All in all, we’re just another blog in the Wall. Ich bin ein Webizen.

Celebrity musicians say the darndest things. We’re still reflecting on the layers of meaning in Bob Dylan’s “New records have sound all over them.” And along comes Elton John, to say:

Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet…

I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.

There’s too much technology available.

Why we must close the net [The Sun Online, bastion of journalism that it is]

Darnit, I knew something was screwing up modern music. It’s … CDM! I mean, come on, it’s not like people like me are just sitting around blogging instead of actually making som– Oh. Ahem. See your point.

Okay, in fairness, we’re once again taking something zany out of context. Sir Elton was mainly pointing out that actually being together with people is more fun than just hanging around your computer, and then makes the radical statement that maybe the world would be a better place if people actually did something rather than blogging about it. And, naturally, I kind of tend to agree.

While we’re at it, Bob Dylan turned out to be right, too — modern records do have sound all over them.

Of course, it wasn’t the Internet that was the big culprit — if anything, the Internet is galvanizing online audiences, encouraging collaboration and creative music making, and helping artists resurrect live music. (Just use it in moderation, folks. If you’re looking at those stupid cats enough that you’ve actually lost the ability to play your instrument, you’ve probably gone too far.)

Only one invention had the power to transform a society that made music in their living rooms into one that became largely passive consumers of a few superstar artists. That’d be … the phonograph. It did give us some awesome music, though, so I don’t think we did all bad.

I’m more curious about how we’re tearing down the Internet. I know how we can tear down this tiny little corner of the Internet — digg/slashdot a story enough and even our mighty, new server will come crashing to the ground. Not sure about the rest, though. Ideas?

Sure, everyone wants to complain about the Internet. Yet no one has the balls to build a time machine and stop this guy. Do I smell hypocrisy?
  • Or as one paper apparently commented: "Sir Elton says the Internet has destroyed music, deflecting blame from 'Candle in the Wind.'"

  • Jim

    Yeah, in the article, one piece of "evidence" Mr. John offers is that there are less good records released today versus a pre-internet time:

    “In the early Seventies there were at least ten albums released every week that were fantastic. Now you’re lucky to find ten albums a year of that quality. And there are more albums released each week now than there were then.”

    I think he just comes across as out of touch. I don't think the music today is better or worse than music in the 70s, just different.

    The sheer volume of music released today makes it nearly impossible for one person to hear it all, and, to compound that difficulty, most of the best music is released by smaller independent labels.

    Also, music today is much more diverse than the 70s. Genres like hiphop, electronic, techno, heavy metal, etc. have now come into their own. I think to a certain extent, popular music has become more "specialized."

    One thing that I think technology and the internet has done that is clearly great is allow people who previously could not afford to record and release music to do so. I think of the hiphop coming out of Africa, the insular bedroom records of so many electronic acts, and many more examples.

    The internet has caused a similar shift in other areas too. We no longer have news figures like Walter Kronkite, we've got some guy in Jerusalem with a mini-dv camera. Similarly, we no longer have Elton John, we have a million bedroom artists doing their own thing. The internet and technology has taken the power to make and release media out of the hands of the few, and put it back in the hands of the people. This is a good thing.

  • Good points, Jim. Boy, if there's one thing that drives me nuts, it's the idea that "there's no good music today." You really wonder how people can be such lazy listeners. I have no end of stacks of brilliant music, across all kinds of genres. And I don't even think that music has become as polarized as people claim; a lot of this stuff has diverse influences. And yes, you can't say it's better or worse, but you can definitely say there is more … and likewise, I would say, more good music *recorded* now than there was in the 1970s, music that previously would not have been recorded at all. This could be the beginning of a new golden age, but it requires that we support live music venues at the same time; that seems like the real challenge. So there I'd agree that we need to occasionally get away from our computers, though my computer is generally the device that tells me where great live music will be. 🙂

    @Thomas: rofl.

  • Adrian Anders

    Wait a minute… wasn't old-man John trying to half-ass jump on the hip-hop bandwagon not too long ago? I think the only reason he's against technology is that he's unable to figure out a way to capitalize on it. Maybe if he wasn't so concerned with what was going on in the mainstream (isolated?) he would figure out all the benefits that technology gives us (not just related to music). Like Prince… hell he might not be making Purple Rain these days, but at least he's coming up with innovative ways of getting his music out there, and doing quite well by it.

