I blame The Beatles …

… for the demise of pure pop music as it appeared briefly in The Fifties and Sixties.

Why? For several reasons, but the one I’m putting forward here today is that before They arrived it wasn’t wrong to have songs written by professional/semi-professional songwriters. People who spent all their time just writing songs, not necessarily singing them themselves. There were teams of them working away in The Brill Building etc

Look at Elvis: Or Cliff (not really known outside the UK). Then we have the advent of The Fab Four and it changes, utterly. The new was marketed as more honest or pure because it was inherently better. The record buying public was misled into believing there was some sort of purity because They sang their own songs, that they’d written. Only two did most of them anyway and the quality varied considerably. It became part of the Back to Nature movement so Carole King, professional songwriter suddenly became a performer

There will be plenty of other examples you can find out more…

Then there’s the instruments: Playing them in the studio- how many stars ever did that? Suddenly it was expected that the players on the records (I’m talking 45’s back then) were the names on the record label playing their own equipment too. Most believed it

It was a big surprise when I found how many songs had little connection with The Band who took all the credit; that a small group of professional musicians did all the actual recording. It almost came out with the outcry saying that The Monkees didn’t play their own instruments: Few realised that this was utterly normal; session musicians always did this, because they were simply far better musicians. With a few exceptions of course.

Going back to people like Frank Sinatra or Elvis… who interpreted lyrics other guys (mostly men) wrote and then there were hundreds of people all combining to produce The Record which was “Frank’s”  “Elvis’s”- maybe some credit went to the arranger or producer. Nat Cole was different- he actually was a great pianist, wasn’t he quite rare?

Does it compare to the auteur theory- forgetting all those studio technicians, actors …

Then,  how did their records get any actual airplay- another story for another time!

So returning to my starting point, thousands and thousands of classic pop records were made almost entirely by an unknown group of musicians.

You’ll be amazed how many you know! Some starting places to do research yourself:

In UK, someone like Big Jim Sullivan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Jim_Sullivan who played on hundred of examples, including 50 number ones: And Little Jim too!

In the US  a large fluid bunch of musicians who came to be known (disparagingly) as “The Wrecking Crew” who played on many thousands of the biggest songs of that era. They  would suggest ideas, sometimes arrange the whole thing and then play it for the recording which went to make The Star incredibly rich and famous …

Recently a film called http://www.wreckingcrewfilm.com/  was made by Danny Tedesco the son of one of these musicians. It took so long to get done (sadly, many of the originals were no longer around) because understandably the artists were very reluctant for it to ever become widely known- imo… loss of prestige

As you’ll guess Tamla Motown, Stax, Muscle Schoals were also in the same place, where musicians would play on million selling records all day long and then have to moonlight in bars, playing to get enough money to keep themselves. It was worse for them -imo.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Funk_Brothers Tamla’s house musicians

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stax_Records  Racially integrated label, unprecedented then

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_Shoals_Sound_Studio

Once you look you’ll see how the sheer quality was the reason why- even 50 years later- those records still exude a certain magic, compared with when relatively poor musicians were promoted as somehow more ‘natural’ or ‘honest’.  We’re all the poorer since…

The interpreters had no future.

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One thought on “I blame The Beatles …

  1. Being a classically/college trained musician, I find most of modern commercial music to be total crap. There are the rare exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.

    Yep, lots of phonies in the commercial music biz! And today, commercial music is completely in the toilet!

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