Labelled With Love
Jazz rock reggae punk funk folk joke.
Forget individuality, style, independence, all that artistic stuff. What you really need to get on in this business is IDENTITY... heard that one before? Billy Jenkins examines the perils of the pigeon hole and files his copy.
"When it comes to music, John, yer talking metal-bleeding-physical as opposed to yer actual physical, which means yer talking 'bout abstract — like nothing at all, if yer know what I mean. So yer got ta put a label on it if yer want it sold, pal... "
And what Steve Hall of punk band The Accursed says is absolutely true.
Sound does not exist in the material sense, which is why a gimmick, fashion, or a label is needed to sell it.
BABY I'M A WANT YOU COZ WE'RE ALL CRAZEE NOW.
Plain bad English sticks in the craw as a blatant memory-retaining device. But at least Slade did it with comic book humour, whilst Bread left no doubt as to what they were after when they christened their whacky combo, in a gadda da veda baby — what's my name?
Iron Butterfly, baby.
Presumably a name to describe the diverse influences of another swinging Americano combo. Heavy yet light. Very clever. Too bad ten years later their sound is at best described as 'pathetic'. But it took Splodgenessabounds and their 'Two Pints Of Lager' to parade patheticness as a valid commodity.
They raised 'labelling' to new heights by sticking little paper posteriors over every dressing room ceiling, while addressing any dodgy looking person as a 'wissock'.
They were not stupid. By advocating no more than terribleness, they actually sounded fantastic — for surprise, surprise, they really could play!
Which sidetracks me into the fracas that bounced around the newsdesks of the national press in the '60's when it was discovered that The Love Affair didn't actually play on their hit record 'Everlasting Love'. I suppose now with session fees ever-rising to offset the increasingly spasmodic nature of such work in an overcrowded business, and the decline in demand for musical quality (caused by an overstrained bandwagon piled high with recycled musical sequences definitely down to one wheel and the Cherokees closing fast...), it is now cheaper to sign up a young band and let them play it themselves.
It only takes two fingers on a synthesiser, a rhythm box, automatic bass and chording, baggy trousers and a puppy fat-free jowl, and you could be the Human League, Blancmange, Spandau Ballet, or Tears For Fears.
Anyone or all of them — they're all playing the same rhythms in the same tones — except the handsome Robert De Niro lookalike saxophonist who is probably called "Zoot" and sounds like you'd wish he'd hurry up and reach eighteen so he'll be given the key...
The comedian Tony Hancock had it off pat when he advocated the Infantile School in his movie The Rebel — a delightful spoof on what is seen by some as a high society rip off along the lines of the Bricks In The Tate, the Anaemic Nun In A Snowstorm, or Jackson Pollock dropping a bollock.
What prat would buy that for so much money I hear you say.
And I say — what prats went and purchased the sentence 'Oh, Vienna' bunged over some music?
Too bad I didn't think of putting such a brilliant brace of two syllable, two word rhetoric together. The nearest I got was 'Oh, Virginia', which somehow smacks of Dan Maskellism.
Labels inhibit the forward thinking musician, who must declare his manifesto before embarking on a live performance. After all, who wants to see an admired artist blow a gig thanks to dodgy biorhythms.
Baby Bio Rhythms, the two year old 'lovechild' drummer of a mythical flower power hippy rock star and his 'lady', left the stage prematurely last night after paradiddling in his pants, stating it was a symbolic gesture timed to coincide with a sixteen bar period of pppp (v. pianissimo) which always occurs midway through his Wagnerian cycle.
Thinking about it, there are only three types of over the hill rock musicians: those who still do it, those who don't do it, and those who are so untogether they're called, for the sake of a label — jazz musicians.
"He has his ups and downs, man... and for all his gigs I've seen, I've never seen him up, but I've heard about this fantastic gig at Ronnie's when he stood at the back of the room throughout his set — just staring into space, man!!"
To some people, a 'jazz' musician holds as much fascination as a Martian.
Really, it all comes down to that old adage of supply and demand. The band's name depicts the style (could band be an abbreviation of BRAND?), people pay to see and hear that style — and then the manager makes off with all the money...
The Manager. Now there's someone I'd stick a label on — or better still a bunch of fives. Instantly the proverbial caricature springs to mind, except that in the good old days they used to smoke cigars. Now thats been replaced by the imbibing of exotic French chalk — the stuff you get in John Bull puncture repair kits.
It's the manager who has to package his 'little band of geniuses', tie them up tight and send them straight up the charts — preferably first class, although that costs more. As he has to believe in what he's selling, he has to make up his own label.
I know a group of tall, fine looking new romantics who, when approached by a management company, were asked to change their name to "Twenty Twenty." It's not the numerology that is interesting, but the fact that the same business concern handles the affairs of a very successful group — who just happen to have a name that sounds like somebody saying Durham with a stutter...
Why change a winning formula?
The Accursed's Steve Hall is a vivid example of free enterprise at work. Sticking to his own principles he hasn't made much money but has a) released five albums and three singles on his own label, the sort of track record many would envy and b) made music exactly as he wants to hear it — in his own time, to his own style.
He can work creatively under the banner of punk, but in doing so he is denied the opportunity to reach a wider audience. For him, a label is a manifesto, although punk, in a way, has managed to take on some of the characteristics that are prevalent in modern jazz. Integrity, spirit, anarchy, and honesty can apply (sometimes) equally to both idioms.
Listening to a punk band like the Accursed makes one think how good it would sound if they put it to music, or at least enlarged their vocabulary — if only to increase the fulfilment for the participant. I write 'participant' rather than 'listener' as I asked Steve Hall why someone would buy his music. "To go absolutely barmy" was his reply. And coming from someone who shoots up his council house living room with a .44 air rifle, I would agree that the artist knows best.
Therein lies an observation.
Accept only the genuine article.
Are you buying music labelled by the musician, or merely contributing towards the press agents fee?
My cat eats dog food. He doesn't know it's dog food because I take the label off and I haven't told the little bastard it's dog food.
Feature by Billy Jenkins
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