Stephen R. Covey said it. I can sum it up in one word. Pagers. Or if you need another example; Video cassette recorders.
But this conversation is about MUSIC. Being a musician from the age of 6, I’ve followed every new trend that was introduced. I’ve listened to everything from the blues sung in the cotton fields of Mississippi, to German Thrash Metal and Neo-Classical.
In 1956, the genres of blues, rock and country had a serendipitous collision with a guy named Elvis Presley at the wheel. More important than Elvis was a guy named Sam Phillips. He’s the father of Rock and Roll. Sam was a recording engineer that loved recording music. All sorts of music. He even went into the Oklahoma State Prison to record a quartet of black inmates that could sing.
You all know the story of Buddy Holly and the Beatles, if not, I’ve written a few articles on the History of Rock and Roll. Just use the search button. I want to take a very close look at the British invasion as I believe it was the British I hold responsible for a mongrel genre called “Classic Rock”. What Elvis and Buddy Holly, even Chuck Berry and Little Richard were singing is now called “Roots Rock”. As in “The beginning or foundation of Rock and Roll”. It was this blend of Blues and country that gave us the musical ideas for The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
If you look at the first albums of The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many of the legends, they were all covering Robert Johnson blues songs, in fact the first recording the Beatles did as a demo was “That’ll be the day”. (Buddy Holly)
But the longer a Genre is bastardized, the more abundant it becomes. It’s hard to write a Rock song that doesn’t fall into the washed out category of classic rock. For those musicians that scored hits in the 70s and into the 80s, they saturated the Genre until it was a cup of worms. Frankly Classic Rock was pushed to the point of decadence. In the 90s, grunge came in like a cruise missile and bands that were in the top 10 on the charts were losing their contracts. Labels were catching direct flights from LAX to SeaTac airport and were signing bands they hadn’t even seen. (Just heard about) “There’s gold in them there hills”.
So what happened to the stable artists that could be relied on for a Platinum album? They were told not to let the door hit them in the ass. One hair band artist from L.A. that belonged to a Spandex/Aquanet band that still had an album on the charts (Falling like a meteorite) was reported as saying he couldn’t get a job at Tower Records.
This article is about a very legitimate Classic Rock artist that was shown the door because of a change in the music industry. He was the first “Victim” of the music channel MTV. In 1980, MTV was basically the only game in town. MTV made and MTV took away. It had that much influence. Up until 1984 MTV videos supported music released by the artist. (Until the “Rock Me Tonight” Video by Billy Squier).
Before MTV, most music videos where live recordings, or even studio recordings of bands or singers performing. Then they became little movies and the song became nothing more than a soundtrack. Before MTV, you heard the song on the radio and you made your own movie in your head.
Before MTV, Billy Squier had two Albums that would have made any record company fight over. “Don’t Say No” and “Emotions in Motion” were both double platinum. Squier had 28 hits songs that charted. Then he was forced, perhaps coerced to release the “Rock me tonight” video. Rock me tonight was a hit on the radio . The video was a hit, but more of a left hook that took Squier down, career and all.
Fast forward 24 years. Billy Squier in a recent interview said He listened to his first Album that didn’t chart. “Tell the Truth” (1993) was the 3rd album after the atrocious video that soiled the mind of concert goers and 12″ vinyl buyers. 1993 was the height of the “Grunge” movement in Seattle and Squier was told that Capitol records was not going to support the album. No ads in rock magazines. No MTV interviews, don’t let the door……..
Squier said after decades he listened to “Tell the Truth” and he had such verve as to say that he put on The Beatles’ “Revolver”, Led Zeppelin’s “2nd album” then “Tell the Truth”. He then said: “I felt that “Tell the Truth” stood up well next to those Iconic Rock Albums.
“In short, “I agree”.
In Squier’s defense, I had been given a copy of the cassette back in 1993. I remember playing it a lot. But “Revolver”? Zeppelin’s II”? Is he crazy? So I went on Amazon and bought a copy of “Tell the Truth”. I had forgotten how good this album is.
There is not a thing wrong with this album. I won’t review it as I don’t do album reviews. I will say this: “Had Kurt Cobain not been discovered in an obscure club in Seattle; I believe this album would have charted in the top 10.
If I can use an analogy? Billy, this is one of the best radio pagers ever made.
On a deeper note; be thankful for what you have or had. Life is too short for regrets. I’ve been saying for the last 30 years, if the Beatles were an unknown band in Liverpool playing the music they wrote. Songs we call classics such as “Strawberry Fields” or “Yesterday”; they would never see a record contract. However; if they made the most dreadful “dissonant” unheard of noise and talked trash about a politician, added 16 bars of hate, I’m sure it would go viral.
This is one of my favorite songs on the Album.