PoPINONS: THE MUSIC INDUSTRY HAS BEEN CHANGED IRREVERSIBLY BY TECHNOLOGY SO WAKE UP IT’S NEVER GOING BACK TO WHAT IT WAS BEFORE.

music-streaming

I have been listening to rock music since I was an early teen. Back then, my access to rock music was via vinyl, cassette and 8-track mainly. This access was limited by one thing – money. In order to get access to the music, you had to pay for it! And that meant that you had to budget for the music you wanted to buy. Of course, there were ways of circumventing this limitation and expanding the amount of music you could listen to.

Pirated records was the main avenue – whether it was by purchasing pirated records (which were cheaper) or getting a friend to reproduce the record of your choice on cassette. If you were desperate enough, you could even try to record songs off the radio onto cassettes. Money was the problem and ways and means were devised to ensure that you would get maximum bang for your buck, so to speak.

This paradigm shifted with the development of digital music & the mp3. No longer did you need to purchase vinyl or cassette (8-track had gone the way of the dinosaur already) but mp3s allowed a music fan to listen to music on the computer or dedicated mp3 players. In 1999, with the arrival of Napster — a pioneering peer-to-peer file sharing Internet service that emphasised sharing audio mp3 files — the door was opened that led to a seismic shift in how music could be listened to, which signalled the end of the music industry that had enjoyed commercial success for decades (especially with the introduction of Compact Disc technology).

Imagine pirated music on a scale never before imaginable – the music industry basically crashed with sales dropping year to year at an alarming rate. This decline was partially arrested when Apple entered into the music industry with iTunes – initially resisted by the record labels and still rather reluctantly embraced.
In the decade following the launch of Napster, both MusicNet and Pandora were established in an attempt to monetise the new ways in which technology allowed fans to consume music. However, the main hinderance was that music piracy had ruined audiences to such an extent that fans were no longer willing to pay for digital music.

This is where Spotify and the concept of freemium took hold – allowing its members to have unlimited access to its music streaming catalogue for free but with advertising. Premium membership, of course, dispensed with the advertising for a monthly fee. This has caught on with fans with other services sprouting soon after (Rdio and Deezer). However, labels and artists remained less than enthused as the revenues were relatively modest compared to the heyday of the compact disc. Other streaming services like Tidal and Apple Music soon appeared as well – with a firm commitment to paid services although the jury is well and truly out on whether fans are willing to pay for music streaming.

Whichever way the streaming wars pan out and even if ultimately, the majority of fans are convinced to pay ten bucks a month – the future of the music industry will be in the hands of the streaming companies and not the record labels. It is hard to imagine consumers wanting to return to physical copies — even if vinyl has gone through a revival of sorts.

And what does that mean for bands and artists? Well, forget about music ever providing the golden ticket anymore (not that it truly did before but that’s another story) — the sheer size of the catalogue at these streaming services means that the competition is immense. Why would anyone listen to my music when they can access some of the best music ever made in the last 50 – 60 years?!? There is no longer the budgetary concerns anymore. As a music fan myself, I can spend hours at a streaming service listening to virtually all the 70s progressive rock or say, all the 90s UK techno (or whatever else) that has been recorded.

It’s not impossible to carve a niche for oneself as a recording artist but that’s all it will ever be – a niche. Which means that expectations need to be toned down and a means to have time and money to write and record music become a premium. If this is not the attitude of young musicians, then they will be in for a rude shock.

So wake up. Technology now allows us recording artists to make music cheaply, but that also applies to everyone else and — in addition — access to recorded music has been at its highest level ever in the history of music. This present reality is what bands & artists need to assimilate and exploit in order to continue to have music making a satisfying proposition.

PoPINIONS

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Inch Chua at SingFest 2010. Photo credit: JY Yang

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

I am often asked about how the current Singapore indie music scene compares to what we had in the past. It’s a valid question, of course. Since the 90s revival and subsequent economic depression, the scene has been growing at a steady pace in the last decade or so.

