Why ‘Who Sings This ? ‘ Is Usually A Dumb Question

The question ” who sings this?” usually tells me everything I need to know about the person posing the question in terms of their level of music appreciation. I will not call it a stupid question. Though Mr.Garrison once said something else.  I can’t help it that when I started really paying attention to music coincided with pre-MTV music videos.

The great Colin Cowherd once said everybody is a snob about something. For the purposes of this blog entry I am defining snob as “a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.” This may sound harsh to some people but elaborating on one’s opinion fuels a lot of online writing and interaction. I personally see little motivation in writing about the blatantly obvious and agreeing with the status quo. Pushing back on the status quo or as it says on the GRP tagline ” we beg to differ” is where it is at.

My opinion is the vast majority of GRP writers are snobs in the sense that they look down on the the Noynoy trademark “walang corrupt , walang mahirap“. I have written pieces on being a coffee  snob, sports  snob , social media  snob and a decorum snob.  . Of course when one attempts to be articulate and add substance to a topic it invites baduy accusations as “sosyal” and “nosebleed”. We even have people insist that GRP have a no fly zone  on certain topics. GRP writers do not attempt to satisfy the baduy. Which of course infuriates the baduy and causes them to lash out and define no fly zones for the whole website.

I love all five members of Supertramp. Even the ones who do not sing.

The first time I remember bristling at the question ” Who sings this?” was in second year high school. I forget which song exactly but the artist that performed the song (Supertramp) remains a favorite of mine decades later. Supertramp has something in common with the Beatles. On paper almost every song on every album ( pre 1985) was composed by Hodgson/ Davies. Most Beatles songs that are not named Something or Octopus’s Garden are listed as composed by Lennon/ McCartney . In the case of both Supertramp and the Beatles- whoever sang lead usually really wrote the song . Details of that parallel here. 

Les: Why do they always assume the singer is the voice of the band?

From the movie Still Crazy.

 

I give you the story of jumbled up song writing credits because it was possible the song my friend Bill was questioning about was the whimsical ” Loverboy ” from the Even In The Quietest Moments album. A piano intro you will never forget if you ever heard it once. ” Who sings it ?” Bill asked. “Rick Davies” , I answered truthfully and accurately. I would have been more accurate if I added that Roger Hodgson and John Halliwell provided the backup vocals. Oh this was decades before the initials OCD meant anything to me.

Do you really think I care
What you eat or what you wear
Won’t you join together with the band

The Who 

If Bill asked me who performs this song or who does this song then my idea of a truthful and accurate answer would be Supertramp. Supertramp is the name for the five guys ( including the drummer Bob C. Benberg and bassist Dougie Thompson). All five do not sing therefore in my world are not part of the answer to ” who sings this?” I always valued teamwork many years before I would read John Maxwell books on the topic. Maybe because ever since I really got into music I loved reading the credits on albums.

MTV was ultimately about TV and not about music and it dumbed down the audience.

Heaven forbid if anybody asked that question ” who sings this?” and they were referring to a Led Zeppelin song. Led Zeppelin was the epitome of teamwork. Jimmy Page was a guitar wizard but could not sing a note. John Bonzo Bonham was a powerful drummer and John Paul Jones was a quiet versatile musician. Robert Plant was the sole vocalist. Many of the all time greats would have varying singers at some point: The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones , Pink Floyd, The Eagles even the Kinks. I am excluding bands like Van Halen where they replaced their founding member who was the singer. I am talking about singers that exist within the band during their heyday.

Just from my personal memories, two bands I admire greatly that have the lone singer like Led Zeppelin are Emerson, Lake and Palmer as well as Rush. All three bands are a great antidote if you have an obnoxious neighbor playing hip hop loud. Aim your speakers back at his direction and crank up Whole Lotta Love, Trilogy, Wango Tango or YYZ and watch them beg for mercy.