    Elton John, time to hang it up man and step aside for the new generation. Same goes for all those pop musicians in their ivory towers crying over the internet. It's over, your time has passed, move on.


  • Jim

    Re: supporting live music…

    One thing the internet has done is take distribution (in addition to production) of music out of corporate paws too. While this aspect of the music business is still developing (iTunes being a start), I see the potential for artists to get a bigger piece of record sales.

    In the past, live music provided the means for artists to make a living, but I would like to see that change.

    Of course, the interaction with real people is nice.

  • I wouldn't say that all the older musicians should necessarily "roll over", "hang it up", "step aside", etc.. The potential is there for any person, however old or successful, to remain creatively vital — but the veterans would have to commit to *that* instead of gauging everything they do by the yardstick of excessive commercial success that they've become accustomed to (and spoiled by). In my personal opinion, for example (feel free to disagree), Robert Fripp has managed to keep King Crimson's sound from getting stuck in any particular "golden era" over the past few decades. It's not about mimicking the sound of younger musicians so much as simply having an uncompromising sense of creative focus.

    Peter Kirn makes a good point, that we should take EJ's over-the-top wording with a grain of salt and look for the kernel of truth in it.

  • I think the internet like most other technologies is neither inherently good or bad for music or anything else. It depends on how it is used and certainly there is cases on both sides. But in general I think has had a democratizing effect giving the consumer, indie artists, bedroom producer greater power. If you don't like that it is pretty elitist.

    The internet's capacity to turn people into hermits is no worse than television and at least the internet is a little more interactive. People can forsaken real human interactive for anything including staying at home all day listening to Elton John LP's.

    It used to be that if a great music that wasn't in the mainstream and never rubbed up against your group of friends and found you by word of mouth among that small group(in the grand scheme of things) you'd never found it. Or you would ave to buy something unheard off some review in a music mag. I remember great small acts that never got recorded that I saw just one or twice who's music was gone as my memory faded. Now everyone is recorded for better or worse. You don't have to listen to the worse. I would not want to go back to that. Because of the internet I have found so much great music. I just don't get idea that it would be that music would be more interesting today with out the net. There would be a lot of great stuff with much smaller audiences.

  • @Keith: On that note, Bob Dylan and Elton John were perfectly capable of saying zany, off-the-wall things when they were younger. So, while there's this sort of "You crazy kids!" attitude from them now, I'm not sure even their age is really the point. I for one love hearing from our musical elders. We just have to turn to Dylan and Sir Elton for the occasional weirdness fix.

  • Elton will bloooooow out long before, the internet ever wiilllll….

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  • Shouldn't it be "open the net"? Break free of the net?

    He's just soooooo out of touch.

    His comments have more to do with the large media corporations than anything.

    What about music videos Elton?

  • Elton needs to read

  • anon

    Time to piss you guys off again….

    I think the internet has reduced the ratio of good songs to bad songs, in conjunction with the advances in home PC tech; by making the tools to make music freely available to people who lack the talent to make good music, the drive that used to be a prerequisite… and most importantly the lack of ego, and love for the music, required to know that they aren't that good and should quit for the good of the music and go be an accountant or flip burgers or something far less glamourous than being a 'star'.

    Everyone wants to be a DJ/Everyone wants to be an MC/Everyone wants to be a producer/and thanks to the internet that's what they be.


    I'm with McManus – what about videos? Look at clips like the one from Road to Calabria (to pick a currently prominent example)… seriously WTF… Sure it's great soft porn but since when does that have a damned thing to do with music? (not that 'Calabria is much good anyway with the exception of a good brass loop) It moves units like hell though.

    At the end of the day, the problem is not the internet, or warez/OSS, or cheap Behringer gear, or videos, or consumers that are clueless and pay $$$ for crap, or anything else. It's the same problem with all human tools – we misuse them. The problem is people.

