All About Music

Grab your things
I’ve come to take you home

These were not the original lines in “Solsbury Hill,” the words had to do with “taxi” and “tube” and Ezrin said there was no way they were going on the LP. And the lyrics you know, the ones above, weren’t cut until the very end of mixing Gabriel’s initial solo album, when Peter was inspired.

That’s why I’m here in Mumbai, for the conference “All About Music.” You pay me and put me in the front of the airplane and I’ll go just about anywhere, the weirder, the more offbeat, the place people want to go to least, that’s for me!

The best place I’ve been in the last decade is Bogota, because I felt so alive, because everybody had had a relative assassinated, they were living the Grass Roots lifestyle, they were living for today.

And now Mumbai.

Most people won’t go to India. I was out with a friend who is a world traveler and he said no way, two people in his building went and one died and the other was sick for three months. And then I was reminded that Howard Rose’s wife came and passed when she returned. Was there a connection? No one’s sure, but is this the way I want to go? Kinda like on an airplane, you hit the turbulence… I know, I know, that’s got nothing to do with crashing, and sometimes I can enjoy the ride, but when an A380 is being buffeted, I start to wonder, how in hell does this thing fly to begin with. That’s like so much of today’s technology, the fact that it works, if you sit back and think about it, is positively amazing.

So I’m here. And so far I haven’t even gotten sick. Then again, I’m paranoid, I’m obeying the rules, and I’m living in the city, I have not gone to the hinterlands.

But I’d like to.

This is the first place I’ve been to that I haven’t been able to figure out. So many people, so hot, but everybody seems to get along. I grew up when going to Manhattan was dangerous, the fact I could be safe in Mumbai..?

Maybe I’m not, maybe I’m ignorant, but that’s what they tell me and so far it’s true.

But I’ve seen so little!

I think it comes down to upbringing. Not only did my parents live to travel, they were all about the sights, the hotel room was secondary. The concept of lounging around in a great room was anathema. They wanted to go out and eat up the landscape, and now so do I.

After doing my keynote and sitting on a panel I wondered whether I should go out to this museum about the city, I’m into those places, where they tell you how we got from there to here, there’s always a story. And in a world where there’s always something to do or see online, you’ve got to tear yourself away from the computer. Then again, denigrating the smartphone and web is akin to yesterday’s badge of honor of waking up early after little sleep. Now everyone agrees that sleep is the key to creativity and productivity and I do believe tomorrow everybody will be trumpeting the advantages of smartphones, sure, I’m online so much, but I enjoy it, all that knowledge at my fingertips, the only lament I have is they didn’t come up with the internet and the smartphone earlier in my life.

When I sat in my bedroom listening to records and feeling lonely.

Oh, I’d go to the show and find other like-minded people.

But so much of what I was into were not hits, like the first Peter Gabriel album. Sure, “Solsbury Hill” is legendary today, but not yesterday, Atlantic didn’t even want to put out Peter’s third solo album, it came out on Mercury, but now it’s considered his best, it eclipses both “So” and “Us” and if you don’t agree you’re a casual fan, and there we have the era of old, when we used to argue about records, when they were scarce, today there’s an avalanche of product and music means less than ever before. Think about that, tracks have become commonplace, they’re vehicles to sell merch and sponsorship, we’re so far from the garden it’s ridiculous.

So I’m trying to figure out the Indian music business, and I can’t. I’ve learned tons, but it reminds me of entering the music business in L.A. way back when, it took me two years to learn who was real and who was not. This is a lesson they don’t teach in school. As a matter of fact, that’s when you grow up, when you leave school. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go to school, but life begins when you leave, and if you think the world is structured like school, you’re wrong. Oh, you can go to work at Procter & Gamble or the law firm and hope you get recognized and move to the top, but if you’re smart, and few people are, you now have a chance to invent yourself, carve your own path.

But it’s difficult.

I learned that most people are full of shit, they talk a good game but were never going anywhere.

I learned that knowing everything would not get you far, they aren’t looking for that kind of talent on the business side, they reward hustlers first and foremost.

I’m still learning.

And I’d like to come back to Mumbai to learn so much more, to all of India, because it’s very different from the U.S., but the same.

Kinda like the addiction to filmed entertainment. But unlike in the States, they haven’t dumbed down the movies in an effort to appeal to the entire world while satisfying almost no one. Bollywood and Tollywood and Kollywood are all about story. Story wins in this world, it’s what life is based upon, it’s what we love about books and movies and music… Facts are commonplace, you can look them up online, but can you tell a story?

Ezrin wasn’t sure whether to tell stories, or teach production. He started off doing the former, and then spent most of the time giving lessons.

Which I felt were wasted on the audience.

But he asked for a show of hands of those making records…

And almost everybody’s shot up.

This shocked me. But that’s the world we live in, everybody can be a record producer, everybody can be a musician. That does not mean they’ll be a success, but they do get a chance to play.

Oh, how I’d love to have made movies with my smartphone in junior high, To have those tools at my fingertips, to be able to do it for bupkes.

And after an hour, Ezrin asked for questions.

And the first person wanted to know what it was like working with Peter Gabriel.

Ezrin winced and said he was gonna answer this question, but he didn’t want more like it, he wanted to stick to production.

Kinda like the moderator earlier today asked Bob how many drugs were consumed making “The Wall.” NONE! Everybody was straight, they came in from 10-6 every day, they arrived in their BMWs and they worked until late afternoon, when they took tea and discussed the day’s work. Then Pink Floyd went home and Bob worked on into the night.

That’s the story of life, everybody lies, everybody’s got a misconception. Just because you did drugs listening to an album, that does not mean the makers did. The penumbra is overrated, the drugs and the drinking, that’s what the audience does, the innovators, the artists, work really hard, and they fall into drugs when they can’t calm down after overworking.

But I was stunned this guy knew who Peter Gabriel was.

And whenever Bob referenced acts from the past, people would applaud. These twenty and thirtysomethings, halfway around the world.

They knew the songs.

That’s the power of music.

It has influence, it can transcend cultures, it’s more important than any tech or politics, it’s what people live for, respect yourself, dig down deep and try to do your best, because the world depends on it.

Even far away in Mumbai.

Listen to Don Henley. At Glenn Frey’s memorial he told the story of being in the hinterlands, far from running water, he ran into a native who looked at him and said HOTEL CALIFORNIA, even though it appeared there was no electricity to play music.

People know.

It’s got to do with more than money.

Music changes the world. You’ve just got to go somewhere to see it.

I’m here in India and I realize we’re all sustained by the common building blocks. We hear too much about the value of music being respected by businessmen, techies. If only the makers reached higher, respected themselves more, realized the future of our world depends on art. You want to reach someone? SING A SONG!

All About Music

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