Saturday, March 8, 2014

3 comments Phil Mushnick and Mitch Albom Want You Off Their Lawn With That Loud Modern Music

Mitch Albom and Phil Mushnick crave the old days in music. Phil craves the times when marching bands play at halftime and Mitch misses the Beatles, though they have been gone for over 40 years and 50% of the members are dead. Either way, music today just doesn't measure up to music from the good old days. This is something every adult has said for the last 100 years so it's obviously true. I will start off first with Phil Mushnick missing a marching band performance at the Super Bowl halftime. I personally hate marching bands because they are part of a parade and I hate parades. Parades seem very useless to me. It's just a group of people walking down a street slowly and I'm not sure why this should interest me, but I recognize it interests other people.

I’m about to waste your time and mine by making a Super Bowl suggestion so sensible that it’s completely out of the question, even laughable:

Bruno Mars' halftime show got higher ratings than the Super Bowl itself. So this sensible suggestion of Phil's isn't sensible and only laughable in that the current halftime format (which I admittedly rarely watch) seems to work well for the majority of people. Just because I don't watch it doesn't mean it doesn't work.

Instead of sustaining this protracted course in which Super Bowl halftimes have become pop-culture musical variety shows for tapered target audiences and with performances often infused with dubious value, why not restore and reward a great tradition of football by allowing marching bands to perform?

Because it's not 1967 and viewers won't watch to watch a marching band perform. It's bad enough the Super Bowl tends to get older, safer acts to the point I would fully expect a hologram of Frank Sinatra to perform at next year's Super Bowl, but few things are going to turn an audience off faster than watching a marching band. Sorry, I think it's true. The Super Bowl wants to keep their audience, not lose it to alternative programming.

Not just any marching bands, but to borrow from an old song, the best bands in the land!

Not to dump on marching bands, but I'm guessing the typical Super Bowl viewer cares as much about seeing the best marching bands in the world perform as they would care to see the two best chess masters squaring off at midfield during halftime.

And rather than risk being dismissed as an old-timer who doesn’t regard, say, twerking, as appropriate for a national audience tuned in to watch a ballgame, I first wrote this Super Bowl marching band suggestion years ago.

Nobody twerked during the Super Bowl, buddy. Bruno Mars put on a pretty good show and the Red Hot Chili Peppers showed up long enough to remind the viewers why they weren't the main halftime show. It's Anthony Keidis' mustache. No one wants to see that for 15 minutes during halftime.

In, for example, the marching bands of Ohio State University and Southern University (the “Human Jukebox”) marching band, we’re blessed with two of the most entertaining and spellbinding acts ever to respond to a whistle.

I appreciate marching bands that are good at their job, but the NFL has tried marching bands at halftime only to lose viewers to alternative programming. So from a programming perspective it doesn't make sense to have marching bands at halftime. That's what the halftime show is all about, keeping viewers from turning the channel.

OSU’s is a massive, high-tech operation that blows minds with its fantastic full-field reenactments of such things as a Mickey Mouse — scores of marching musicians form Mickey and take him for a walk — to an end zone-to-end zone Pac Man game. One watches in awe, applauds in awe.

I fell asleep just hearing about this. It's nothing against the technical aspect of marching bands that's the problem, it's that viewers aren't going to tune into watch a marching band and will go to alternative programming. If Phil Mushnick doesn't understand this then he shouldn't be writing about sports entertainment for a living. 

I have never seen a fan at a football game walk out on or cease watching a good marching band — even if it means saving the bathroom for the start of the third quarter.

Then Mushnick must have not attended a football game in the last 20 years. I'm leaving at halftime to take a piss if I have to go to the bathroom. Also, it's not the fans at the game who would turn off the marching band. They have paid for a ticket and are sort of stuck as a result. It's the viewers on television who just have to use this modern technology called "the remote control" to go to another channel for 20 minutes.

And I have seen fans double-back — abandon their trip to the food and drink stands — after catching a glimpse of a good marching band.

(Deep sigh) Again, if Phil doesn't get that the halftime show isn't about those fans attending the game and that it is about the viewers at home then he is terribly incompetent at his job and perhaps should be fired. Maybe he could travel all around the country and watch the marching bands he enjoys watching so much. It's about viewers at home, not the fans at the game.

The likelihood of a marching band halftime performer intentionally grabbing at his crotch — as did Michael Jackson in 1993 — or the staging of a female breast jailbreak — Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, 2004 — is small.

There are ways to have a "family" Super Bowl halftime show without losing 50% of the viewers.

As family entertainment goes, the above marching bands are successfully designed to thoroughly entertain your families, as opposed to the Manson Family.

I think the best sign that Phil Mushnick isn't dealing with reality and is living in a non-existent past is that he just dropped a "Manson Family" reference. It's not the family that needs to be entertained halftime, it's the guy at home with the remote control.

