Friday, May 30, 2008

Broken English and Rubber Soul

Pribek said that John Lydon wants to work with Britney Spears.

Most comments said that nothing would come of it besides maybe John getting a happy. Which might be true. But I can't help thinking that something interesting could come from it.

I picked up a copy of Performing Songwriter. Like so many of these kind of magazines, you don't read it because you're a performing songwriter, but because you want to be one. In the news bits section, they have this:
Clive Davis, the behemoth starmaking producer and CEO of the BMG music label, recently mused on star inevitably wanting to craft their own material. Davis, who groomed such stars as Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys and the now independently artistic Kelly Clarkson, said such pop acts should leave the songwriting to the machines that made them. In a recent conversation with Billboard Music and Money Symposium Davis remarked, "The odds are already against you. You have got to go over the best material, and that should win out, not withstanding any track record. I don't care how many No. 1s you [a professional songwriter] have written in the past, have you written a new No. 1? Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra didn't write, and they are among Time magazine's greatest artists of the century.
Of course, that gets to me. How not rock'n'roll is that? But really, it's not Clive Davis' job to be rock'n'roll. It's his job to sell.

But there's a bill of goods that I bought a long time ago. Gary Busey as Buddy Holly explaining that he's the A&R guy taking the songs he wrote to the be arranged by him and then performed by the band he formed and leads. The old way is when the A&R connects songwriter to arranger to producer to "artist" (singer) and musician. The Beatles are good, by this thought, because after the early cover tunes, they did this. The Outlaws, Willie and Waylon and the rest, were cool because they wrote their own material and used their road bands in the studio. Punk was all about the DIY. My heroes have always been songwriters, and they still are today, to mangle Willie's words.

Consider how the pop acts are marketed these days. T-shirts, posters, etc. How is that substantially different from the Beatles when they first came to America? But we know that the same band that knocked out the hits like Meet the Beatles! can create things like Abbey Road and the White Album. (I'm a Stones guy, but I respect what the Beatles did and I like a lot of it.)

I kept hoping for the Spice Girls to break the mold and come up with something interesting. Obviously, they took their money and split well before that happened, but I held out that possibility. And I hold out the possibility for Britney.

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