Monday, December 2, 2019

Billie Eilish/Van Halen | Lefsetz Letter

She doesn’t know the band. And Twitter is going WILD! I saw “Van Halen” was trending so I clicked through to see if a band member had died. Then I was exposed to this war that will live and die online and most people will never be aware of.

But this is not a diss of Van Halen. It’s a diss of a home-schooled seventeen year old “rock” star and rock itself.

You see Eilish has no need to be aware of rock history. Music has moved in a different direction.

It’s not because Van Halen is old. Hell, the British bluesmeisters, everyone from Peter Green to Jimmy Page, Cream to the Stones, were all influenced, inspired by, the Delta bluesmen from decades before. They wanted to go deeper, some ripped off the originals, a whole movement was generated, the post-Beatle era grew out of this direct connection of the U.K. to the Delta. Hell, teens used to be aware of Robert Johnson, and Bonnie Raitt constantly trumpeted the progenitors, still does. But is anybody in rock inspiring the younger generation of musicians? NO! Because the rock today is derivative, unoriginal, as if the basics were irrelevant. The British bluesmeisters added some riffs, some heaviness, but they didn’t speed the numbers up to near-Chipmunk speed with bad vocals. I mean you’ve got to have hooks, and is there anything wrong with verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge? Is there anything wrong with chorus/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge?

It’s like we’ve lost the wheel, or forgotten how to make fire. Rock was based on melody, changes… Hell, Deep Purple, owning one of the most famous riffs of all time, had more melody in their music than what passes for today’s rock…and although they featured various frontmen, one thing’s for sure, they could all SING!

Meanwhile, Adele sings songs with melody and becomes boffo at the b.o. As we’re supposed to think rockers are “dangerous,” because they have tattoos and big hair.

As for the veneration of youth…

Jimmy Page had spent years as a studio musician. The Beatles spent years woodshedding in Germany. What is this extreme focus on youth about? To the point where the Spotify Top 50 is actually a sideshow, check concert grosses if you doubt me, they’re dominated by classic acts at the top and anything but hip-hop and youth at the bottom, never in the modern era has there been such a disconnect between the recording industry and the public. It’s as if the hip-hop/youth fans are the 30% who will support Trump no matter what, and the brain-dead media just primes the pump with inane hype and the printing of the “Billboard” chart, just like the mainstream media telling us the Democrats can only win with a centrist…Trump is not a centrist, and he won, isn’t there a message there? Maybe that not only does the center not hold, but that it doesn’t even exist?

Today it’s about the penumbra, the trappings, the music is just a vehicle to brand expansion, wealth. But the dirty little truth is you can’t get that rich in music, if you want to make money there are much easier ways paying much larger dividends with much shorter odds.

And if you ask any of today’s “rockers” they all know Van Halen, it’s just that today’s rock is so small as to almost be unfindable… Not only have the rockers lost the plot musically, they’re anti-technology, Spotify is the devil…huh?

But Van Halen was a long time ago. Baby boomers will finally have to let go, and their Gen-X brethren shortly thereafter. They’re making new people every day, and they’re starting from scratch. Hell, I went to someone’s house and the girls were singing the songs they grew up with, the theme songs of TV shows from 2008! Ponder that one. As for the newer songs they sang…most of this pop dreck I don’t know and don’t care about, but they do.

Yup, we’re far from the garden. People who say today’s music is just as good and we’re just too old are just plain wrong. But that does not mean kids today care about our music. Then again, scratch a millennial and they’ll know the Beatles and the Eagles because their parents forced them to listen to them as they clothed them in Ramones t-shirts!

Now if you talk to Quincy, he’s all about bringing jazz back to schools. Maybe we need to bring rock back to schools. Oh, scratch that, there’s not enough money in schools for music, it’s just the three r’s all the time, as if in knowing how to think is irrelevant. Didn’t the Beatles implore us to think for ourselves? Hell, today’s youth is inundated with lowbrow, that’s their culture, that’s what the online influencers are all about, so you suddenly expect them to be highbrow in music?

Meanwhile, the School of Rock hums along.

So maybe Billie Eilish is just an outlier. Maybe her alternative upbringing left her unexposed to the bedrock of our culture, not only Fred Flintstone, but Van Halen.

I mean that’s my number one complaint about home-schooling, the socialization in public school far outstrips anything you learn in the classroom…how to get along, the different personalities…

Well hell, now that this kerfuffle happened, kids will check out Van Halen. Learn what it was like runnin’ with the devil. Then again, half of what Van Halen sang is illicit in the Me Too era.

One thing’s for sure, Billie Eilish has not seen Junior’s grades. She has not jumped rope on the schoolyard. She ain’t even hot for teacher.

But we were. This was our common experience. It’s there, written in the grooves for future generations to discover, just like the British bluesmeisters discovered the Delta originals.

Van Halen covered “You Really Got Me.”

No one’s covering old rock songs anymore, unless it’s old rockers looking for traction in today’s cacophonous world.

But you can have the best of both worlds.

Sure, Wolfie is right, you should check out Billie Eilish.

But listen to Van Halen first.


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