Let’s Face It
Let’s be honest the best thing about a tribute act is often the inventive and amusing names they dream up for themselves, like ‘Björn Again’, ‘By Jovi’ or ‘Fake That’.
My partner Sue and I often lay awake until the wee hours giggling as we make up pretend ones, like ‘UR40’ or ‘Poxy Music’, it’s all just a bit of fun. Isn’t it?
There is nothing worse to me than someone who could be writing their own tunes and performing them instead playing someone else’s once famous tunes badly to a crowd of pissed up fat 40 to 50 year olds, out for a night, and a bittofalaff. The very same people who should have celebrated talent in their local pub at the age of 20 and helped propel a local band to the stardom they now celebrate second-hand, with some flaccid version of David Bowie or Pink Floyd. The same people who missed a decent band the first time around when they were occupied with lusting after Nick Beggs of Kajagoogoo.
To be fair, I’ve been, I went to see the ‘Australian Pink Floyd’. I thought, after years of anti-tribute venom I should experience what I intrinsically knew I would hate. I went with some lads from work too as a social thing. Open minded believe it or not.
Walking out of the gig was an experience of feeling like I was amongst people who had never been to a real gig.
The only time in the performance where anything real and true happened (a visual moment of anti – Trumpism during the song ‘Brain Damage’) became the highlight of the whole night. Instead of coming away from a concert where significantly more of it was ‘real’, performed, and no doubt repeated, but at least of their own songs and with their own hats, and haircuts, their own faces, and the guitar brand they really liked to play, I was leaving un-elated after seeing just what exactly?
Frank fucking Zappa people!!
I walked away confused by the experience. I wanted to shout, ‘I saw Frank fucking Zappa at this same venue in the 80s’, ‘The real Frank Zappa‘, but frankly, I wasn’t sure anyone there would have known who Frank Zappa was. Pink Floyd post Syd attracts a certain T-shirt wearing flabby version of Dave Gilmour in my opinion. You know, people with a Dark Side of The Belly and a membership of Camra, the real ale club, a certain balding type of gentleman sometimes accompanied by a long-suffering Mrs Gilmour. The kind of chap who was studying for his A’Level Chemistry exam when you were getting stoned and err…. listening to Frank Zappa. 😉
These are the same people who are all singing along to the two tunes they know at the tribute concert, the same people who stay in a Travelodge that night and catch a train back to wherever in the morning, because the term ‘partying all night’ was never, let alone at the age of 50, in their vocabulary. It’s ALL worse than an 80s night at Butlin’s Bognor Regis, and believe me, that’s my idea of a waking hell. Very few of these people are musicians, or care about the state of popular music. They have lots to answer for & let’s face it, the musicians who pander to them have plenty to answer for too.
It’s understandable though, if you can’t get your latest project off the ground and you’re not a progressive house DJ, what chance have you got but to play to a series of Wednesday night crowds on the ‘Converted Toilet Block’ circuit up and down the nation for ‘eff all monetary recompense but a whole heap of pain? OR you could earn some proper money playing drums for the new Def Leppard tribute band now gigging to large crowds, large tasteless but wealthy crowds up and down our fair country. Oh and I bet you’re thanking your lucky stars for the accident you had with that Flymo 18 years ago now aren’t you!!
This is the crux of my unhappiness, though musicians earn good money at this, they are in effect, doing others out of the support that could come their way by pandering to a PUBLIC that if it only HAD ANY TASTE and could access and see and hear a local band, they might support that instead of this tribute band fakery. And let’s be honest, it’s not a tribute to their band of choice, it’s a money earner.
Do you think The Doors or The Velvet Underground, or the The Sex Pistols want their memory diluted by watered down versions of themselves? I doubt it. If you were a true fan surely the last thing you would do is create a shit version of your favourite band, the band you mythologise, and all copyist versions, will, therefore, by default be, shit.
It’s the Bagpuss Effect
The whole nostalgia trip, of going to see a poor copy of something you once thought you knew is like those conversations about the 70s cartoons you once loved; ‘Awww, do you know Bagpuss’?.. or doing that impression of Ivor The Engine to the guys at work.
These are conversations that leave everyone smiling and that leave you feeling warmly smug about your past life, yet that also leave you knowing, you ain’t never going back there and that looking backwards is like eating air, namely extremely un-fulfilling.
Going to see a tribute band is like that. You know it’s not Mötorhead up there on stage, because environmental health won’t let them play at 140db anymore and even in the low light you can see that the lead singer has stuck that fuckin’ wart on with blu-tack! What is the point of not seeing Lemmy, Lemmy WAS MÖTORHEAD!! Well him and Philthy Phil and Fast Eddie were the true Mötorhead in my opinion, but that’s another argument for another day.
I don’t mean a Covers Band.
There is nothing wrong with playing someone else’s songs as cover versions in your set, but dressing up like them, or having plastic surgery to make your face look like the plastic surgery Paul McCartney once had, just ain’t on. It’s about as honourable as playing army in your back garden and then wearing the uniform and medals of a real soldier on Armistice Day at the local war memorial.
I care about music and it’s place in our hearts and Tribute Bands make a fuckery of all that is important to me, and I think should be to you if you as I do love popular music.
However Sue, my partner, whose’ opinion I trust says that the Bowie Tribute she went to see was very good. They were called Absolutely Bowie.
But they weren’t were they, and that I guess is my whole point.
Collected for your viewing pleasure
Just out from Soul Jazz, most recent purveyors of all that is Studio One related in the UK (music and otherwise) comes this coffee table booky wook, collecting some of the covers from Studio One’s catalogue for your viewing pleasure, though if you collect the Lps, you’ll have a significant amount of the artwork already.
No surprise there then?
It’s nice to have and there are a few you may not have seen before, such as the Tabernacle Gospel Lp covers or the Sri Chimnoy Lp (now legendary as a rarity) but there isn’t a lot here to stun an enthusiast for the label. Frankly that’s been the case with most of Soul Jazz’s output of Studio One material musically and so it is visually, also.
They (SJ) I think have missed a complete trick, in that on occasion they mention the sleeve notes and quote from them, they could have included many more, for the quirky nature of them are well-known and often amusing or enlightening. Including the cover of the Lp Pirates Choice (which has never it seems been reproduced as anything but a muddy turdish greeny brown of a poorly registered example of what NOT to do if you are a Litho printer) seems odd too. There are more Lps they could have chosen from, with more to offer the viewer, casual or otherwise.
I hoped for more
There is no logic or rhyme to the choices made and to the inclusion of some of the more recent Lp covers, which have little or no individually distinctive style whatsoever.
The forward by Steve Barrow is little more than yet another introductory level run through of Jamaican music history, though generally accurate for all that and still an engaging read for the newly converted. Though it should be mentioned that no Mento was ever to my knowledge released by Tewari on Down-Beat, only on sister label Caribou.