The problem with the titular question of this piece is that it presumes the other parts of the song are not important. That is the conclusion I have come to is that for some people they only identify with the singer because the other parts are just garnish. I am just guessing here but 95% of the fans of Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Charice could care less who was in the band because it just not part of the equation. Their audience does not value band members since 99% of their focus is on the superstar. Yes those people have bands on the road but they garner as much attention as Noynoy Aquino did as a senator and as a congressman. They are just wallpaper.

That is why they will ask ” who sings this?“. They are telling you  those who do not sing  are not important and are not worthy of knowing. The problem is you will be excluding people like Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, Keith Moon, Richie Blackmore, Chris Squire , Mike Rutherford , Richard Tandy, Mike Campbell, Neil Peart, Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Andy Summers and a host of other musicians who contribute to the sound many love and do not always use their vocal chords to be on the record.

 

You have not succeeded in making an opinion piece unless some people conclude you are an arrogant a$$hole while only partly through your piece. I will admit to that. Yet in the spirit of added value I will offer you some explanation why I am that way . Many people form their view on things based to what they were exposed to when they were younger. Just maybe I have my point of view of appreciating music because I am old enough to remember music videos before MTV. I forgot what channel they were on if GMA 7 or RPN 9 or somewhere else. It was a thrill to watch them at the time and I am glad I get to share my prehistoric impressions with you

Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith

I won’t lie. My introduction to Aerosmith was when they appeared in the box office bomb Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  I might be the only person you know who saw that on the big screen. At the very least it made them a known commodity to me when the video for Sweet Emotion came on.  There is no high concept here except the band is on stage. It is cool to see Steve Tyler’s arm gestures during the chorus. It may be the first time I have ever seen a singer do stunts with the mic stand. The camera would focus on Joe Perry during the guitar refrain and all the guitarists would converge on Perry before the outro. Something so simple spoke so much to me, a novice to rock and roll.

My Sharona by The Knack

There are some good versions available on Youtube but ironically the one I remember seeing on TV when the song was new is now fused with footage from the film Reality Bites.  The other “live ” ones done in front of a TV audience are good too. The song clocks in at 8 seconds shy of five minutes which is actually long for a #1 hit.  Even back then the attention span of the youth was questioned and that is why I love Inagaddadavida .  but I digress.

Check out guitar George
He knows all the chords
Mind, it’s strictly rhythm
He doesn’t want to make it cry or sing

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

For My Sharona,  the Knack was a simple four piece band: drums , bass, lead guitar and rhythm. I love Doug Fieger’s facial expressions while he is singing. For the very young me it was cool to see how it all comes together. Yes the video is not the actual recording still the point is the video respects the band allowing the audience to see who was doing what. It was cool to see the extended solo being played by Berton Averre , Doug playing rhythm during the solo and Berton Averre punctuating with that bass line between verses.

Like I said earlier I know that the band in any non concert video is merely pantomiming the recording of the song but the point is the Knack were a real band. They played together as a unit in little clubs on many of the songs that ultimately ended up on their records. They did this while waiting for someone to bite on their demo tapes. In the old days ( and I would argue the better days) you play in front of a lot of different audiences first then you make a record after. More on that later.

Hot Legs by Rod Stewart

I first discovered Rod when Da Ya Think I’m Sexy dominated the airwaves. Good thing it was my gateway drug leading me to appreciate him at his peak. You might be able to guess I despise his saccharine phase where he just sings standards. Many only aware of his coat and top hat songs will not believe he was a real rocker in the decade in which rock and roll peaked. The best way to get the best out of Rod Stewart is start in 1984 and work your way back. Ignore anything after 1985. This guy agrees with me. 

Hot Legs is the opening track of the Footloose and Fancy Free album and it is a barn burner. Which is a good thing since there is a barn motif to the video. A distinct memory I had was this song playing on a Sunday night and once my dad saw the “background” he immediately switched the TV to Donny and Marie. He distinctively said it was more “wholesome”.

