Protective Covering

A wayback bit of my memory mentions to me how George Thorogood and Bob Seger each felt, responded, etc., when asked to play their single most widely known songs — which are of course this one and this one, respectively — for live shows. Elements of the discussion — one article, with thoughts from both? or two I happened to be reading at about the same and am not conflating?

Cldnt tell ya, but elements of the discussion included shows being something true fans, whether 1,000 or, more recently, 100 tend to do and they want to hear the standbys and standards.

Seem to recall Seger being most miffed [tho this] of the two. Thorogood once frankly noted his new stuff didn’t always resonate but artists are best off being grateful for once having been a thing and the mere blessing of a backlist, and that he got that and it was fine —

I don’t mind hearing new stuff if the new stuff is good. But if it’s not good, then I just want to hear the old stuff. John Fogerty is going to be very hard-pressed to write any more songs that are as good as ‘Fortunate Son‘ and ‘Green River’ and Old Man Down The Road.’ He’s a hard act to follow. He’s trying to follow himself.

Seger seems to have come around — tho Universal Music Group’s version of it has about 2 million views and a fan’s YouTube channel has 14 times as many.

Dylan’s recent sale of his entire [to-date] song catalog, spanning almost 60 years, put to a point the idea of getting paid over and over again for work one has already done — what da Yutes think they invented by calling it scale. The deal was likely worth up to about a half-billion or so and pretty soon that is real money. The WSJ account of the deal was true to their ‘brand’ [a word relevant for any minuscule meaning of ‘communicating core characteristics’ remains and also … simul … a term that, my blog to God’s ears, will one day gag flecks of vomit into the speaker-wielder’s throat] by noting the lump sum gets hit with a 25% capital gains tax but Zimmerman won’t have to keep paying 38% on the use of the songs as annual income.

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Still, this activity of ‘they’re playing my song’ isn’t always welcome.

Consider political gatherings and the occasional floated demand by musicians not to do so at them.

Sometimes they want it both ways and one hears that ‘Born in the USA’ at a rally is simul ‘don’t play my song’ and ‘ha! aren’t they stupid’. But if you don’t like them for other reasons, and the latter is so, why do you mind the former? Wldn’t you want them to showcase their imbecility?

Well, no.

First, bec they know ‘Born in the USA’ or ‘Hotel California’ are imagey salves, and they don’t want their enemies’ crowds having no peaceful easy feelings. Second, the tune are also often crowd rousers — not much better a state of affairs, if Springsteen and Henley, et al get to vote on the question.

In truth they don’t bec no matter how much they rock it, and they aren’t talking to the Image in Chief at the head of the salving and rousing movement du jour anyway but just taking an easy oppty to be self-holier than they. They don’t get a vote because if you make art, bruh, you can’t control — or for too long complain — when people don’t get it; consider the guy shocked Tom Morello talks lefty politics in his lyrics.

Besides, ‘they the people’ do get it: the reason covering such songs can be used both to mollify and to Molotov, is that they’re images by now … those words, to them adorable deplorables, don’t mean what you think they mean.

End of the day, even if you don’t shut up and sing, most massed minions will tune you out anyway.

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This happened once to Natalie Merchant at L.A.’s Wiltern Theater, after she went solo and somewhere around the early aughts of the current millennia. Crowd kept asking for ‘Peace Train‘, which 10,000 Maniacs had covered on In My Tribe, and she rebuked her fans and repudiated the song in tones that managed to be hectoring, morose, and disappointed all at once.

‘Aww, you don’t wanna hear some old Cat Stevens’ tune … ‘

But of course they did.

I cd take or leave the song, myself, and didn’t vote but Merchant didn’t play it bec since it’d been placed on the group’s album the crooner — Marleybone-born Steven Demetre Georgiou before landing as the Cat — had become Yusuf Islam and expressed support for the occasional fatwa.

Serendipitous to that was Laura Ingraham’s star-shining had begun. Perhaps also ironical: Merchant did not end up singing and she shut up, at least as far as trying to change the crowd’s collective unconsciousness.

And all that contrasts nicely with Johnny Cash and his American Recordings. He had ‘Nine Inch Nails’ at hello — recall Trent Reznor saying they were honored just to get the request for ‘Hurt‘. He called Cash’s rendering the elder singer of songs’ own — different — creation. Prolly I am a bigger fan of Cash’s ‘Mercy Seat’ than of Nick Cave’s.

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Now-retired MLB closer Jonathan Broxton, who came up with the Dodgers also roundabout the mid-2000s, paid his version of homage using Cash’s arrangement of ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down‘ as his walk-up music; several other relievers still do.

Come to note it, that shd bug people more than some silly shill sallying forth for ‘higher’ office and co-opting a jingle. A song of sin and redemption is being used to call balls and strikes; remixes of the Cash have shown up in online gaming and ads.

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Some art is just more fluid.

Leonard Cohen covered himself on ‘Hallelujah’ every time he adapted the lyrics or added six new verses, were, say, in architecture — indeed in politics conducted by rallies — we pay for what we get. And it can stay that way a long time. 

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