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Journal Post - February 13, 2012 -

February 13, 2012

The Twitter topic of "Who is Paul McCartney" and why it irks me.

By Christine A Ellis

I did not watch the entire 54th Annual Grammy Awards, but I watched enough of it to see Glen Campbell enjoying the Beach Boys reunion, Paul McCartney singing and Joe Walsh playing guitar on "My Valentine" and Paul McCartney thoroughly enjoying Glen Campbell perform "Rhinestone Cowboy." I missed the bit at the end where Paul McCartney played the Abbey Road medley alongside of Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen, among others. I loved to watch the legends of pop, rock and country enjoying each other more than anything else. It is the admiration of one's peers that is more appreciated than anyone can imagine. The younger generations just don't appreciate the comradery as much as the older generations.

I see it when I watch the "Country's Family Reunion" series on RFD-TV; I see it at tributes and events like the Grammy's. You don't see the younger generations of any kind of music sitting around sharing songs, stories and memories like that. I can't even see them doing it when they get older and feel the desire to reminisce. It used to happen in Hollywood with the big studio dinners, too. Not anymore. It seems to be everyone for themselves and that is it. No generalizations here, these statements do not and will not apply to all of any generation - there will always be those who do and don't enjoy it.

I guess I wish more entertainers did it, because more than any selfish reasons, it preserves history. Those stories are put on tape, film or photographs to present to the future generations. The funny anecdotes, the embarrassing moments, the memorable occasions are preserved. In today's day and age it is hurry up and forget. You're yesterday's news before tomorrow is over. Anything you do beyond your allotted fifteen minutes is too much. You're too old, you're too this, you're too that. There is no variety in modern entertainment in general, but in music specifically the lack of variety means that there is a lack of soul.

The industry embraces technology on the front end of production but is too far behind on the release end to catch up. The front end tools like auto-tune for singers who can't sing well or more specifically at all and coming soon auto-tuned for the lazy guitar player. Everything seems auto-tuned and perfectly pitched and unmatchable. Unmatchable in so much as it cannot be repeated live, thereby disappointing the fans when they learn their favorite artist isn't as great as they have been lead to believe or that all or some of the show is tracked or lip-synced.

Why does that last paragraph matter to this rambling? Because the reason so many people think Taylor Swift can't sing is, well, she isn't auto-tuned. She sings the way she sings and that's that. That was what made country music endearing to generations of porch pickers and family singers - their favorite singers we a little less than perfect, but real and genuine. Paul McCartney doesn't auto-tune either, so I guess that is yet another reason why the kids today don't dig him. He sings in his real voice and whether the kids today know it or not, he along with his band mates in the group The Beatles, changed music history and influenced many, many musicians of all walks of life.

The Beatles were a phenomenon from Britain. Four mopped-headed boys who couldn't buy love or just wanted to hold your hand. They became famous for just being themselves and playing the music they wanted. They didn't need gimmicks or crazy stunts to get noticed. Their PR machine made every girl in the world fall in love with them and every guy want to be them. There is that generalization thing again, I know, but you get the point. They didn't show up in trousers with no backside, they didn't swing from the rafters - well maybe to get free of the screaming girls, but not because they need to get attention.

When you compare the way music fans adored their idols in those days to the way they do these days, you understand why kids today don't know who Sir Paul McCartney is. Except for a select few, most artists are faceless and nameless and their music is just background noise in a commercial, television show or movie. Songs by the Beatles are played somewhere every day. Most people have heard a Beatles song, a Paul McCartney song, whether they know it or not. The Beatles were the 'flavor of the month' for a long time and to some people they still are the greatest band in music history.

History is a funny thing, though. How many music fans today stop and read or listen to an interview of one or more of their favorite artists to find out who influenced them? Probably not as many as you would think. I still do it and I can't imagine being so closed minded that you don't want to hear something old, new or different to expand your musical horizons. You have hundreds, if not thousands, of songs on your iPod but not the Beatles. Not even one song. So you don't know who Paul McCartney is, I understand that life is busy and stopping for thirty seconds to type Paul McCartney into a Google search is too much for you. It is easier to tweet and say "who is Paul McCartney." In the time it took you to write that tweet, you could have learned a little music history. No one said you have to like Paul McCartney, but instead of looking ignorant - look him up in Wikipedia.

Then you can say - why is this old guy still making music? Then I could do another rambling as to why Paul McCartney, or Glen Campbell, or Tony Bennett, or The Beach Boys are still making music. That will be a short ramble, though. The answer is because they can. They are real musicians, with real talent and real desire to make music. They have all the money they need, I'm sure, yet they go out on tour and make records. Why? Because they love music.

I love music, too. All kinds of music. I don't have a favorite genre, I listen to many. I have favorite artists and my preferences do lean to country music. I have studied music all through my school years and continued learning after I got out of school. If I could I'd have my Mom and Dad's stereo at my house, with all of their records, tapes, 45's and 8-tracks. Yeah I can get some of it digitally, but it isn't the same. I still buy and listen to vinyl records. I'd give anything to still be able to play 8-tracks. I still have hundreds of cassettes. My primary listening choice is digital today. My playlists go on for days and contain a thousand or more songs. My digital library through my Rhapsody subscription ranges from classical to hillbilly music circa the 1930s to the Motown and Philly Sound classics I grew up on. All my favorite hits from the seventies and eighties are there too. Hundreds of years of music is at my fingertips. But I know I am the exception to the rule. I am not a typical music listener targeted by today's music industry.

I don't buy all the hot artists just because they are on top of the charts. I don't have peer pressure. I don't buy crappy music because it is the next big thing. I buy and listen to music because, get this, I like (or love) the songs and the music. Therefore, I know who Paul McCartney is and his significance in the music world. I don't think the Beatles sucked and I know that there are people out there who don't like or never liked the Beatles. Those opinions I can respect and agree to disagree with. But in our 'got to have it now' world, we are losing our history in all subjects, not just music history. But entertainment is a throw away item. The fad changes, people move on to the next big thing and the last big thing is a footnote on a web page somewhere forgotten and lost.

That irks me. It really irks me that if you are old, you don't matter anymore. Really irks me.

PS: I applaud, as many have done, Dave Grohl's acceptance speech for the Foo Fighter's Grammy win. Music should be real. Music should have a soul and be played with passion for the love of making music. Bravo and well done. I don't listen to the Foo Fighters, but I know who they are and I like the way they think.

PPS: I don't know every band or artist from every genre, but I am willing to learn and not just write them off because I don't know who they are or because I don't like what they do. A well-rounded opinion is formed when you educate yourself about a topic. I am not a fan of the crazy getups or neurotic ways, but I like Lady Gaga's music. I am confused by the Black Eyed Peas and Nikki Minaj. I have heard lots about Bon Iver, but never his music or what he looked like. There is a place in the world for all kinds of music, some you like, and some you don't. But I don't jump on Twitter and say who is this or that, I jump on Google and find out - then I say what the???

I know I ramble and I know I get, angry if you will. But what will the future be like if no one preserves the past? If no one learns from past triumphs and past falters, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes rather than the successes. Rather than reinventing the wheel, how about we just listen and learn. The Grammy's bring out the best and the worst in the music industry. Most award shows do. Multi-genre awards shows fail to truly represent each type of music and all types of music. But that is virtually impossible when you think about it logically. What they can do, is preserve history and educate future generations on the people and music that has come and gone, and the music that still lives on for generation after generation.

~Christine A Ellis