The guy in the middle was once a rock and roller.

While it is easy to focus on the anonymous and mesmerizing gams on the video, there are other things worth noting. The band with Rod gets into the hayseed spirit with overalls and hay between the teeth. Billy Peek “plays” his solo on a  Gibson Flying V on a railroad track surrounded by what I assume are local kids. I also thought it was cool that Rod ‘s bass player was Asian ( Phil Chen) who I learned much later played on Jeff Beck’s Wired. The point is, the band is there and the band is having fun or at least appearing to have fun. That to me is the spirit of rock and roll. Guys with instruments , playing, looking at each other and having fun.

Contrast my previous anecdotes with A-Ha. I never liked that song. The video of Take On Me is ironically more iconic than the song or the “band”.  Nobody who loves music thinks of a video when Led Zeppelin is brought up. They think of a band playing well and a band playing loud. I remember hearing at the time that A-Ha’s first time to play in front of an audience was the Grammy’s in 1986. I can’t find a footnote backing that memory but neither can I find any documented A-Ha concerts or tours pre-1986 either. This was maybe the paradigm shift that forever changed the  perception of music for some. The video making the band irrelevant. They never played live before so why put them in the video?

While MTV has damaged music forever there was a time music videos could help you appreciate music.

I love music. Let me repeat that, I said I love music, I did not say I love singing. Singing is of course part of music. That is why the synonym for an orchestra is the word symphony. It is all these disparate elements coming together to form beauty. Equating one’s appreciation of music solely on the singer is like focusing on the Magenta Blue Crayola in the box. It may be nice on its own but better appreciated when mixed right with the other colors. I understand that Dewey Finn/ Ned Schneebly/ Jack Black  blames MTV for the destruction of all civilization.  I hope I made a case that in the beginning it was not like that. A music video can be a medium that draws one attention to what is good about music. At some point it devolved to a form that emphasized wardrobe changes, special effects and hair. So if you ask me who sings Frankenstein? The answer is easy: Edgar Winters.

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18 Comments on “Why ‘Who Sings This ? ‘ Is Usually A Dumb Question”

  1. Who sings this ? Charice Pempengco…Wrong. Oh…she is now a He…Jake Zyrus….Right…

    I have no quarrel with transgenders. Even, if they become a She or a He…Music is music…we enjoy whatever the variety of music, and how they are composed and sung by various artists.

    Art imitating life. Life imitating art ! Sing it with gusto. Listen until your eardrum is blasted…

    1. Thank you Hyden . Your first point . Somebody else covered that topic in GRP. I only bring her / him up because we have so few current singer / musicians that are known beyond our shores. Thanks for reading . I enjoyed writing this .

  2. I like this article of yours Gog.

    I personally prefer listen to great classicals like Antonio Vivaldi’s symphony (Four Seasons is my favorite) when I want to relax.

    When it comes to songs, I listen attentively to the lyrics. I always end up praising the song writer more when I read quality lines than the singer or the band in the process.

    For others, “who sings this?” is the relevant question. For me, its “who wrote this?”

    I understand that Dewey Finn/ Ned Schneebly/ Jack Black blames MTV for the destruction of all civilization.

    That is eerie. Why? Because the philosopher Aristotle once stated:

    “When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.”

    So did Plato:

    “They were men of genius, but they had no perception of what was just and lawful in music…And by composing licentious works, and adding to them words as licentious, they have inspired the multitude with lawlessness and boldness, and made them fancy that they could judge for themselves about melody and song…in music there first arose the universal conceit of omniscience and general lawlessness; freedom came following afterwards, and men, fancying that they knew what they did not know, had no longer any fear, and the absence of fear begets shamelessness. For what is this shamelessness, which is so evil a thing, but the insolent refusal to regard the opinion of the better by reason of an over-daring sort of liberty?”

    We are living in interesting times indeed!

