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.
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
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.
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”.
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?
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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