(This is a continuation of random addled thoughts in Part 1)
It’s a funny thing, going from fan-boy to band-member. It’s even funnier to be dragged out of nearly 10 years of musical inactivity to tour with a band that’s retiring after 30 years.. and, what’s more, in support of an act that’s showing no sign of retiring after 30 years. What does that mean?
The funny thing about pop music is, it’s meant to be ephemeral, and of its time. It’s the soundtrack to your first kiss, or that long drunken summer night, or any other of the myriad of life experiences that pop adds colour to. It is also somehow inextricably linked to youth – both the desire for or the actuality of. One thing it’s not supposed to be, according to received wisdom, is still around in another hundred years.
Another thing that’s been nagging me lately is the realisation that what we call ‘pop music’ today is an extremely recent phenomenon. Over the last century or so we’ve seen the commoditisation of the ancient urge to sing songs at each other. (It fascinates me how technology at first separated the performer from the audience, and then more recently has separated the performer from their instrument. We don’t even have to hit, scrape, or blow anything to make a pleasant noise any more…)
But I’m sure the fundamental motivation remains the same, even if it’s been abstracted and post-modernised out the wazoo. We tell stories in song, and we entertain ourselves. Be it around a campfire or in Wembley Stadium, this need must be satisfied.
Two little things struck me in Antwerp, which led to a small revelation. First we saw Front 242 roll up in their tour coach, and then when we saw the band Section 25 performing we were surprised to learn that the girl singing up front was actually the daughter of the original singer. (Sad story..)
Then Tom said “They’re like Carnies!” and the lightbulb went off in my head. That’s all we are – performing monkeys, doing our routines for your amusement. For all the pop-star hero-worship, for all the $500 meet-and-greets with obsessive fans – we’re just a travelling circus, entertaining the hometown folks for a night.
(I know this because I was in a circus once too…)
It’s just that somehow, as the juggling act has got more complex (and yes, often more enjoyable and impressive) we’ve forgotten that simple fact. Me entertainer, you audience.
So (speaking as punter now) let’s just let the band come to town, do their show, and move on. If we’re lucky they’ll come back next year with a new act.. but for gosh sakes don’t make them keep doing the same show for 30 years – even Cats didn’t run that long – and no-one likes a tired, bored old clown going through their old routines just to earn enough for the retirement fund.
Now I’m an ex-member of an ex-band and – with no pre-conceptions or expectations – just looking forward to seeing whatever it is Tom might dream up next for my enjoyment and edification. Pass the popcorn!