Actually a coda to our last conversation. Glenn Frey. David Bowie. So much death in rock and roll lately. Every artist has multiple lives. More on aging gracefully.
Roger CortonBowie last week. And now Glenn Frey?
JCHTransitions! (laughs) Yeah, they’re droppin’ like flies, baby.
JCHLook, the world isn’t waiting on baited breath for anything I would have to say about these guys.
RCBut that never stopped you before, so…
JCHSo, I will say I was never a huge fan of Bowie. I have probably actually enjoyed more Eagles music over the years.
RCSeriously? I’m surprised. I thought you dug T-Rex and Roxy Music the most so I guess I just assumed…
JCHYOU ASSSSSSUMED!!!? No, I never dug ‘glam’ all that much. Great songs? Always. But all the androgyny and especially those honky guitars? Naaahhh. But with regard to Bowie, all the different personas seemed a lot more important than the actual notes.
RCAs opposed to Peter Gabriel where the costumes were more of a side-line.
JCHEXACTLY! My sense was that Bowie was like this modern art exhibit. But I like music. And some of it was cool white boy funk, but a lot of it was kinda weak. Again, especially the guitar tones. I
RC Not a Mick Ronson fan, I guess.
JCHNope. I was raised on rock-a-billy. That’s why I went for the more old school sounds. Steve Howe. Give me Brian Setzer any day of the week over that fixed-wah midrange stuff.
RCFine. But Glenn Frey? Really? Mr. “The Heat Is On”?
JCHLook I never owned a Glenn Frey solo record, but I gotta say that the core Eagles albums from the seventies were about as good as album rock ever gets. No, they’re not all experimental tours de force, but so what? They’re only eminently crafted songs, well recorded and well played. Plus they had a vocal corp second to none. That’s all. No tricks. No deep statements. Just hall of fame level material.
RCGranted. So are you saying they are equal as artists?
JCHNo. Bowie was clearly the artist. And to my mind, not because of his core hits. See he had a great second life, whereas Glenn Frey is a typical case of how not to do it.
JCHLook, can we just admit that Bowie lost relevance after “Let’s Dance”? Unless you’re a hard-core fan, nobody listened to his stuff much after 1985.
RCOK, stipulated. But that didn’t make him irrelevant.
JCHWell, I would say that if you’re a pop star it actually does. But what I dug was that he didn’t care. He kept re-inventing himself, with a series of bands that, like them or not, were different and kept up with the times. In other words, the guy had new things he wanted to say. He continued to be a true artist even though the sales kept going down, down, down.
RCWhereas Glenn Frey was milking the same cow? Same music over and over. Half-hearted. And the occasional Eagles reunion tour to replenish the old bank account.
JCHMilking the same cow. I like that. Never growing as an artist.
RCBut what about guys like Johnny Cash who also just do the same thing over and over. Or John Lee Hooker. Or Bach for that matter, right?
JCHSure. You can do that. You’re basically talking about all “museum music” as we’ve often discussed. But to me, you better be Johnny Cash or Bach to get away with that. For me, there’s a lot more respect as an artist in either, A. quitting when yer race has run, or B. recognizing that you have to re-invent yourself and deciding to have that second life as another type of artist.
RCAnd then having the talent to pull it off.
JCHAs Bowie did. So in short, I will remember Bowie for being a true artist in the sense that he had the timing and thus the courage to work within a style and medium. And then periodically move onto something else when he realized that he had reached a dead end. To me there is nothing more important for an artist.
RCWe talked about this before in the Two Roads rant. Anway, this makes me think of that cut from Station To Station, “TVC-15” right now.
JCHTRANSITION! That’s the name of the game for any artist. Managing transition. Every artist has to live more than one life so you better figure out what yer gonna do with all of them.