To assess how far we’ve come, we need only look at two factors. First, the improvement of the technical abilities, musicianship and songwriting capabilities of our artists/bands and second, the expansion of the fan base – the increase of awareness, acceptance and approval amongst Singaporeans for local indie music.

As important as the first factor is – aided by the number of music schools that have proliferated across the island – the challenge has always to build up a fan base at home for homegrown music. Whilst still not ideal, there has been a marked improvement in that area.

SamWillows-Ignite

Back in 2010, I recall kids rushing to the stage when Inch Chua opened at SingFest but then walking away when they realized that she was ‘local’. Contrast that to the generous reception of local bands at music festivals today, where bands like The Sam Willows (above), Gentle Bones and others have the acceptance of the audience. Not only that but many artists/bands have rapturous EP/album launches where pundits actually fork out cash to watch their local heroes.

Inch-CMJ

And what about Inch? She has gone from strength to strength – chasing her dreams in the USA (see above) and elsewhere, and those kids in 2010 are probably cheering her on, whenever she does play back in her hometown.

There is much to be optimistic about but we must not rest on our laurels. We still do not have enough opportunities for indie bands/artists to play on a regular basis.

My wish list for 2015 and beyond?

(1) Venues to have residencies for our bands to develop their own music.

(2) More local bands opening for foreign bands.

(3) A regional touring circuit be established for our bands.

(4) Local bands breaking into overseas markets.

(5) Original music no longer a dirty word to Singaporeans.

There is so much work to be done but these are exciting times for the Singapore indie music scene.

… still there’s more … 

PoPINIONS

LET IT ALL HANG OUT!

It does seem that in order to succeed in pop music in 2014, one really needs to ramp up one’s sex appeal. Especially if you are a woman, of course. I’m no prude (far from it!) but it is a lil disappointing to think that a female artiste has to present herself in such a crass manner to win over the contemporary pop music fan. Don’t believe me? Well, take a look…

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… still there’s more …

PoPINIONS

PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR

Back in the 70s, the Government conducted a smear campaign against rock n roll and labeled it as ‘yellow culture’ meaning it was decadent and unsuitable for nation building blah blah fucking blah. But to be fair, many countries worldwide were unable to accept the hippie generation (including its originator, the USA) – it’s just that it was possible in Singapore to utterly destroy the thriving local music scene in order to stamp out this undesirable phenomenon. Which they duly did.

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PoPINIONS

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MUSIC… OR NOTHING

Being involved in the music scene in Singapore is all about what one makes of the situation. Compared to a mere five years ago, there are many opportunities to fill your time with life-enriching activities. You just know where to look…

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On Thursday (21st August) I met up and interview Julie Edwards (above, left) and Lindsey Troy of LA-based blues-rockers Deap Vally and found them to be intelligent, beautiful women who knew exactly what they wanted out of life. Mightily impressed with them in that short space of time we chatted.

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PoPINIONS

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SAVING THE SINGAPORE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY

Copyright piracy is not new. Back in the 60s and 70s, this was rampant in Singapore. We had pirated LPs and cassettes selling at a fraction of what the original releases cost. Also, pirates were able to compile hit songs across various record labels – something the labels could not compete with. Also, many record stores would offer copying services to their customers, providing mixtapes at an affordable cost.

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PoPINIONS

The Canadian Squires

SHOULD ROCK MUSIC BE SUPPORTED BY GOVERNMENTS?

Back in 1965, a band called The Canadian Squires released a single called “Leave Me Alone”. That was a big mistake. In the mid-60s, Canadians did not appreciate music made-in-Canada. According to writer Ritchie Yorke, the question on the lips of most Canadian radio programmers was – “What’s the use of growing your own tomatoes if you can buy them inexpensively at the nearest supermarket?” Indeed, why support Canadian artists when American artists are so much better?