But again, no shot. That’s not how America rolls these days. We roll downhill, faster and faster and faster.

Yes, the prevalence of halftime shows with such current troublemakers like Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen is a sure sign America is going downhill faster and faster. What would Ed Sullivan say if he saw these rowdy hooligans performing at the biggest football event of the season?

I hope the NFL does get a marching band next year. I hope that marching band is from Ohio State and I hope that marching band does a formation that ends up forming a penis and a breast with the marching band dotting the nipple of the breast. What would Phil say then?

Then Mitch Albom tells us why the Beatles are still the best. When Mitch isn't too busy attacking the service industry or giving a lecture on caring, Mitch is jamming to "She Loves You." Maybe if a few members of the service industry would sing a few bars of "When I'm Sixty-Four" then Mitch would not treat them like shit.

This past week marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” There were TV specials and nostalgic articles. And if I were in my teens today, I might ask, “What’s the big deal?”

Actually my response is that the Beatles were a great band, but a band that is remembered mostly through nostalgia to where the band serves more as a cultural milestone rather than a band who made great music. Yes, they made great music and some crappy music, but nostalgia!

So let me explain why the Beatles actually are worth commemorating. Let’s start with this: Fifty years later, their music is still better than today’s.

This is an opinion, not a fact. Let's start with that.

Yep. I said it. I won’t take it back. If Katy Perry wants to argue, bring it on. If Lady Gaga takes exception, I’ll raise it. If Justin Bieber wants to …

Forget it. That’s not even fair.

I'm not sure anyone who isn't a teeny-bopper would argue that any of these artists are better than the Beatles. Also, I doubt any of these artists know who Mitch Albom is so they would not argue.

The Beatles were better. Their song construction, their melody lines, their harmonies, their lyrics, their inventiveness,

You mean they were inventive in the way they stole a whole bunch of shit from blues artists before them (as did many other bands) and invented the era of boy bands?

their breakthrough use of symphonic instruments — all done at a time when if you got it wrong, you had to record the whole thing again, you couldn’t just fix it with a computer key — combine to make the seven years the Beatles recorded together the richest production of pop music ever created by a group.


They were great for a short period of time. I prefer my bands to be together a little bit longer, as well as put out music for longer than a four year period that I wouldn't classify as "boy band" music. And yes, I think the Beatles were a boy band at first, but did they later branch out.

And, let’s admit it, there has been hysteria since then. Heck, the Monkees had it at their concerts. So did the Osmonds, Jackson 5, David Cassidy, Menudo, Hanson, Boyz II Men and Bieber.

None of their music resonates the same way.

Partially because there aren't middle-aged white men sportswriters writing about going to see the Jackson 5, David Cassidy, or Hanson in concert. The Beatles had fans in men and women and many Baby Boomers are still writing and keeping the nostalgia for the Beatles alive. There's nothing wrong with this, it's just the music resonates now because it resonated then with people who are in a position to write to a large audience.

Also, it makes sense that Mitch Albom, who is in his mid-50's doesn't think Hanson's music resonates like the Beatles music does. This isn't really telling me anything.

You see, young person, what the Beatles did was take their influences — Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Elvis — and morph them all into their own early sound. Songs like “From Me to You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” were bright, tight and catchy rock ’n’ roll, but they were wholly different from other songs coming out.

The fact the Beatles were different when they came out doesn't mean no other band has made music wholly different from other songs that have come out since then.

When mimic bands began popping up, the Beatles quickly moved into more significant and signature work, songs you really couldn’t imagine anyone else doing. “Here, There and Everywhere.” “Norwegian Wood.” “Drive My Car.”

What other band can Mitch imagine singing "Mmmmbop," "Motown Philly" or "End of the Road"? I'm just asking for the sake of argument. I can't imagine another bad singing those songs.

Three years after the suits, ties and mop-top haircuts of the Sullivan show, they were exploring corners of pop music no one had ever tried, creating thematic albums like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Magical Mystery Tour” that featured French horns and trumpets and timpani drums. Later, they would bring in sitar music. Cellos. Violas. Listen to “Eleanor Rigby” — released in 1966! — and tell me, what other artist of their time could have done that?

I don't think anyone would argue the Beatles didn't create a lot of interesting and good music, but the fact they created good music 40+ years ago doesn't mean there has been no music in the interim that was just as inventive nor does it mean their music is better than any other band who has ever put out music.

yet it is catchy and memorable and people around the world still sing the line, “Ahhh, look at all the lonely people,” which is probably more poetic than anything Kanye West ever has written.

Though Mitch Albom doesn't know because he's not familiar with Kanye West's music. He just knows the Beatles music is better because that's his position and doesn't care to question whether it's true or not. It's his reality, so it must be true.

yet they never stopped creating rock ’n’ roll (“Back in the USSR”) or folk song satire (“Piggies”) or cabaret-like melodies (“When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”) or achingly beautiful ballads like “Blackbird” or “Something” or “Let It Be.”

