Peaches En Randalia #35
“We’ll be back in 15 minutes.” – Trey Anastasio inventing a new form of time after hundreds of first sets, Phish, infinity
Why not just start with a few simple jams, instrumentals, and riffs recorded in a studio, and released on a limited edition LP? Perhaps you could then play a series of small dates with a group of musicians while downplaying the need for this to be one big circus and a dull echo of your legendary past. Keep it focused. Deliver new music. Play live again. There is still time. Letter to Jimmy Page, 1/9/09
Funny that I should get such a minor yet substantial response to a small letter written to Jimmy Page on his 65th birthday. It was a cheeky thing to do, but I wrote the note with simple sincerity, a small voice swirling in the blustery winds of the music scene, and I didn’t in any way expect it to create a cosmic reaction. And it didn’t. What I did want to do was to try to sort of start exploring the creative process as it relates to the collapsing record industry and the evolving nature of the live music experience in 2009. I don’t expect Jimmy Page to do anything, nor does he have to, but one hopes he still can see what he does have to offer, ala John Paul Jones, and get up there and just play, man.
As stated by one of my heroes, muses, and iconic artistic figures in my life back in the 1970s, Jimmy Page, “there is enough music in the vaults, I don’t need to hear the Next Big Thing,” or something very similar to that in a paraphrased sort of way. I pride myself on my internal research machine, and like a lot of trivia in the cultural journalist’s mind, it somehow stays there year in and year out. Page meant that there is plenty of great music already created for a thousand lifetimes, so he didn’t feel the need to always seek more. Ironically, this self-satisfied and confining philosophy wasn’t shared by his most important creative collaborator, Robert Plant. The singer seemed to always want to explore the next horizon, see how it related to his own output, and then move on. Alas, this way of thinking is, in the end, what kept Page and Plant from keeping a long-term relationship intact. That, and why move forward, if your canon is so stellar and complete?
For whatever reason, I like to explore new music, more so like Plant than Page, but I also like experiencing the same songs done in quirky and creative new ways, as well. I think, ultimately, this latter attributefinding fresh ideas with older bits of artistic architectureis what keeps me focused on improvisatory music year in and year out. Hence, my continual bemusement with the mainstream press when they denigrate jambandsnew and oldas a monolithic and sloppy artform which time has passed. For whom? Them? Ancient hippie listeners? Old Headseither Dead- or Phish-aligned, or both, in my case, and many others? Do I care that anyone else finds a kinship with these jambands? Do I care if I’m one of five people digging some monumental jam throwdown in a club? Do I need IT to survive on a weekly basis? Am I a cultural jam camel who can catch a show or three, and it’ll sustain my inner improv needs for months on end?
Ahhhthe real story here. The music industry and the live experience has changed, and many doomsayers are saying that the sounds we once heardin any contextare forever lost to the four corners of the globe, and we may as well lock ourselves up in our own personal vaults, alongside Mr. Page, and continue to devour our Coltranes, our Carters, our Garcias, our Bachs, and our JEMPs. Ohhand the economy is in a deep depression that will last for years, and by the time the global economy rebounds, if it does, America will be sectioned off into giant nation-states, which are completely owned and operated by foreign countries that have financed this country into oblivion. So don’t bother making new music; it won’t sell. Don’t bother traveling to gigs; you’ll lose money. And please don’t play festivals; they feed the evil corporate beast.
But try saying that to some 20-year old guitarist, or some 22-year old manager of a band who he really believes in, or try foisting that on some 22-year old shy singer, who hides behind her bass-playing brother, too self-conscious to explain her art, but too defiant to ever think that she should be doing anything but playing music at this particular moment in time. I’m no genius. I, occasionally, have written a profound bit of fiction in the past, and I, occasionally, might say a word or two of value about a musician either in a shared conversation or a review. However, I do know that you can’t stop music. Sounds like a very simple and trite statement that might come from the AC/DC camp, but like most fortune cookie clich simple wisdom is rooted in eternal truth. Yes, you can stop the revenue flow coming from recorded music. We’ve seen that. You can stop a band in their tracks because to play live music means expenses will always outweigh revenuean accountant’s nightmare. We’ve seen that. But I don’t think you can kill the desire to create something special within the musical format, something so vital that it transcends cost, and becomes almost another lifeform, too pure to define, but too big to ignore.
That desire comes from some other place, which I cannot adequately define, and as we head into 2009, and see and hear new music, I think it’s slightly important to remember to catch the acts who are really trying to tap into the ethereal well of creativity. Catch the bands that _matter_whether they just started playing yesterday, or are trying on fresh skin over a very old frame. I’m not sure who will provide that musical spark, or who will be my new groove in any particular month this year, but I do know, as a listener, fan, and writer, I still have my own desire and passion to hear those notes, and I’ll be there, somehow, someway, outside the vault, listening to the magic that will always endure.
_- Randy Ray stores his work at www.rmrcompany.blogspot.com