Who were the Canadian Squires? They would later move permanently to the USA, back a well-known folk singer called Bob Dylan and eventually become critically acclaimed artists in their own right as The Band. This was a familiar story in the 60s for Canadian artists as the likes of Paul Anka, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell had to go south to fulfill their musical dreams.

So what did Canada do about this problem? I quote this excerpt from Canadas Talent‘s A Brief Walk Through Canada’s Music History.

“The Canadian government eventually passed content legislation to support Canadian artists. Beginning in January 1971, AM radio stations were required to devote 30 per cent of their musical selections to Canadian content. It was a controversial move, but one that helped highlight Canada’s music culture and establish a “pop star” industry of its own. And in the 1980s and 1990s, the exploding youth culture helped change the face of Canada’s music industry.”

The Canadian government would also institutionalize various funding initiatives to support Canadian music. The Canada Music Fund is one such example. This Fund provides for the financial support of producing and promoting recordings, educational development of the music industry, aid to record labels and music entrepreneurs “to become increasingly competitive nationally and internationally and to play a leading role in the global digital economy”.

This proactive stance has proved very fruitful over the years. Think of the multitudes of successful Canadian artists in the last four decades – perhaps without these initiatives, you might have never heard of Rush, Barenaked Ladies, Drake or even Arcade Fire.

Canada’s success has been replicated in other countries like Australia and Sweden and is an excellent model for any country facing the same dilemma as Canada did in the 1960s regarding their music industry.

So, what is your response to the question I posed in my title?

By the way, this is the single that got zero airplay on Canadian radio in 1965 by The Canadian Squires…

(Thanks to Barney Hoskyns‘ brilliant bio of The Band – Across the Great Divide – which where I got the historical information from re: The Canadian Squires)

PoPINIONS

IF YOU HAVE NOTHING GOOD TO SAY…

A good friend recently suggested that I should emulate the renowned music critic Bob Lefsetz and cut loose on music and bands that I did not like – the proverbial ‘take no prisoners’ kind of commentary. Not that I haven’t done this in the 20 odd years that I have been writing about music and pop culture. And this includes telling the ‘truth’ about the music of local bands and artists as well. However, I find that it does not serve any purpose and often the targets of the criticism are not able to benefit from those remarks – so why bother?

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PoPINIONS

WHEN DID INDIE POP BECOME A BAD WORD?

I love music of all kinds and generally dislike attempts at pigeon-holing. But of course, when you are trying to write about music it often becomes impossible to talk about ‘genres’. Since 80s “indie pop” has been treated as the artistic superior of pop-rock (which originated in the 70s and included the likes of Styx, ELO and REO Speedwagon – all of which were detested by the snobbish indie pop pundits) with its pioneers including bands like Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, Felt, early Primal Scream and of course, The Smiths. By the late 80s, it was fairly agreed that the defining conventions of “indie pop” was  jangling guitars, a love of ’60s pop, and melodic power pop song structures” and pop historian Jon Savage traced the origins back to the 60s (of course!) and to the eponymous third album of The Velvet Underground.

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PoPINIONS: HATERS GONNA HATE [OP/ED]

I am a people pleaser. Chronically so, in fact. Sometimes it hurts so much to realize that another human being actually hates me that I lose all rationality and respond in the wrong manner. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But in the final analysis, I’ve come to understand that you just can’t please everyone, no matter how you try.

My inherent inferiority complex and low self-esteem have been the bane of my existence but one truth I’ve learnt is that I can never control the way another person thinks or feels, I can only control my own response to this person’s opinion. Of course, there have been challenging negative experiences that have tested this principle to the hilt and whilst it has always been difficult to navigate those stormy seas, I think I arrive home, safe and sound at the end of each voyage.

The S-ROCK scene is nascent but growing. There are many players who are doing their part in their own way to improve the scene for musicians. The authorities are also involved in this process. It isn’t easy by any means – so much emotional and historical baggage to overcome but nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy. Scour through social media and you will, of course, find the ‘haters’ – folks who post potentially libelous statements against these players (yours truly, included) making accusations that are plainly inaccurate and unwarranted. Conduct a simple online search and you will discover these defamatory posts easily.

