Tuesday, March 11, 2008

10 Stages of a Punk Band's Career

Lee Templeton forwarded this from The Guireans' correspondence to her from their sun-challenged corner of the Isles off of but part of Scotland. I figured for those of us of a certain age, younger than Hilary, older than Chelsea, it'd ring true. With Obama but five weeks younger than me, I don't know if he was into the new wave craze when attending (for two years before he decamped for Columbia) Occidental-- the little Stanford, and as dappled with the liberal arts PC rainbow-hued hue-- with all those sweatshop-free clad preppies and deserving youth of color from usually privileged backgrounds nonetheless who mingle on that very pricy campus only a few miles away from my house.

[Aside about Barack: I'd been wondering about the absent father, and why nobody in the popular press, at least in the common run-of-the-mill coverage I peruse, details what happened. I found out from John Spain's column in the Irish Voice (to save money, to which I am about to let expire!) what I had not learned in the American puff pieces.

Obama's father married his mother at 18, left her at 20, fathered eight more children, married three more times (without divorcing any of them), lost his legs due to a drunk driving accident, and died when Barack was 21 in another such crash. Obama Sr. left his first child, a baby, along with his first wife when she was 18. He went to Hawaii, where he married Obama's mother. He left her not to due to racism as his son intimates in writing so much as the fact Ann discovered Obama senior already was married. So, back to wife #1; he sired two more children with her before other women beckoned. Even after his legs were amputated, he produced child #8. He died before he could marry that baby's mama. (Thanks to the March 1, 2007 entry on the now presumably defunct website "Evangelicals for Mitt" that helpfully if ironically points out another case of a candidate with a polygamist in the family tree! Apparently paternal hijinks became bowdlerized or omitted from Obama's own autobiographies, unsurprisingly. These have raked in $1.6 million so far for him.)

John Spain, in his typically iconoclastic manner, proposed an intriguing argument, that not Black America but "white" or at least Hawaiian multicultural America truly fathered Obama, who unlike his wife, say, is not a product of the African-American (hyphen intentional) milieu. Only at Columbia did he choose to identify more with it. Or, as a black student explained to us in a class discussion, it's not so much that Barack wants to be seen as black; it's the African-American establishment that will not let him be seen any other way. Intriguing perspective. I wonder what Obama senior would have made of all this, son himself in turn of a goat farmer, he earned a Ph.D. in economics from the Ivy League.]

Back to raucous stereo speakers the size of packing crates. Headphones bulbous. Turntables crackling. Heavy boxes of vinyl. Such were college days for some of us-- if not for the unmatriculated bands who served as our soundtrack. At least 1980 Obama, if not 1970 Hilary, had "access to proper drugs, probably." Leave Bill out of this. He only inhaled, as shrewd then as Barack now, I bet. See below for context.

On 09/03/2008, The Guireans wrote:
Huidh huidh, wait a minute...

What's this nonsense about The Guireans not being the originators of Gaelic Punk???

>a) this '79 video gives the lie to their current claim as inventors of
>Gaelic punk as that Sheep Purple cover is full-on stadium rock

As any fool knows, this video actually dates from 1980. By which time we had "progressed" from our earlier punk roots and sold out, man. This was a fairly typical career arc for top bands of the period - The Jam, The Undertones, The Clash, SLF et al. The key points were:

1) Formation of a band characterised by musical ineptitude but fired with
inspirational punk enthusiasm, originality and a "year zero" attitude to previous groups.
2) Critical acclaim
3) Major label involvement and massive chart success
4) Artistic disorientation caused by pressure of 3) + access to proper drugs, probably.
5) Inability to write any more good songs.
6) Seizure of creative control by producer/manager/record company,
7) Increasingly gratuitous overproduction (usually involving brass sections),
8) Total collapse in creativity and a final ignominious split. Then some crap solo projects, typically poor 80s imitations of material by the earlier bands rubbished at Step 1
9) A gap of many years, during which the band members discover they're no good at anything else.
10) Reformation for the money. Usually about 20 years later.

The genius of the Guireans and our intimidating manager Coinneach "Peat(er) Grant" Livingstone was that we optimised this classic late 70s Punk/New Wave business model by proceeding directly from Step 1 to Step 8. What's more we made the whole process even more efficient by removing the "enthusiasm", "originality" and "money" bits of the remaining steps.

Why don't more bands do it the Guireans' way?

Chearaidh an dradhars
The Guireans

Image I found by googling "punk sell out": CoolZOr, a Marketing Trends blog. 21 Aug. 2005. "The Poor Work Harder & other leads." A London initiative pays off.

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