    1. There are so many ways we can go with this:

      1. That was from the movie of School of Rock . The protagonist was impersonating his sick friend who was supposed to teach 6th graders. His lessons looked something like this https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/thedeathdiscussion/imageproxy.php?url=http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j296/spindaddydad/sofr-chalkboard.jpg

      2. Great Plato quote. The improvisation of jazz could be seen as a response to the rigidity of classical music where you played every crescendo and every diminuendo as written by the composer / arranger 300 years ago. Punk in the 70s was seen as a response to the sterilized sound of disco in the 70s.

      3. There is a website that has been around for a while called songmeanings.com. I only started contributing in the last two months. Some songs have 50-250 comments , some have two. Great way for time fly.

    2. I too tend to listen to the lyrics and what to the song has to say. And mind you, when it comes to Pinoy song lyrics, i tend to snicker at what songs that hit #1 on local radio have to say:

      Bakit ngayon ka lang, Sana dalawa ang puso ko – Justifying fidelity
      This Guy’s in love with you, pare – Homophobia
      Buloy – Suicide is something to be laughed at
      Elisi – Obviously rivermaya trying to copy the eraserheads’ drug promotion hit, alapaap

      Luckily music is now digital and easily accessible, not like back in the day when you had to visit all known oddessy stores just to buy that tape before stocks run out.

      1. I love the old days or l look back fondly because that is all we knew. LPs for 26 pesos in SM or Rustan. 45’s ( Like Pumapatak Nanaman Ang Ulan) 3 pesos . Dyna cassettes ( In Through The Outdoor) 20 pesos. I enjoyed Hanapol’s Mr Kenkoy. I remember an appearance he did on Student Canteen where he said one of his influences was Kansas. Which most people know from the funeral scene in Old School. FYI I do buy digital downloads from the Apple store. Hard to find things . Make that impossible to find. Thanks for the OPM lyrical analysis!

        1. @Gogs

          Truth be told, with the right google phrase, you can get almost any obscure OPM album. Even those “underground” albums like Alert Level and Pop U!, though at most times quality is a problem, being encoded at 128 kbps (like i could never find a good copy of Freeman), which is kind of jarring if youre already used to 320 kbps on decent cans (all the more if youre used to Hi-Res encoded FLACs). But at least I can listen to Boy Sullivan every time i feel like it 🙂 (Pinoy “pwede na yan” attitude comes into play).
          I as well had a collection of tapes back in the day. took saving 2 weeks allowance before i could buy a new tape, which was a necessity since nu107 or la105 didnt reach my hometown (instead we had country radio, which i abhorred).

  3. P.S. on the original blog.

    No matter what, music like soccer or basketball is a team endeavor. There are very few albums where the person whose name is on it plays and sings everything. Examples like early McCartney , early Prince, Todd Rudgren come to mind. Read the story of how Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska came to be. That was almost entirely a solo effort. Phil Collins’ Face Value , was almost entirely recorded in his bedroom with Phil doing more than merely drums and singing.

    Sports will always have it standout players but it always takes a very competent supporting cast to take that superstar to the promised land in any sport. Think of John Elway, Dan Marino, Dominique Wilkins, first 6 years of Michael Jordan’s career, Barry Bonds. That’s why it weird sometimes some fans almost identify more with the individual than the whole team yet the team is crucial.

    It is not just band/ team talent but chemistry between the talents. Look at the Beatles implosion. Led Zeppelin internally could not really function by merely replacing Bonham. Mick Jagger and Keith RIchards have been fighting longer than many of us have been alive but they manage to compartmentalize it to keep writing, touring and recording.

  4. It is a bit funny how people/institutions think about music. In some (sub-)cultures (read: religions) it is outright forbidden to listen to music. It may contain devils messages (especially when played in reverse). Or when lyrics are about sex and drugs. It may turn you away from your religion. Is that what REM meant by “losing my religion”? Actually, no. It had/has nothing to do with that.

