one of the many songs he sang with that awkward voice of his when
he wasnt blasting away at his trumpet. They were among the many
jazz musicians in the last century that added a touch of romance to
the equally sensational melodious soloists or groups that entertained
everyone in the forties and fifties. Sure, Bill Haley and the Comets
broke the mould of conventional popular music when he surprised the
world with his Rock around the Clock at around the same
period of time. It paved the way for a twisting and pivoting Elvis Presley
who equally impressed or shocked us, take your pick when he burst out
with You aint nothing but a hound dog. Yet even Elvis
developed a soft touch with his smash hit Love me tender.
Remember all this you oldies out there?
How about going back even further to our parents and grandparents during
the first half of the last century. I recall one of the greatest and
most popular jazz singers of the twenties was called Al Jolson who used
to paint his face black and pretend before his audience that he was
a black singer. He hit the billboards, equivalent to todays popularity
charts for over thirty years. He also became famous for being the protagonist
of the first ever talking movie, called very appropriately The
Jazz Singer. Why should I know so much about this guy if I was
born much later? In the late forties, after he had retired, Hollywood
decided to make a biographical movie, The Jolson Story.
In fact it was such a smash that they produced a sequel. Even after
his death and for the next fifteen years or so, his songs continued
to captivate the hearts of young and old the world over. Another well-known
composer and bandleader of the softer version of jazz entered the history
books thanks to a similar Hollywood production. Who can forget Jimmy
Stewart in the tearjerker The Glenn Miller story?
If we move on to the sixties and seventies we can observe a divergence
of popular music that begins to create several different versions from
the original jazz base. Rock and roll added twist and shout and crooning
went hand in hand with country and folk. In the USA, some veterans like
Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett adapted and held their own against the
onslaught of newcomers. Whilst Frankies New York, New York
continues as a classic on todays list and confirms him as Mr.
Big Apple, Tonys I left my heart in San Francisco
will only die if an earthquake hits the beautiful City by the
Bay. These two greats were joined at the time by competitors including
a young and aspiring Barbra Streisand who still hits todays top
charts with My name is Barbra, and Simon and Garfunkel who
wrote the smash hit Mrs. Robison for the movie The
Country music went its own way during this period and created
superstars such as Kenny Rogers, whos Lucille always
hits a chord in my heart, or the recently deceased and now immortal
Johnny Cash. I have to pause just here as I think of this guy. His early
success I walk the line was my introduction to the soul
of this tortured yet extremely lovable human being. To quote Maurice
Chevaliers song in Gigi, I remember it well.
Yet my favourite will always be A boy named Sue. How could
someone write a song about a cowboy father who gives his son a girls
name so that he can later defend himself in life beats the hell out
of me, but I love it! But so much for twentieth century basically Anglo-Saxon
music, what about the classics?
I pause again and think; where do I start? How can one write about the
wonderful world of classical music? The whole gamut varies from baroque
to light opera, from symphonies and instrumental concerts to string
quartets and solos. It also covers various centuries of monumental and
magnificent musical scores. You have the super stars such as Beethoven
and Mozart who were born with the gift of the musical gab, or the Austrian
Strauss family who composed and entertained the world for decades. I
can never remember which one composed The Blue Danube. Bo
Derek making love to 'Bolero' in the film 10 summed it up
in her love scene with Dudley Moore. There is a piece of classical music
for every occasion or mood.
If I take a small break in the product line and take a look at the history
of the distribution market, the exponential growth in music composition
and reproduction continued after WWII in parallel with the development
of the various means of communication. Old 78-rpm records were replaced
by faster and more compact versions rotating at 33 rpm. Radio transmission
was enhanced with analogue television broadcasting and broadened eventually
thanks to satellite and now digital cable TV. The new technology in
both sound and video have allowed for hundreds of new artists and orchestras
to enter the homes and minds of millions of both listeners and viewers
around the world. Yet the old guys, and not to forget many dolls, some
long gone and buried are still around today. Many of their recordings
are constantly being refurbished and are rebounding on videos, CDs
and all other forms of recordings that I cant think of at the
But as I take a look around me at todays musical offerings, I
ask myself, where has all the talent gone? Where have the likes of Spain's
Falla or the Beatles disappeared? What has happened to the inspiration
of Albinoni, or the poetry of the Carpenters? I now listen to rattling
tin cans and squawking geese as the sounds of modern classical music,
or a fandangle of new types of contemporary music with absurd descriptions
such as Heavy Metal, Hip Hop or Funky.
And what about the actual pop groups, theyre something else. Hairy
bag people shouting like Tarzan and Jane running around the stage like
gladiators rather than musicians, and when they stop they put on that
look as if they want to beat the shit out of you! Im afraid I
just have to stop here. I cant go on, as I have no words to describe
what I think about the absolute garbage that is now pumped through the
airwaves in the name of music. There is one thing though, like everything
else in our consumer world, nothing lasts very long. Todays Top
of the Pops is tomorrows dogs dinner. Where has all
the music gone?
© James Skinner January 2004.
(Clearly James (who is older than Mick Jagger) has never heard 'Mad
World' the Christmas No 1 in the UK - what about Nora Jones, Dido, Beyonce,
Coldplay, Travis? What about Beddingfield, Jamie Cullum? James pop into
upir record store and discover a wonderful world of new music that might
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