Season 1 Episode 3(2 of 2): The day that music didn’t die (living in the times of the tribute bands)
We are living in bizarre times when pretend is replaced with words like virtual; where human organs are grown on the backs of pigs; people are able to move prosthetic arms with their minds; and everything on your computer will soon be stored in the Clouds. We are walking among kids who clock more hours in the ‘World of Warcraft’ or playing ‘Rock Band’ than they do living in actual ‘real’ lives. We now have more tribute bands touring then we do have original bands playing their actual original music.
If you were too young to see Led Zeppelin, why not go and see ‘Black Dog’ or ‘The White.’ If dancing the night away to ABBA is your thing, go see ‘Björn Again.’ Can’t afford Rolling Stone tickets? Why not go see ‘Hot Rocks’? Heck I even turned on the TV recently and saw a full TV commercial for a Beatles Tribute show called ‘Rain.’ There are literally thousands of Tribute Artists out there and I happen to think it’s great.
The idea for this article came to me after talking to a huge music buff friend and a guy whose opinion I really respect. This is a guy who literally has thousands of classic LP’s by some of the coolest musicians at his disposal. He had just come back from seeing two amazing shows ‘Toot’s and The Maytals’ and ‘Smiths United’ (a Smiths tribute band). What struck me after talking to him was the fact that he used both shows in the same breath. I know this is a kind of ‘music snob’ thing to think that both bands could be equally ‘entertaining.’ But I have to be honest; it was the first thing that came to my mind. How could a tribute band (who didn’t write their own material) be on the same playing field as a band that wrote and made that material famous to begin with? I’m not saying I’m wrong in thinking that either. But it did leave reason to pause, what about people who are famous whom I like that never wrote any of their own songs (people like Frank Sinatra and Billy Holiday)? I respect them. Then I got to thinking how easy it is for music fans to be cynical or judgmental about the bands they actually like.
Take for example ‘The Sex Pistols.’ We longed for the day that they would get back together. My friends would spend tons of money buying horrible sounding bootlegs just for the chance to hear a band that they love. Documentary after documentary would talk endlessly about how they never received the respect that they deserved the first time around. The moment they come out (their very first show) we accuse them of cashing in and blame them for not being angry young teenagers anymore. Long for the day that Peter Gabriel gets back into his flower costume and tours again with Genesis. But I can tell you the second he did, the exact moment he walked out on stage, we would cut him to shreds for being unoriginal (or a 1000 other reasons). We demand that our heroes both reinvent themselves and stay the same. We tell bands like ‘the Cars’ to stop putting out mediocre albums and put out album that sounds like their first album then when they do we say “Too bad.”
In fact there is a brand new trend that is starting to hit the touring circuit where bands like Devo or the Pixies, cover their most famous albums complete from beginning to end but live. I’ve seen them both and I have to say that it really works. Do I wish that they had another ‘Duty Now for the Future’ or “Doolittle” in them? You bet. But I’m sure they would pull it off if they could.
We should be happy that we can go see AC/DC cover bands like ‘Live Wire’ or ‘BC/DC’ in small venues. Be happy with seeing guys giving their best night after night replicating the show that you have always wanted to see. Are they the same as seeing the original band during their heyday? No, but nothing is; be glad that life moves on.
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