Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye



Sometimes there’s no room for you in the conventional business.

If you look at the Spotify Top 50, if you check out the execs at the big three major labels, you may scratch your head and ask yourself WHAT IS THIS AND WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? It’s like the mainstream recording business is heading straight for a cliff, at a hundred miles an hour, as if the rest of the world does not exist, as if in a world where we’re overloaded with choice we only want a limited number of offerings in music. You can listen to all the hit playlists, even country, click through, and if you’re lucky you’ll find a track or two that resonates, and then you’ll pull up Joe Bonamassa’s “Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye” and find it lands directly in the pocket.

Gary Moore was a journeyman. But his LP “Still Got The Blues” was released in America on the new Virgin label Charisma and Phil Quartararo, its majordomo, got the title track airplay. Forget the charts, they rarely reflect reality, if you listened to rock radio in 1990, you know “Still Got The Blues,” it wasn’t that it sounded new, just that it sounded so right. Moore had been kicking around for years, most notably as a member of Thin Lizzy, but that act’s hit days were far behind it, and Phil Lynott died in 1986. In other words, it was Phil Q who made the track a hit.

No one is making Joe Bonamassa’s track “Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye” a hit. Joe’s a self-contained business. With a push would this track break? It’s not quite as good as “Still The Blues,” but it’s close, and I haven’t heard anything just like it in a while. Yes, blues rock, the sound that emanated from the U.K. when the music of the Mississippi Delta mixed with electric guitars and experimentation, envelope-pushing, is essentially dead. Clapton is lionized, oldsters still debate the best guitarist of all time, but it’s an echo chamber at best, no one outside of those involved seems to care. Rock is dead on the radio. But it lives on the road. Which is where Bonamassa makes his bread, he averages 2,759 tickets per gig, for an average gross of $319,754, which is a tidy sum, especially when you do it all yourself.

Joe Bonamassa has been building his audience for decades. While those on the Spotify Top 50 come and go, he remains, under the radar, with little press, but those who know and care support him, he’s a star to them. But so far outsiders have scratched their heads, because Joe was quite definitely a great guitar player, but the songs and the vocals didn’t quite measure up. But now comes “Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye.”

I’m not sure this resonates with the younger generation, after all it hasn’t even been exposed to this music. Then again, a lot of them have, out of the speakers of their parents’ cars, their stereos. Especially the children of baby boomers. And Led Zeppelin is forever. And sure, Great Van Fleet sounds like Led Zeppelin, its lead singer emulates Robert Plant, but that’s not the sound of Joe Bonamassa, Bonamassa sounds closer to the first Zeppelin album, to what came before, closer to Jeff Beck than Jimmy Page. And “Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye” swings.

But it is generic. You’re not going to listen to it and see it as a breakthrough, but it will wake up your ears, because it’s the lost sound that used to resonate with you so. And the guitar-playing is what is absent from all records today and even the lyrics resonate, especially when you learn they’re based on the end of Bonamassa’s five year relationship.

“Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye” doesn’t fit on Active Rock. That format is for harder-edged bands a few generations removed from Black Sabbath, as in if you haven’t been following the scene, don’t know the history, chances are you’ll find the cacophonous sound anathema.

And Triple-A leans meaningful. It’s not about playing so much as songwriting, although its playlist is broader than Active Rock, but it champions acts like Phoebe Bridgers, who appeals more to your intellect than your heart, never mind your genitalia.

So, there’s nowhere for “Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye” in today’s recorded music business. It’s a square peg in a round hole. But in this case, the peg is quite large and the hole is not as big as gatekeepers think it is.

Begging the question if Bonamassa got a push, would he break through. There’s a good case he would! It would be more of a press story than a radio one, because the fans of this kind of music still pay attention to the press. And it could be cool to go see Joe Bonamassa, but then at some point he’d be yesterday’s news, he’d lose his label, thrown on the scrapheap as a has-been. But by doing it himself, by hiding in plain sight, Joe Bonamassa continues to build a career that will last as long as he wants it to. And never forget, people love to own something, and it’s only the youngsters who love to own number one, and they abandon it when the next thing comes along or they get older.

“Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye” is timeless, just like the blues. A sound that here’s forever. Trends come and go. But people will still be playing blues rock. Just check out the School of Rock, this sound dominates. And rock is not like jazz, it is a bigger tent, and is earthy without snootiness and requires no studying, no knowledge to understand and get.

Is this a trend? Is Joe Bonamassa leading a charge back to blues rock? I don’t think so. But the trend of doing it all by yourself, building for the ages as opposed to today, that’s something that is gonna grow, because despite the barriers to entry having been torn down the road to stardom goes through channels narrower than ever before, leaving too many genres of music out, in an age where you are not dependent on the system to build a career. Bonamassa is a harbinger. In a world where the road is more important than the studio, where feeling is more important than the penumbra, where the world still hungers for music that is not background, for the dance floor, for a video game, for a commercial, but is positively primary, up close and personal.

P.S. Check out the YouTube video above, although canned, when you see Bonamassa bend the notes your body tightens, your eyes narrow, you’re caught up in the feeling you know so well, the feeling of music pushing you to that place where it’s the only thing that exists and you feel alive and well.

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