What can we do? Do we resort to legal means to protect our hard-earned reputations? Certainly, we would be legally entitled to do so but what good would that do, ultimately? Do we fight fire with fire – by posting similarly hateful statements targeted at these ‘haters’ – to name and shame them?

No, we take the higher ground – we simply ignore them. Not entirely of course – which is the whole point of this op/ed. If you’re reading this, dear ‘haters’, I would humbly ask that you would consider spending your energies in more productive activities and stop your futile personal attacks, especially if you truly love the S-ROCK scene. No good can ever come out of this course you are taking. Of course, this is a ‘free’ country and whilst you are entitled to your opinion, at least show respect to a fellow human being, if nothing else. Let’s agree to disagree but kindly stop the personal attacks. Thank you very much.

…still there’s more…

 

PoPINIONS

COME TOGETHER

I have been involved in the Singapore indie music scene (which for the sake of definition refers only to English language music) for slightly over twenty years (give or take) as a recording artist, performer, critic, mentor, teacher and manager. There have been numerous ups and downs in that time but what I do treasure the most are the many good friendships made. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about – no amount of success would be meaningful without the people to share it with.

As in any music scene, there are many stakeholders which have their own agendas and priorities (which is normal) and quite often one stakeholder may find that its interests may conflict with another stakeholder. This is unavoidable but the way to resolve these differences, I would humbly suggest, is a mutual understanding of what the important global issues are and where necessary making the necessary compromises for the greater good to address these important global issues.

I must confess that I am often guilty of focusing too much on my own issues and I can also see this negative trait in others as well. In truth, I understand where this attitude comes from but in the long run it is not beneficial to anyone as the scene suffers as a whole when there is disunity. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in an honest opinion but we (and I include myself in this) need to figure out how to say the truth in a loving and respectful manner so that we might be inclusive rather than exclusive.

I have personally encountered certain ‘ugly’ scenarios recently and this has only brought home the fact that as a scene we are still quite fractured and self-serving. If the stakeholders in the indie music scene cannot be bothered to commit to support the indie music scene, how then can be expect the general public to do so? Again, I include myself in this statement and have been seriously examining my own motivations when it comes to decisions made in relation to the indie music scene. The question I ask myself – Isn’t it more important for folks in the indie music scene to treat each other with love and respect than to be successful and to further one’s own interest at the expense  of another person?

Can we all do better? I believe so. We may be marginalized and we may be mocked but if we are united as one, then it will not matter.

… still there’s more …

PoPINIONS: THE FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT, I’VE GOTTA WEAR SHADES [OP-ED]

A few random thoughts came to mind whilst I was at The Sam Willows EP launch at TAB last night, supported by Charlie Lim and ShiGGa Shay. One, was that I witnessing the future of our Singapore indie scene as these young talented artists – with all the potential they possess – are in the best position to bring the indie scene forward within and without our shores. Two, how different the indie scene looked in 2012, compared to 1992.

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PoPINIONS: IN PRAISE OF SOPHISTICATED POP-ROCK

Pugwash

So what is the old fart on about again?

“Sophisticated pop-rock music” – isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? Maybe, in this day and age, when today’s version of “pop-rock” is labeled as “indie-alternative rock” and is designed to appeal to the hipster set. As regular PoP visitors will be fully aware, yours truly believes (as the late great music writer Ian McDonald expounded in his book The People’s Music), all the good music happened in the 60s and 70s – okay I am seriously paraphrasing here – and therefore the principles laid down by those magnificent music makers of that special epoch must be adhered to if you want “sophisticated pop-rock”.

So who is out there in 2012 who qualifies as purveyors of “sophisticated pop-rock”. Listen and learn.

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Renaissance City My Arse!

Skl0 is a Singaporean guerilla artist who has been responsible for street art that has been spotted around Singapore recently. On the sides of roads, she would paint “My Grandfather Road” and she would place stickers on traffic light posts which satirize the behavior of Singaporeans.

