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The Accident of Modern Music

    OK, this is a history lesson but most unbelievable, however you can read modern history and most of this page can be proven. CB writes this from memory as CB was 12 or 13 when The Beatles released their first single, Love Me Do. Now, in 1960 the record companies never put money into bands, they backed solo artists as it was cheaper. They put no money whatsoever into song writers. When Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote a new song, they gave it to Dionne Warwick, she cut it and it went to number one. Immediately, Cilla Black would cut the copy and she got the number one in England, this was how dire the business was. So, now we can see that if anyone came along who was different, the vacuum in the music business was so massive, the newcomer was more or less guaranteed success beyond their wildest dreams. Enter The Beatles. Brian Epstein was the owner of a record shop in Liverpool and he was a homosexual. He was completely enamoured with John Lennon and he negotiated to be the manager of The Beatles. He vowed to make them a big name in music and went to London to sell them into a record contract. He knocked on every door and was refused but, one day, he went to EMI and met an A&R man there who we are told was of the same persuasion. It appears that they were going to be "friends with benefits" but Brian insisted that he sign The Beatles and so it was done. In those days EMI had bought a record label called Parlophone. It was run by an old guy who promptly had a heart attack and died so EMI asked the studio engineer to "look after things" until they found a new general manager for Parlophone. Now, Parlophone had a niche market releasing all the junk music, comedy records and so on, all the stuff that the old grannies bought but it made a profit and our A&R man put The Beatles into Parlophone and asked their studio engineer, a man called George Martin, to look after them. EMI were not bright enough to see the musical ability of George Martin OR The Beatles so here is where the accident of modern music gained momentum. It was NOT good management, it was a full blunder into what is now our heritage. George Martin put the first single out, followed by the first album which had many covers on it. At some stage, George Martin wanted The Beatles to start their next album (the third one CB thinks). He said, "OK, we will start with this song" to which John Lennon said "Mr. Martin, from now on we only do our own songs". George said "OK, you need 18 songs on tape so we can pick the best 12, have you got that many songs"? John Lennon said "We have about 40 sir and we are still writing". You know the rest.

    The Beatles became the biggest thing ever known in entertainment but they did it because, 1.   Their talent,   2.   The massive hole in the music business,   3.   The musical knowledge of George Martin, so how big an accident was that????? It led to record company insanity where, if you came from Liverpool and could play an instrument, you got a record contract and this led to average Saturday night pub bands getting into the big time. However, other record companies saw the success of The Beatles and realised that their A&R teams had refused them. This became important at Decca, where the A&R men were promised their P45's if they made that big a mistake again. Decca had also just spent a lot of money putting into the studio the latest technology, a 2 track recording system so they could mix the sound for the first time. Now, the first band through the Decca doors who wrote and arranged their own songs was a band whose front man was a guy called Mick Jagger. CB has all The Beatles original release vinyls AND the original release Stones vinyls and, when you play them, there is a smoothness to the Decca sound over and above The Beatles sound. All was not easy for The Beatles, however. When they went to America, the yanks did not like them very much and it was only the personality of Ringo Starr that won the yanks over. There is a result, though, when the management of the record companies saw all this and realised how incompetent their staff were things changed. Bands were given artistic licence over their own work and this gave us the most prolific times ever known in music. From June 1966 to December 1968 we have never had so many songs written and released and the progression was phenominal. Eventually, the accountants regained control because some bands were taking 1 year to cut 1 single and at a cost of over 1M so, in 1969, we got songs from the musical Hair charting and those of us with good ears knew it was all over.

    This would not be so spectacular if it were not an accident repeated in America and the 2 accidents together being the thing that has underwritten our musical heritage.  There was, in Detroit, about 13 guys, mostly black men but some white guys. They would do the phone thing and it was "OK, Joes bar at 10th and Washington, 8 tonight". Then these guys would phone and tell their friends. Now, at 8, these guys would jam, playing riffs they had written and working out the arrangement. About 1.00 AM the bar would shut and the bar owner might throw a few dollars on the table for the players and those players would then go to a studio which we now call Motown. There they would carry on arranging but the bands were all there listening and someone would shout "I want that one" and there you had your next number 1 record. Sometimes Berry Gordy might give the players a few bucks but he was notoriously tight. Smokey Robinson was vice president of Tamla Motown, a label that also had a resident backing vocal band called The Andantes and a resident song writing team which was brothers Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier, responsible for 9 number 1 hits for the Supremes in a 3 year period along with dozens of top 10 hits for others. Things were like that till Stevie Wonder took Berry Gordy on in the courts and won, after which Motown made a disastrous move to LA. If you add together The Beatles, The Stones, The Beach Boys and so on you will still not match the contribution to our music that was made by Motown. So now you can see that this accident has given us all we love today and this record stupidity was repeated in 1969. That is when the music business in America was, once again, on it's arse and the emergence of the "Laurel Canyon" set took music from New York to it's new capital, LA. Crosby Stills and Nash, Dave Geffen, Mama Cass, Jim Morisson and the like all lived in Laurel Canyon as it was a bit up market from Echo Beach  but without them, Linda Ronstadt, the Troubador and so on we would never have had The Eagles so, when reading this page, please realise just how lucky we are for the music we all love. Any comment or criticism should come to CB via this link.

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The JSC Group March 2006