I have been watching a lot of older bands on YouTube lately. Sure, I rail against nostalgic hype and preach looking to the future, but the old saying is,”those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.” I’m wondering if that’s always a bad thing. Granted, quite a bit of the past is worth letting go. I hated bell-bottom pants as much as a kid in the 70’s as I do as an adult in 2015. And the AMC Gremlin will never be a classic, no matter how much reality TV may try. So, what exactly is worth bringing back?
I started my ancient concert and TV show with a desire to feed an appetite for bands whose albums I’ve been too cheap to download. The Allman Brothers were a great place for me to start. Being a native Georgian (that’s the one the US, for my readers around the world), I grew up listening to the Allmans. “Ramblin’ Man”, “Statesboro Blues” and “Blues Sky” have been as much a fixture of my life as have fried okra and cornbread. It’s a by product of being a native Southerner.
I was amazed at the sheer volume of video available from the time before Duane died (for younger readers, Duane Allman was an amazing guitarist and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band. It’s far from metal, but every song is a guitar lesson in it’s own right. Metalheads who play an instrument should take note). Sure, each video was of varying quality, as one would expect from concert footage that is 44+ years old, but it’s no less thrilling. One thing that amazed me was how tight the band was, while making each song appear to verge on cacophony. It seemed they would walk the edge of complete disaster, only to bring it immediately in line and continue on the designated course.
I next set my sights on Dr Hook and the Medicine Show, another band that is as far from metal as one can get. They’re another band that filled the airwaves of my youth with sappy love songs, silly fun songs and the occasional song that made sense. Often appearing more like a group of hippies on the verge of riot, I soldiered on through the overt silliness of their on stage banter to examine the band’s music. Okay, it’s silly, but the amazing part was how the silly play could end in a millisecond and the band would be right on cue to play the song as it was recorded. As a good friend of mine would say, they’re tighter than a tick on a drum.
I continued my walk through the past and found band after band from those halcyon days that would perform the same way. Not truly jamming a’la the Grateful Dead, but still taking the song far from it’s studio roots, yet at the flip of a switch they can return it to it’s intended format. Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, Wet Willie, The Charlie Daniels Band…all wowed me with musicianship that seems to be missing from today’s groups.
I am privileged with the ability to attend a lot of shows during the year and they current crop have been far removed from these bands of old. I’ve seen bands walk off stage because the lights weren’t to their satisfaction. I’ve seen bands stop songs to berate each other of flubbing a note in the chorus. Professionalism is sorely lacking from quite a few of the current crop.
As I look forward to the upcoming concert season, I have focused on bands that are carrying the idea of professional musicianship forward. Bands that I have watched miss a line or a note, but bring the song back in to rein. Bands that aren’t afraid to experiment mid concert, but still have the ability to deliver the goods to their fans.
I think quite a few younger bands would do well to spend some time watching these old videos on YouTube. It’s time to learn what made the old bands so great.