Honestly, if a band just recorded those last three songs, couldn’t it retire?

If a band just recorded those last three songs they would be a band that only got played on easy listening stations. Those are all non-rocking songs. So if the Beatles only recorded those three songs they would be better known as a band called Bread and played only alongside Dan Fogelberg.

And while they never played as a foursome after 1970, people know their songs 44 years later, they can sing along with dozens — not one — and they are remade as often as someone gets up the courage.

Apparently someone gets up the courage every other day, because the Beatles have been covered a lot.

I can tell you as a former musician who played in countless cover bands, you always shied away from doing Beatles tunes, because their sound was so unique, the audience inevitably found fault with your version.

Mitch, it could just be that your countless cover bands sucked. And what would the common denominator in these bands be? You.

But the fact that so many big artists have recorded “Yesterday,” “Michelle” or “And I Love Her” — to name a few — shows the timelessness of John Lennon’s and Paul McCartney’s songwriting.

How many other artists will record a Lady Gaga, Kanye West or Katy Perry hit? They won’t, because those are often great records, not great songs.

Yeah, no one covers Lady Gaga. 

No one at all. 

While I respect the Beatles, the fact their songs get covered repeatedly is the result of their cultural impact and doesn't necessarily mean their music is better than music that has been made since they broke up.

Play the single notes of “Yesterday” on a piano or a guitar, it’s still beautiful. Play the single notes from “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, it sounds like torture.

Again, this is an opinion. To a generation who grew up on Eminem's music, the single notes from "Lose Yourself" are recognizable and beautiful in it's own way. 

So we’re not crazy, young person, not foolishly nostalgic, nor lost in the past.

And yet, this column is based entirely on nostalgia for a time that Mitch believes to be better than present time, which again, is something nostalgic adults have probably been doing for 100 years now. Fans of Bob Wills thought Chuck Berry's music was not very good, fans of Elvis didn't think the drug-fueled music from the 60's was very good, fans of 70's music didn't think the synthesized music of Depeche Mode and the arena rock of Def Leppard was real rock and roll, fans of Bon Jovi and the Eagles didn't understand the draw of grunge, and fans of Dave Matthews Band don't think Katy Perry is real music either. It's how it goes. 

We were just blessed to have a truly great musical band to soundtrack our younger years, one that is not embarrassing to listen to today. 

It is embarrassing to dismiss all good music since that time and say simply because the Beatles have been covered frequently this means their music is better than any other band's music since then. The only thing that should be embarrassing is to write a column where you lie, but Mitch Albom would never do that.

Is that worth a small fuss 50 years later? As the Beatles might answer, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Just because it's worth remembering them 50 years later doesn't mean the music back then is better than music that has been made since then. 


Crazee said...

The Beatles have more of their songs covered than modern acts because...they've been around 50 years. That's multiple generations of artists who could choose to cover a classic song.

It is true that modern songs get covered, but...most cover songs tend to be of older songs. So, does anyone really expect an artist that's been out five years to have a lot of their songs covered? That makes no sense at all. The better comparison would be comparing the Beatles to other legendary groups/artists Elton John or something. It's not a fair comparison at all.

I appreciate the Beatles, but I'm tired of all the 60's children who grow up to control EVERYTHING who can't let go of glorifying their formative years. It's the same thing with the endless breathless coverage of hippies and woodstock and whatever. I'm tired of it. Let me be.

Anonymous said...

"I have never seen a fan at a football game walk out on or cease watching a good marching band"

This is akin to saying, I can't believe Romney lost, everyone I know voted for him! You don't know everyone in the world, dipshit.

I hate when people write about music, because they inevitably turn their opinions into fact. Everyone thinks that because they hear something a certain way, that that must be the truth and anyone who disagrees is wrong or crazy. There's a lot of popular music today that I don't like, but I try to preface it by saying "I don't like," meaning it's my opinion. I'm also self-aware enough to know this makes me a dinosaur, and I should not writing a column for the Detroit Free Press proclaiming to the world what a dinosaur I am.

Bengoodfella said...

Crazee, it makes sense to compare the Beatles to their contemporaries and not a bunch of artists who have been around for less than a decade. I'm surprised Mitch Albom doesn't write a book called "The Two Beatles you Meet in Heaven."

But Woodstock was so great and the Beatles are the best band in the world. I appreciate the Stones much more than I appreciate the Beatles. I think they are both great bands, but at this point I think the Beatles get by on nostalgia more than anything else. I guess the Stones do a little too, but either way, the Beatles aren't around anymore. They were great, but so were so many other bands that aren't revered like the Beatles are.

Anon, I don't really like any of the bands or artists that Mitch mentioned who are more current. Still, parents hated the Beatles back in the day like Mitch hates Katy Perry now. Music is very subjective. I prefer the Faces and the Stones to the Beatles. It's just me.