Just listened to the song HEROES AND VILLAINS by the Beach Boys here in the recording studio w the guys, to hear what real vocals sound like… Just to get some inspiration. What we were amazed by is that this is 1967 mind you. They were still working with tape machines back then. And not big Studer 24 track machines, but tiny little 4 and 8 track machines that teens today in their garage would laugh at. There were No digital audio workstations (DAWs), no Protools systems with infinite “Undo” capability. If you messed up, you sang or played your part over and over again until you got it right. There was no auto-tune. You had to be able to sing in tune. And do it well. Many of today’s artists would never have been able to release even one song, just because of that. What we have here is absolutely brilliant sounding. Pure magic in less than 4 minutes. Just really great vocalists singing incredibly intricate vocal lines in a very complexly arranged song. Forget the video attached. It’s entertaining to be sure. But just listen to these vocals…!!!
Sometimes I think we’ve gone too far in our quest for perfection in audio…. When all along music like this was being made with none of today’s bells and whistles. And in fact many people still consider the music of the 60s and 70s the greatest music that’s ever been released. Call it the curse of the digital audio age. Granted, it does allow for some incredibly tasty new inventive sounds and styles to enter the collective world of music making. Black Eyed Peas are responsible for some bangingly innovative tracks. So is Takemura Nabukazo, Autechre, Akufen… People are out there really pushing the envelope of what “music” is. And it’s thrilling to hear what’s going to come next. for sure.
But we are also left with an unpleasant taste in our mouth when it comes to other artists who make rather plain dumbed down commercial music with no inherent need for advanced digital gear to produce innovative sounds we’ve never heard before but who rely on today’s “fix it in the mix” technology in order to even put out a new song or album. Without Protools and drum machines and autotune, they’d be unable to record a song that others with more talent could pull off with some ordinary instruments and a two track tape recorder. Now we’re in the realm of making stars out of people who really cant sing or play an instrument. Just because they might look appealing to the mainstreamers who don’t know any better. The technological advancements that have been developed in music are being used as a crutch by those who are incapable — rather than as a tool to innovate by the edgy and brilliant among us. That’s still happening, thank God. But that music, just as it always has, is being eclipsed by the more mundane vanilla variety. It’s hard now to even imagine a world where a song like “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys could be released as a single to radio, get hundreds of spins a week and hit the Top 40.
But as always I do have hope. With the advent of internet radio stations such as Pandora and Spotify, we do seem to be shifting towards a new phase where really good true authentic music is being discovered and eaten up by the masses just as much as the generic shite the major record labels and the radio station programmers are still trying to shove down everyone’s throats ad nauseum. now it’s possible for artists who receive absolutely no radio AirPlay whatsoever to get a name for themselves and find a little niche for themselves. Especially with the advent of “sync licensing” (TV, movies, commercials) becoming the new vehicle of discovery, versus the old fashioned major label big budget marketing push.