    "A good builder never blames his tools"

  • Donny Wallace

    I only saw parts of the interview on the Drudge Report and I only semi-remember them But I don't think a lot of people really get John's comments. And maybe said comments are interspersed with his ego and so on and some of that is pathetic. His great need for attention. But first of all I was young in the 70s and some of it was sit-com goofy but in past decades of the 20th century people went out in ways they do not even close to as so much today and did things, helped others and even made more of a difference. There weren't walking around with cell phones or ipods and so on like now. When you experience huge amounts of data in short periods- like a lot of entertainment choices brain scans show it causes some anxiety in the mind and you enjoy it less- you don't savor it later on. And as a whole we don't interact as well. But think of it this way- it's not about whether the stuff of the past was better than today that's nostalgia and single minded Top of the Pops trendiness. It's concrete things like in America. It's the after inflation cheaper prices to see better prints (the new film prints were better than today's digital) on bigger screens with more things and with more people who interacted more and not through cell phones. But with the screen. And you got a cartoon where you could savor it not 24 hours a day on the small screen waiting for the good one and a short. Plus door prizes and top musicians live like Frank Sinatra with the girls screeming. And then you didn't have mostly bad chains and Mc. Donalds, and the rests all around you- Radio Shacks and so on. You had a lot more one of a kind places where they provided more things to do and people interacted more and the places were not generic and made to fit with the landscape. Actually people were exposed to more ideas if they wanted to find them but in smaller doses so they could savor them. And the 70s was super diverse- tacky and intellictual and inbetween and people really went out and did a ton of stuff. I was young then very young but I remember there was a real scene all over where I lived and even when ET was big the kids really cheered and so on during it and all that. My father knew what really went on in his day and he would say it's just not fun like it use to be anymore. He travelled with the football band and went to New Orleans for fun and up in the mountains in Latin America and so on.

    But the stuff wasn't so generic like now. Some of it probably seems dippy now but imagine that spirit and diversity of stuff coming back through technology if people can get around the corporations and leave the house. As an example take the Ballanese Room in Galveston, Texas. They had all sorts of one of a kind things around it. I don't know most of the music or whether I would find the stuff cool or goofy as in the that's just opinion stock line. But think of it on just what was provided- very cheap prices due to say Howard Hughes the richest man in the world gambling over the sea. Cheap 5 course meals, the less afflluent were not allowed to gamble due to it looking bad for the Mafia people to allow this. They only went after people who could afford it and played their games against them or however that worked. But you had excellent 5 course meals for cheap. The top celebrities of the day in the crowd up close like Jack Benny and Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope and they talked to you and with the bands. The top bands played and they were the best musicians in the world. This was no greatest hits 2 hour show in a prison with $1000-$2000 scalped tickets to get that close or the struggle to find the one or two good live Indie bands in your area in the small club like the joy of getting to see Deerhoof which I missed and also can only hear Ookie Ookie and their are no lyrics on the net.

