When and where was the last time you encountered some music that really made an impression on you ? You know what I'm talking about, the kind of stuff that makes your mouth hang open involuntarily like a "Big Mouth Billy Bass", (how much precious landfill space worldwide are those millions of animatronic piscine-spawn-of-Justin Timberlake - if there has to be a "Satan", no matter how unlikely the whole concept may be, I nominate the mediocre-beatboxing, peachfuzz-bearded, 'even-whiter' Michael Jackson-clone - responsible for? If you're unfortunate enough to own one of these monstrosities - Billy Bass, not JT...although it could be appropriate for him, too - you might fancy a go at trying this. Or if you're less electronics-minded, how about some 'mallet therapy'* instead?), then fills you with a burning desire either to grab your instrument-of-choice and try to play along, or immediately list all your musical gear on ebay and take up bonsai gardening.
For me, this has been occurring on an almost-daily basis, virtually every time I log in to my MySpace site. I've only been signed-up for a touch over 3 months, but already the diversity and quality of incredibly talented musicians I've come across have been far greater than I ever expected. Cool (often ambient, sometimes ..er..not ) looping from Singapore, France, Sweden & London, powerful symphonic metal from Finland & Italy (I was entirely clueless that these two nations seem to be locked in a titanic struggle for the "None More Rock" world title), and numerous gifted solo instrumentalists from all over the place...and that's just a few of the folk on my "friends" list. (For anyone who's reading this on my "Mid-Life Bassist" blog, I can't recommend checking out these people highly enough. Previously undiscovered delights and wonders abound...and you might even find some of my stuff passably tolerable, too ).
This is, of course, only a highly self-selecting & very shallow scraping of the surface of what's out there on the internet, but it serves to highlight the relative paucity of choice offered to us by mainstream music stores and radio broadcasting here in the UK. I know there are a few radio shows devoted to a more eclectic and interesting mix of music, but these are few and far between - and "Late Junction" on BBC radio 3 should now be called "Far-Too-Bleedin'-Late Junction", since they've shoved it back to an 11.15pm slot, damn their eyes! (oh, and their ears - it is radio, after all) . (In case anyone was unaware, radio is still an incredibly popular medium - possibly thanks to the expansion of digital stations - even if they do seem to be 14 varieties of 'vanilla' - with 91% of the adult population tuning in for an average of just under 2 hours a week - Rajar).
We've long been far too obsessed with what is supposedly "cool", being ironically 'knowing', wearing the right shoes (not to mention being seen in the all the right re-hab clinics). Then there's the current crop of identikit bland guitar bands, such as the Kasabi-Razor-Athlete-Chiefs, who sadly blend into each other with ridiculous ease without ever saying anything insightful (I'd never expect 'originality' - with the sheer volume of rock 'n' roll music that's been created in the last 50 years, that would be an unfair demand to place on the 'commercial' market), or even coming up with a single decent guitar solo between them.
What fascinates me most, perhaps, about this going-global-through-technology phenomenon is the question of who constitutes your audience? When I was in my late teens and early 20's, I spent a lot of time on trains and in railway stations, and I'd regularly wonder about who all these other people travelling like me were, where they were going, what lives they lead - people whose faces you'd see for a few brief moments as you pulled-out, or as your trains passed in opposite directions. Imagining what it felt like to be a rock star, (ahh, the dreams of youth again! ), with thousands (or millions - hey, it was a dream, why not make it a big one!) of people you'd never know, or even meet, who owned your music, feeling that it meant something special, something personal to them. Record-company-funded touring does, of course, provide some small degree of audience contact (or perhaps a great deal of extremely intimate contact, depending on the artist/band concerned), but now it's easily possible to have a truly worldwide fan base without ever possessing the means to travel to meet any of them. This could, arguably, bring a greater degree of "detachment" than before, although not having a personality-cult to call my own (yet!), I'm not in the best position to judge.
I must admit that in a vaguely related (but very minor & insignificant) way, I'm very curious as to who is actually bothering to read these blog entries...? (MySpace claims there are one or two of you - assuming its stats are at all reliable). As a result, I couldn't resist attaching Google Analytics on my Blogspot page - it doesn't reveal any sensitive/personal info, honest - which enables me to see where on the planet people are visiting from, (not that most of them hang around to read it for very long - it tells you that kind of ego-crushing data, too...! ), although it does tend to clump folk into the nearest 'city', even if it's a good 20 miles away or more...
So I'd like to end with a small request - if anyone's persevered and read down as far as this, please would you leave a comment saying who you are (pseudonyms are cool), and where you're located. Any criticism welcomed (I know I'm an acquired taste ), but only if you've got the time and feel like making the effort.
*'Mallet Therapy' (tm) is my own small contribution to medical science, developed in collaboration with my wife, who is a physiotherapist. It's a system of drug-free pain relief to be utilised when all conventional therapeutic approaches have failed. You simply locate the afflicted area/joint/limb/etc, then vigorously apply a large mallet to the patient with significant force, until all the original pain sensations have disappeared. Has been found to be particularly effective in treating cases of severe malingering. May have minor side-effects, such as bruising, bleeding, double vision, etc, but these are only temporary, and should not require more than 2 or 3 days of intensive hospital treatment to eradicate.