Posted by: martinworster | November 22, 2019

Geezers With Guitars

I’m over geezers with guitars. I’m definitely 100% specifically over shouty middle aged blokes with tattoos AND guitars – something you see a lot of here in Southern California. I often feel the musical difference – in terms of taste – from my youth in London to people of the same age I know who are from here. Still to this day in So Cal there is a big music hangover from the advent of punk and 80s hardcore, which had a stranglehold from the early 80s onwards. And they never moved on. Social Distortion, Adolescents, Agent Orange, The Vandals, The Offspring etc etc. I mean maybe they had their time and place but angry white male guitar noise never really did it for me.

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In ‘London Calling’ The Clash’s Joe Strummer sang ‘Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust’ as a clarion call to abandon everything musically that went previously. That was one of punk’s original manifestos – rip up the rule book, disown the past, start afresh and do it yourself. Kill the hippies. Anyone can play – just pick up your guitar. Which kind of worked for some bands like the Clash. Although the musical longevity of many other bands – tainted by bad songwriting, bad musicianship and a general lack of musical sophistication – meant that a lot of their music did not date well.

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I can honestly say growing up in London I didn’t listen to any guitar music from the late 80s to the late 90s. My head was firmly stuck in a bass bin – my music was electronic and beamed from another planet. I remember going to my first ‘rave’ in 1989 which was an infamous Energy party in Suffolk – this was acid house and it was the second summer of love. I was a mere 17 and didn’t know what I was witnessing. I wish I had taken photographs. I just knew musically Detroit techno and house music sounded completely fresh and like nothing before – which remember in the late 80s it was fresh and like nothing before as they were both new genres. I recall walking into the massive aircraft hanger as the spacey sounds of Transmat, 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald and Adamski changed the particles in the air. A man was dancing in front of a 40 foot stack of speakers and it looked like he was beamed from another planet. Retrospectivly, I now realise he was off his nut and was indeed on another planet.

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Prior to this, from say 1987, I used to go to Camden Palace for the Twist and Shout night which gave me a taste for James Brown, RnB and funk. Simultaneously the rare groove scene spilt over to parties we would go to so you’d hear funky breaks, rare groove, cooler disco, boogie, breaks and Northern Soul – basically urban black music. Hip hop – Eric B, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Public Enemy, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane etc – was also a major influence on me back then. It’s these experiences as a youth that set the template for my enduring musical tastes later on in life.

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Fast forward slightly to the early 90s and then I had a first row seat to the emergence of drum and bass – and all it’s sub genres, mainly jungle – in London. This was the classic UK thing of fusing lots of disparate elements into something new. Hence you had all the Jamican sound system and reggae influences – basslines, dancehall samples, dub studio techniques, DJ culture, rewinds and ganja. Mixed with the funk and hip hop of the speeded up breaks that became increasingly complex and chopped up. Then you had the electronic sounds of techno and house filtering into the mix. Oh, and don’t forget the vital ingredient of ecstacy to fuel all this creativity and mayhem. Voila. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive. It really was a golden age – you only have to read the YouTube comments from anthems back in the day to see that nostalgia in people of my generation in conjunction with the sense that it will never be replicated. You had to be there. It explains the popularity of the nostalgia circuit in music – middle aged people paying top dollar to see the big bands of their youth, as if musical taste gets frozen from the formative years 16-20 in your youth.

I am still a music fanatic and see many shows. I avoid shouty geezers with guitars. There’s still so much amazing music being made. In fact there’s too much – everyone’s in a band or making music, a lot of it very good. I’d say – mainly due to technology – standards of production are much higher. It’s so competitive it takes that much more to stand out and make it – except no one buys digital music anymore so the rewards, financially, are probably a lot less. I pay attention to the seams between the obvious. There’s a very healthy resurgence in jazz coming from the UK – again, mashing up genres so it’s definitely not traditional jazz but often drawing influences from techno, Afrobeat, ambient, funk and soul to create something fresh and new. The Clash were right back in the late 70s – what room is the left for white dudes playing the same three chords? It was true 40 years ago. It’s even more true now. Shouty geezers with guitars are out!


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