    1. We all know Footloose, a town where dancing was banned. The concept album by Styx back in 1983 was about a future where rock and roll was banned. Frank Zappa did something similar with Joe’s Garage.

  5. Nice to see another article on this topic. I also briefly mentioned in my older article that singing is so hyped these days. It’s all for making people believe they can be Celine Dion or Whitney Houston by buying products, or goading them to join the singing contests and push up TV ratings. I for one don’t understand why people are so fixated on voicing. People would say “how great the voice,” “she sings better than others,” but I could never understand what they’re talking about. I guess I don’t appreciate voicing. I choose favorite songs because of the instruments and composition. For example, my current favorite song, Mechanical by The Quarks.

    To the list of great instrument players Gogs mentioned, I can add Keith Emerson. Them there’s Herbie Hancock among synth users, and Carmine Appice on drums. On guitars, the two I like most Johnny Marr and Paul Reynolds (A Flock of Seagulls). I’ll also mention the BBC documentary Synth Britannia, which could be found on Youtube.

    Oh, yes, for others, on why music sucks today, I recommend this video about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVME_l4IwII

    1. Thanks for the link. I watched the entire video and I dont know, maybe its my age but the presenter/commentator is right (IMHO). I cant really judge music from the 60s (me too young back then) but I still like the music released in the 70s. Does that make me old-fashioned and conservative? Ah well, I have no problem with that.

      1. @Robert Haighton:

        The Dutch eat their Herrings by gobbling them upside
        down. I visited Holland once; but I cannot eat my Herring, gobbling it upside down.

        What is noise to you, is music to the millennials…music in the
        ’70 s are old music to this generation. They cannot stand it.

        I asked my young nephew who is a teenager : “Why he loves the present day music?” It does not make sense to me.

        I am afraid, I will have a biased eardrum listening to it….

        He answered me: “The music is cool !”

    2. “To the list of great instrument players Gogs mentioned, I can add Keith Emerson. Them there’s Herbie Hancock among synth users, and Carmine Appice on drums. On guitars, the two I like most Johnny Marr and Paul Reynolds (A Flock of Seagulls). I’ll also mention the BBC documentary Synth Britannia, which could be found on Youtube.”

      You and I are more alike than you realize.

      1) I mention ELP when I talked about groups with devoted singers.
      2) Carmine Appice was in the Hot Legs video. I think I saw him once in a limo with Yngwie Malmsteen but that is another story.
      3) Herbie Hancock – If you have not done so before but check out the credits for Miles Davis Bitches Brew. Honestly it took me over a decade of listening to “get it”but think about who played it on it , just about anybody who played anywhere for the next 3 decades. Chick Corea, almost everybody who played on Weather Report, Wayne Shorter , Randy Brecker etc .
      4) Johnny Mar- There are 3 The The albums I listen to over and over again since the late 80s early nineties .

      1. When it comes to Take On Me, I still like it, lol, but not as a rabid favorite. I’m more into learning the riffs to play. So that’s some I’ve been doing lately after downloading Walk band and other music-making apps on my phone, so I got to play a bit of Enola Gay, Feels Like Heaven, But Not Tonight, I Like Chopin, and The Final Countdown. Not the complete songs, though. But it’s a start until I could get a real keyboard and resume practice, since I had keyboard lessons in the 90s. And also, learning again music theory and notes seems to make me see music in a different way, though my favorites remain the same.

        1. I forgot one real favorite to play, More to Lose by Seona Dancing. That one was a real adventure to learn, and am still learning. i bet some people will be surprised that the singer in this one is comedian Ricky Gervais. But, for me, the piano riffs give the song its true personality.

          Maid of Orleans by OMD is yet another interesting piece to learn.

  6. If you’re a sports star and you say ‘faggot’ on the courts, you get fined. But if you’re in music and you say it 234 times, you get an MTV music award.

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