There are two music businesses. The one you see in the media and the one that flies under the radar.
You know everything about what Is happening with today’s stars, shenanigans are part of the sale, with it so hard to reach anybody these days, they appear everywhere, just so you’ll know their name, even if you’ve never heard their music.
We saw this once before. In the sixties. With AM and FM. FM was adventurous, played extended cuts, the new and different, it was fully alive with players who thought their music was enough. AM was about safety, pleasing all palates.
And when it was all united on FM by Lee Abrams it had a historic run and then cratered, when disco came along and killed it, or at least put a dent in it. Disco was new and different. And the funny thing is today disco has survived more than rock, there are disco beats everywhere.
And then MTV made it a monoculture. You were either on the channel or not. And if you were, you were making more money than anybody in the history of the music business, you could sell and tour all over the world as overpriced CDs flew out of the bins.
Until the internet came along and blew it all apart. Suddenly we had choice. And there were those who adopted the new systems and those who did not. Hip-hop embraced the internet ethos, they saw giving it away for free as a road to success. Rockers still rail at the net, last night Lucinda was singing the praises of albums, after referencing Sheryl Crow’s decision not to make anymore. Sheryl is right. She had a brief moment of sunshine on her new LP, and then it all disappeared, it’s almost like it never came out. The key is to be in the marketplace on a regular basis today.
But not yesterday.
And “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” was recorded yesterday, released in 1998, when recordings still resulted in revenue, when a hungry audience ate up CDs, when the scene was comprehensible.
It’s not comprehensible anymore.
You can be exposed to the tsunami of media and feel completely out of it and then…
You go to a Lucinda Williams show and feel superior, knowing this is where it’s really at, this is the epicenter, this is the sound, the music that hooked you in the first place.
Not that there were any youngsters there. As a matter of fact, the Orpheum was filled with boomers, who remember when. And these were fans, there was no in-between songs talking, not even many smartphones videoing and taking pictures, they were relishing the experience, being in a hall with nothing but the sound.
Oh, Lucinda had a backdrop, but the show would have been just as effective without it. How long has it been since the music has been enough? When it sounded live, not programmed, when the people on stage were just as alive as you in the audience, no different except they’d taken the road more challenging, with no guarantees.
Lucinda talked a lot about her upbringing. The mentally ill mother. The incessant travel. She was so honest, your eyes bugged out.