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PoPINIONS

THE MORE YOU IGNORE ME, THE CLOSER I GET

For my ‘official’ review of the Morrissey concert go here.

To be honest, I never thought I’d end up at the much-anticipated Morrissey concert. I can’t really afford the astronomical ticket prices nowadays and the relevant concert promoter basically does not believe in granting this site media passes (and has never done so). In any case, I was pleasantly surprised when Fred Perry Singapore offered me a VIP ticket no less (thank you, Cheryl Ann Lee/Hazel Tan) and so I ended up sweating bullets on Tuesday night with the rest of the throng of mostly thirty- and forty-somethings who gathered to see the Moz up close.

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PoPINIONS

AHEAD OF OUR TIME

In the coming weeks, 80s alternative rock icons Morrissey, The Stone Roses and The Jesus and Mary Chain will all play in Singapore! What is noteworthy is that it’s not just the older fans who are getting excited by these events but also the young indie rock music lovers as well.

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PoPINIONS

 

“You Say Yes, I Say No”

Opinions are like arseholes. Everyone’s got one. The problem with the interweb culture especially in relation to “hip and cool” music is that just like cheerleaders, popularity pretty much trumps everything else. Music itself is very subjective such that opinions vary so much when discussing any particular musical style or ‘genre’ or even the relative merit thereof. I mean, to use yet another proverb – ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ – and opinions have to be put into perspective of the person espousing such opinion. In the final analysis, it’s all a matter of taste and there’s no accounting for taste.

Take the latest exercise in diluting the legacy of Queen – as remaining members Brian May and Roger Taylor are slated to perform with American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert (for the umpteenth time) at the upcoming Knebworth festival. For Lambert fans (predominantly music listeners in the flush of youth) this sounds like an excellent and may even seem like a tribute to the late Freddie Mercury but to those of us Queen fans who were actually alive when the band was in its prime, this appears to be offensive and an affront to the memory of Mercury and Queen. Nothing against Adam Lambert personally but May and Taylor should really know better. But as you can see, the differing opinions lay very much in the ‘generation gap’.

This same ‘generation gap’ rears its ugly head when discussing the relative merits of a band like Foo Fighters. Those of us who remember Dave Grohl as the drummer of Nirvana rather than the alt-rock icon that he has become, may find Grohl’s current status as the undisputed godfather of indie rock rather mystifying when the kids who revere him have probably never heard of Husker Du or Pixies (I assume that they have heard of Nirvana to begin with!). Which is why I was bemused at the online frenzy when the announcement of Foo Fighters‘ concert in Singapore was first made as personally, I have never much rated the Foo Fighters (probably not the confession to make if I ever want to attain any ‘indie cred’)…

Before the lynch mob gathers, this phenomenon is nothing new. I recall Wings fans not being aware of the Beatles or hard rock fans being repulsed by punk (“the bands can’t play”) in the 70s and the circle of life continues…but please don’t kill me just because you don’t like my opinion, alright???

 

PoPINIONS

 

COPY AND PASTE

It’s strange that in 2012, we are still addressing the issue of ‘cover songs’ and ‘tribute bands’ in Singapore. Don’t get me wrong I believe that there is a place for ‘cover songs’ and ‘tribute bands’ – these serve a certain niche market worldwide. The problem is that in Singapore, it’s not a niche market but the only market! Whereas in the western world, new bands may be able to get away with playing cover songs early in their career, there will come a point where their success as a band will depend on the quality of their original music.

It seems almost ludicrous to have to discuss this issue at all. I mean, in the 90s, Singapore indie bands played original music and nobody thought twice about it. Radio and TV featured Singapore indie bands playing their original music and nobody demanded that these bands played familiar cover songs. I mean, that’s what you expected if you had the Oddfellows, Padres, Concave Scream or Stoned Revivals performing on stage. After all, these bands were songwriters and artists in their own right – it’s almost as ridiculous as going to a Coldplay gig and demanding that Chris Martin and company play U2 and Radiohead songs!

