1. IT’S EPISODE 60
Four plus years in. If you’re not in it for the long haul, you’re never going to make it, especially if you’re not chasing trends. Set yourself on fire, people may pay attention, but not for long. Get the press stirred up and many will know about you overnight, but you’re going to be subject to backlash. I was into the Alabama Shakes until I kept reading how great they were in the mainstream press. Then again, Brittany Howard just revealed she refused to be on “X Factor,” got to give her props for that, especially in a world where no one can say no and everything is seen as an opportunity.
2. IT’S DARYL’S OWN MONEY
That’s what everybody carps about today, they can’t get someone else to pay for it. But if someone else pays, you’re beholden to them, you’re working for the man, which doesn’t work so well in artistic endeavors. Furthermore, you don’t own it, not if you make a deal with a label.
Sure, Daryl Hall’s got royalties. But the price of technology has plummeted. You can buy a guitar (which have gotten strangely more expensive), and you can buy a computer and make music. You can make a video with your iPhone. Don’t complain about money, just start and keep going.
They’re airing it now. But it’s years in. The way you succeed today is to prove the concept first. Especially in art.
4. HAVE TALENT
Daryl Hall can sing and play, and so can the musicians he surrounds himself with. And that’s rare in today’s world. Most people haven’t practiced and good voices are rare. Put them both together with someone who can write and you’ve got a hit act. Very few people are triple threats, very few people are stars.
5. TODAY’S MUSIC BUSINESS
“All these kids are a legend in their parents’ garage, they can’t play in front of people.”
This is not sour grapes, this is truth. Just because you’re old, that does not mean you’re not right. In this everybody gets a trophy world where parents are their kids’ best friends, no one knows they suck. Talk to any classic rock musician who’s made it and he’ll whip out dues that’ll make your jaw drop. And tell tales about the big opportunities that weren’t. The record deal, the TV appearance… If you haven’t been disappointed by your supposed big break, you’re not in the game.
6. SOMEBODY LIKE YOU
This is the piece de resistance.
Entitled “Someone Like You” on Daryl Hall’s 1986 solo album “Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine,” this slow-burner could be covered by Adele, Paul Young or George Michael could employ it to engineer a career comeback, this is everything you loved about Hall & Oates before they had all those hits and were labeled “yacht rock.”
And it’s still not even the best track on the album. That’s “Foolish Pride.”
But in 1986, it was hard to go solo. Phil Collins did it, but almost no one else managed it. And you were always at the mercy of the label, who wanted you to get back together and do it the commercial way.
Only you could ever know how hard it was for me to let you go
That’s one thing they never write about, that it’s almost as hard to leave as to be left. You want it, but just not this way. There’s some deal-breaker that makes you head for the exit, even though it may only come up once a month, life can’t go on that way.
Hard to face all those nights and suffer through all the fools’ advice
So much in one line…
It’s the loneliness that kills. It’s even in the statistics. You’re not gonna live as long without them. Being alone after being together is one of the most devastating elements of the human condition.
And then there are your friends, giving all the wrong advice. Telling you to break up and then abandoning you. Your friends won’t keep you warm at night, advice is cheap, follow your heart and if you need advice, talk to a professional, especially because in your friends’ view, you’re never wrong, and oftentimes you are.
But as great as “Somebody Like You” is, its slow burning penetration, the reason I’m writing about it has nothing to do with the composition or Daryl Hall’s still stellar voice.
It’s Joe Walsh’s guitar solo.
I remember “Hotel California.” Buying the album at a long defunct record store on the day it was released, breaking the shrinkwrap and dropping the needle on the title track.
I was not enamored of the single, “New Kid In Town.”
It was unclear who the band was gonna be, now that Joe Walsh had joined.
And then, there it is, in the second solo, his brilliance, his excellence, the distillation of all those moments in the James Gang and solo records. Only he could slide and distort that way.
It happens at 3:28. It only lasts until 3:52. In twenty four seconds, not only does Joe Walsh demonstrate his chops, he reminds us of what once was and no longer is. When it wasn’t about awards shows and gossip columns, but being able to do it at the church of live performance, blowing your fans away, reaching in and touching their souls, tickling their taste buds, making them feel fully alive.
Joe comes in again around the five minute mark, but that’s just a victory lap, lying in bed with your loved one after the peak experience.
If “Somebody Like You” doesn’t titillate your soul, you’re dead.
7. YOU NEED TO PLAY
You’re a musician, not a star. You make music, not money. If you’re not willing to strap on your axe, sit down at your instrument and wail…we’ve got no time for you.
The twenty first century is all about live performance. Convincing people that not only can you still do it, but you can make them feel fully alive, not only reminiscing about the past, but feet planted firmly in the reasonable present.
You can get plastic surgery. You can go on an extreme diet. But then you look nothing like your audience, there’s a disconnect. You’ve got to get down in the pit with people today, they’ve got to realize you’re just like them…but with a special skill.
Kim Kardashian is a star.
But she’s got no skill.
“Star” has become a bastardized term. Rich is for bankers. Chasing money no longer works. Hanging on to status doesn’t either. No one’s going to see the Stones be good, because they almost definitely won’t be, they haven’t been in eons, but to say they were there. That’s not life, that’s death. And last time I checked I was still breathing…like you.
Don’t bother writing. Don’t bother making new records. No one cares.
But they’re dying to hear Joe Walsh play. They’ll listen to new solos. They’ll let their minds be stretched. If you let the music come alive, instead of being calcified.
“Live From Daryl’s House” is one guy’s effort against all the b.s., all the rules everybody says you can’t break.
That’s art, not commerce. In art, one guy or girl can change the course of history. Can light the way for millions. Can wake us up and make us feel fully alive.
Watch “Somebody Like You,” you’ll get it.
A. Notice how you don’t have to wade through the crap to get to the good stuff. You can go immediately to what you want to hear, you don’t have to start at the beginning to get to the middle, Ed Sullivan is long dead, even AC/DC has finally licensed their material to iTunes. Do it the audience’s way, make it easy, do for others as you would like it to be done to yourself. Leave it to old established edifices like record labels and movie studios to put up roadblocks, you’ve got to tear the barriers down.
B. Word of mouth built “Live From Daryl’s House.” It’s your most important asset. Hard to achieve, just as difficult to maintain. Once the mainstream gloms on to your story, your audience no longer owns it, people move on, they find something else to champion. PSY is overnight. What lasts today is not. Three dimensional takes time to grow. Images and hysteria break through online. In this complicated, overwhelming, tech-infused world the way to succeed is to be as human as you possibly can.
C. Another solo, in the middle of “Life’s Been Good.” Beginning at 3:18. Almost as good is when Joe just strums his guitar a couple of times right before… It sounds so real! We were inspired by heroes to buy instruments to practice and play. Music has become too much of a spectator sport, except in EDM, which is easy. Not easy to be great, but easy to play. If it’s hard, there are fewer people involved. If it’s hard, you’ve got to do it a long time before anybody will pay attention. Alone. You’ve got to really need it and want it. And that’s more than fame.
D. Notice a reference to Sly’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” at 1:54 of “Funk 49/50.” We love noticing this stuff, it bonds us to the performer. And you can’t do this if you’ve got no musical history, if you’ve done no listening. First and foremost, you’re a student.