    This is Big Bands playing 5-8 hours non-stop with the rotation of 3 singers- one on the level of Peggy Lee. They may play one or two of their hits but then new stuff equal to it and sometimes having to learn it note perfect in less than a day. They had to play together to sound great. The songs were not like the record- they were expanded and in ways that were both spontaneous for the individual musicians and arranged so as not to become noodling and stupid and boring. The dance floor was almost always packed and then the crowd met with the musicians after the show. Sometimes the musicians had breakfast with fans. I mean performers on the level of Frank Sinatra playing this close for almost nothing and a spontaneous non-corporate controlled scene. And you can add this type of atmosphere to all sorts of things including one of a kind events like not today. The circus had single shows in the carnival and the Freaks and the stuff going on- the flea circus not you sitting up at the top of the buildiing with a small view and more interaction with the crowd for example. But I mean in everything. Day camps or parks would have cool bus trips to where ever a lot- even amusement parks and campouts but educational and other stuff. You'd walk home from school and eat at the drug store and buy a comic book and maybe spontaneously see a demonstration or animal showing at the library or whatever like Puppet show and play games out side your house too. But you have to read director Roger Coreman on this and why it's not nostalgia. You could say more easily get help/funding to make a film say and easily stop at motels on the way and it was easier to be creative minus the ease of technology which might in different forms finally bring this back if we actually go outdoors or if we can make a real film entirely from a computer and we wear Virtual Reality helmets for the ability to explore life. Yeah there are the Robert Rodriguezes but they are rare and a product of a lot more connections than they tell you- channels and freebies- including the editing study and an entire town for free for El Mariachi before they spent millions to bump the film closer to standards than its original state. But just film in the old days when Indies could compete with the corps fairly before loophools Max 48 wouldn't be killed. It was a system 1/10 less expensive than digital for the little guy and 500% better quality than the best digital print. Roger Ebert saw the demo for it and said it is like looking at reality. But the corps killed us from getting this film format and system. Plus you could cheaply bumb up old films on it too and they were run at this quality. And we don't talk and relate and go out like before so there are real points to all of this. The people in charge just don't want you to know these things like why Cinemascope was much bigger and better and spectacular than IMAX. That's how they save money, pay lower salaries and make more money and then blame it on the global economy. And by the way they hate the Radio Shacks and Mc. Donald chains they have created. They keep away from them while flying to the 4 stars in Europe on their private jets or showing off on the fields of the top sporting matches and hanging out with the owners of the teams. So support the little stuff that emulates the concrete and universal things that were great about the past. For music in my area one would be a Lutherian Church. For free in a cool concert setting of a cool old looking and 50s looking church they have a top profesional orchestra play the original Bach instruments with pro soloists doing fake Castroti. They have the organ and a choir. They do the prosession and a leader guides the congregation as well. And those parts are in English- so that's a cool Bach deal and then you find stuff in all things on this level of DIY and get active in the community- and so on- but I think this is what Elton is trying to say in his own way. They use to have Beatnik districts of clubs with Charlie Parker playing for $1-$3 max and cool edgey theater and Jazz/rockish pop with guys painting during the show and other stuff going on and on the street guys performing with vantrilloquist dummies and off the wall stuff and you'd have lots of this stuff. In my day it's much more chains and cinemaplexes with an hour of ads. More than before. Then you get for a while water slides going around the cars on the freeway type stuff and then this place becoming the Butthole Surfers show for $10 and the cars driving around it. Or Lollapaluzza 1 for $15 with the Helicopters and bon-fires and blanket tossing and free speech but getting hot and dirty too and expensive water and food.

    And this is only entertainment. Or in the past the top cartoonists would be there at the national level art gallery and sign you works they'd do for you and no lines or Dennis Hopper would show his work and take you out on a bus after the film and blow up stuff for you. It's not your type of joy maybe but within that was a lot of different things to do and not corporate chain uncool stuff and people being active and helping others in ways they don't today- not charity work per se but maybe that too but just talking to you and helping those in front of them more. So on universal levels in some ways John has a point. Video games the good ones at least are very cool and so is the internet but in balance with doing things and diverse things and being cool. Not just finding the names and titles of stuff on the internet but more tangible expeirences. You do that much stuff on the net and your brain can't process or savor it anyway although you can get cool stuff off the net and it can be a starting point for new stuff too- maybe a new better version of the old will come out of a newer better internet when the old one is torn down.

    I just remember that in the 70s while it my have been goofy in many cases people really went out and spilled into the p-lots and honked at others on the road and there was a lot more and more unique less same chain every 5 minutes things to do as well. It's not dead now and there are real cool things but you have to look harder and DIY more than before and stick to your list and move from one thing to the next. And throw in stuff like a cool Sushi joint say for food more or it's one CVS after another or the intemized dining experience where they try to get the chick to order expensive bottles of wine that don't really make them more happy. Of course back then you could say have any animal in the world and people would sell them at the stores so wild things went on that weren't reported in the papers so much and out of the 24 hour news. But apparently you ingnored the dark side and moved on- now that side has crept into everything.

    I guess that's good and bad but maybe we can have a cooler version of this way of life later when the technology is good enough that the corps can no longer use it to create a few chains and keep as at home. And cities like Austin, TX still have this kind of spirit and lots of one of a kind places to go in a relatively small area that are built to look cool and match the great scenary. It's a little hippie but everything is centeralized and then the outdoors with the natural swimming hole they made and so on which is cool. But then that's why the college students love Austin- it has the kind of spirit of the past John talks about although a little too hippy for me but also arty and vintage and funny. But that lots of one of a kind places type of deal.

  • Donny Wallace

    Wow was it really that long and not even edited- but in some ways John does have his point….

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