But visit any bar or club in Singapore nowadays and chances are that the band on stage will be playing cover songs. Again, I must stress that I am not against this per se but why must being in a cover band about the only way that Singaporean musicians can make a living from music in Singapore? So who is to blame? Musicians? Business owners? Patrons? Media? Government? All of the above?

Is the artistic voice of the Singapore musician not treasured at home? Why do Singaporeans switch off when confronted with unfamiliar Singaporean original songs? Lack of quality? I do not believe so as the acceptance of original Singapore music overseas proves otherwise. Lack of support? Ah, that’s a sticky issue. Especially when it relates to the question of the economic value and worth of music compared to other kinds of ‘products’.

Of course, these issues are not unique to Singapore indie music and apply across the board whenever one discusses the local arts & entertainment scene. But these issues must be addressed head-on by all the stakeholders (mentioned in my third paragraph) and the beginning of the new year seems like a good place to start.

But naturally, if you are reading this here then I’d assume that you are on board with my sentiments and the whole cliche of ‘preaching to the converted’ seems all too applicable. The real question is that do you, dear reader, believe in Singapore music (and musicians) enough to be evangelistic about the cause of Singapore original music? To put it bluntly, what are you willing to do?  For my part, as a music journalist, singer-songwriter, artist manager, mentor and teacher, I am fully committed to doing whatever I can in 2012 (and beyond) to raise the profile/support the cause of Singapore original music in any way that I can. Will you join me please?

Note: This is not meant as a personal attack on anyone within the Singapore music scene so please take this post in the positive and constructive spirit that it was written. Thanks!

PoPINIONS

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

As a music writer with a reviews website (I am not too comfortable with terms like ‘blog’ or ‘blogger’ – Power of Pop began in 1998, for pete’s sake!), I get numerous daily requests from bands, labels and publicists to review or feature new bands and/or new music. Typically, I will scan these email requests for familiar terms to give me an idea of what the music sounds like, to determine whether it would be something I could get behind and support. I mean, regular visitors will be aware that I know what I like. Sadly, there is so much soulless crap out there sometimes I can’t even bother or care.

Personally, I am so enamored with the great music of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, that I am quite content to fill my listening hours with albums from this fecund period and forget everything else since. Which of late – thanks to the latest remasters – has been Pink Floyd. I never tire of the Floyd’s space rock, the music is so ingrained in my psyche that it is so natural to just leave it on and simply immerse myself in its familiar textures. Thus, in that respect, it’s almost a chore to even check out new music and attempt to understand where a new band is coming from and going to through its recorded material.

In addition, writing up to 12 reviews a month for TODAY and more for ReviewYou.com does tend to leave little time (or interest) in coughing up reviews for Power of Pop itself! Which is why I am always hoping that some of my writers will pick up the slack but with Singaporean pressured lifestyle being what it is, expecting even a review a month is already too demanding! I am not keen on reviewing for reviewing’s sake and am always concerned about being positive and constructive so that also places constraints.

Not sure where I am going with this to be honest. Perhaps it’s just a way to highlight that reviews will not be as commonplace as they used to be here at Power of Pop. I figure it would be more effective to showcase promising bands/artists through videos (PoPTV) and track streaming (Listening Room) rather than album reviews. Not only that, there will probably also be more emphasis on the classic rock-pop music of the past in order to highlight what modern music makers can learn from the masters of yore. I do appreciate the support that Power of Pop has received for all these years and I hope that you will continue to maintain this support even as the site undergoes transitional times.

… still there’s more …

NB. I would still like very much to promote local shows here so please get in touch with me – info AT powerofpop DOT com – if you wanna do so, with all the necessary information.

 

PoPINIONS

HISTORY TEACHES US NOTHING

As some of you may know, I am a part-time facilitator at Republic Polytechnic. This semester, I am facilitating a module called History of the Arts. This module basically covers mostly Western art from the pre-historic age to the modern era in 15 weeks. Early on, I had a student question me about why she had to study History of the Arts – how was it relevant to her? So I enquired what diploma she was undertaking and she replied, “arts management”! Sometimes, you can’t make this shit up!!

This is not an unusual attitude. It’s rather commonplace in our music scene where even our bands and songwriters do not appreciate the importance of knowing the history of pop & rock music. For many of them, the scope of reference is often nothing earlier than 2000, if you’re lucky! And so, they are blissfully ignorant of the bands of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s! That is a whole lot of great music to be ignorant about.

What’s the big deal you say? Well, to put it simply, you can only create from what you know and if you know very little, then you probably will not be capable to create much either. And what is truly amazing is that in the internet age, it is so easy to listen to any music from any age. So let’s play a game, shall we? Let’s take a significant band from each of the aforementioned decade (which are related and associated music wise) and feature a video taken from youtube (where else?).

1960s

The Kinks

Ray Davies, the band’s principal singer-songwriter has been cited by many (yours truly included) as a seminal influence (including the bands that follow below). He is best known for his observational songs about his native England.

1970s

Big Star

Often considered to be one of the pioneers of power pop, Big Star melded a melodic sensibility and shiny guitar attack to produce a highly influential concoction. Fronted by the late Alex Chilton, the band would inspire many guitar pop bands in the 80s and 90s.

1980s

The Replacements

Part of the alt-rock movement that ruled US college radio back then (with R.E.M., Husker Du and others), this Paul Westerberg-led outfit has left deep impressions which resonates strongly with numerous indie bands today.

1990s

Pixies

Black Francis, the frontman of this beloved indie band, claimed that the above song was inspired by The Kinks, which brings us full circle.

As you can see, it isn’t too difficult to gather together some amazing music and bands from four different decades with the right research and of course, interest.

So, my message to all young bands and singer-songwriters out there in the S-ROCK scene, what’s stopping you???

POPINIONS

 

FINGER IN THE AIR

When the announcement was first made about the Singapop event – a concert that will cost the taypayers a reported $1.5 million (!), ostensibly to celebrate 50 years of Singapore pop music – I really did not want to comment. Even when I realized that the concert would be held at the Marina Promontory at the exact same time that Cheating Sons would be rocking out at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre for Baybeats 2011, I was more than prepared to keep mum.

But when I read today’s Life section reporting the press conference announcing the concert, I could maintain my silence no longer. The organizers’ criteria for inclusion in the concert is ‘commercial success’, ‘wide appeal’ and ‘popularity’ of the selected band/artist. Yet, I understand that the concert will exclude the indie bands of the early 90s (e.g. The Oddfellows), even though the Oddfellows’ song So Happy was #1 in 1991 on the radio charts islandwide! Now, if that singular achievement does not signify ‘commercial success’, ‘wide appeal’ and ‘popularity’ – what the hell does then?

I mean, without tooting my own horn too much, Watchmen’s My One and Only stayed in the 98.7 Radio Charts for three months and at its peak was on heavy rotation on the radio EIGHT times a day (apart from being #1 also on NTUC Radio Heart) in late 1993. Naturally, I have not been invited either.

I have no qualms about being left out of the Singapop concert (and I am sure The Oddfellows and other indie bands do not give a toss either) BUT I refuse to let the EDB rewrite history in this manner. The local indie bands of the 90s had songs on the radio, TV and CD sales, were featured regularly in the press and made a deep impression on the hearts and souls of young Singaporeans at the time – to marginalize and trivialize their contribution to Singapore pop music in this manner is reprehensible.

If the organizers hated S-ROCK so much, they should have had the balls to come right out and say it instead of hiding behind this ridiculous criteria. It is clear from the deliberate timing and location of the Singapop concert that it is positioning itself in direct opposition to local indie bands and the Baybeats Festival in general. So, it’s game on – let’s make Baybeats Festival the best-ever attended public event ever and prove conclusively that S-ROCK rules!