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Schlock Rock And Schlitz Part Two!
By Mick Polich - 08/11/2009 - 09:32 AM EDT

I decided we need to go down the ol’ ‘schlock rock’ path not once, but twice! I thought I would slip this article in to ‘finish a thought’, so to speak, so next install, we’ll get back to the tech side and talk about home recording……

Note to correction: good buddy Wade Krieg observes that the Sandpipers had a hit with “Come Saturday Morning”(also featured in the soundtrack to the “Sterile Cuckoo”, my confusing the song and group with the movie”, The Spiral Staircase”) – yep, I was dead wrong, palie, thank you! The Spiral Starecase (note the deliberate misspelling – another detail) had a hit with “More Today Than Yesterday”. I tell ya, trivial memory is a bite sometimes…..

O.k., more ‘schlock rock’-needed as it’s never been needed BEFORE!!!

Before Hannah Montana, before the Jonas Brothers, before Tiffani, Debbie Gibson, and Wham!, there was the Advent Of Schlock Pop. Even before my listening days, hell, as long as recorded music had a history, there was Schlock. And, of course, the Lord deemed it Marketable. Today, there deems Bowling For Soup, and the All-American Rejects – yesteryear, it was Edison Lighthouse, and Steam (sha na na na, kiss ‘em goodbye, indeed). Middle school cool is probably texting your favorite songs lyrics to girls to prove your hip awareness at knowing where the Hip Realm is. Back in ancient times, it was writing that stuff out on spiral notebook paper, and passing it along to someone you really liked in 2nd period Math. I own up to ANYTHING that I’ve listened to since birth, because at this point, what the hell does it matter? I made my wife a hand painted jewelry box last Christmas with U2 lyrics written on the side (See? Still at it  – just a different medium).

The Advent Of Schlock Pop started  way before my time – before Little Richard, Fats Domino, and oh yeah, that Elvis feller, there were songs permeating the airwaves, with slurpy string arrangements and gee-whiz lyrics. Even after rock settled down enough for all the accountants and bean-counters to see what was going on with their ledgers, there begat such characters as Fabian, Frankie Avalon, and other t.v./movie hunk/hunkette crossovers to try their hand at a – singin’(as my wife chuckles, I could include Swedish bombshell Ann Margaret in this group, but I can’t, because she has her own category, if only in my heart – sigh….). It’s no wonder that pop culture and the business of pop culture has tied in heavily to the nostalgia machine forever (yes kids, there were media idols for Great – Grandma and Grandpa, too). I mean, us in’s of a certain age can actually remember when the Golden Arches of Mickey D’s actually had Golden Arches out front – never mind that Mc Death’s have been serving up artery-clogging fare for over a half –century now – but all this seemingly ties into our world lust of Pop Culture. And guess what? I’ve been swimming with the sharks in those waters until recently.

Technology makes communication, audio and visual, easier (or so is my take on it). It truly is an amazing world that we live in regards to our species harnessing electricity and micro –circuiting that down to a user-friendly, palm-held device. Thus, you still have mass media, and mass media is for the PEOPLE, mutha fo’s! Thus, Disposable Art, and Disposable Culture. Oh, don’t wag your finger(especially that middle one, sonny) at me – the Art Of Schlock Pop is truly alive and well – EVERYBODY with a podcast camera, A/D convertor, Pro Tools or Garage Band programs for music, can fulfill Andy Warhols’ prediction of 15 minutes of fame(or maybe 17 minutes, if you’re lucky).

Where does this leave us? You sift thru a lot on the internet. It’s Overload Time, and get ready to rumble, because they are many sources on the web and in the palm of your hand to hear and see what’s good, bad, and indifferent. And no, I’m not gonna say,”Damn kids – time to go back to 8-tracks and cassette tapes!” Good, sweet jee-bus, gimme a break - I’m not that antiquated. But the choices are mind-blowing.

Back in the Paleolithic Era of Print Media, I used to riff off of a couple of publications to see what was on the charts - and not really the pop charts, because there was MTV for that -  but college radio, and the semi-underground streams of music and art. These were mainstream pubs at the time, some are still around – SPIN, No Depression, CMJ Music Monthly, maybe Rolling Stone, or Maximum Rock and Roll. Roll the dice, and take a chance on a new group, or see what an old fave was doing – pretty easy. Now, there are shitloads of choices on-line –everybody is a music critic (me, included). Even if you have X amount on your credit card to lay down for music, how do you make an intelligent choice?

This is were some folks just throw up their hands, say ,”Hose it!”, and rely on Entertainment Tonight on-line, or the Tuesday music review section in USA Today. I don’t wanna think about what I like because I don’t wanna think that hard – you tell me what to pick, then everything is cool. As my old man used to say,”Think, Mick, about what you’re doing here.” I’m suggesting just that in selecting art and music. Oh sure, there’s a little bit of ‘maybe-I-should-see-what-the-kids-are-checking-out’ left in me, but life is short, and I would rather try to play music that’s interesting, arrange music for gigs at least in an interesting way that works for both the audience and myself, or seek out new stuff from the globe that I’ve never heard before. Shee-at – you’ve only got 12 notes to deal with (unless you wanna get into microtones). How difficult can it be to listen to how someone re-arranges 12 notes in a music system?

Again, that can be difficult, because requires some EFFORT and THOUGHT.

In junior high, I used to collect the weekly Top 40 radio hits on a sheet of paper that KIOA AM in Des Moines, would publish. Seems really stupid now, in light of modern times, but there was a quaintness about it back then – you couldn’t wait to see what was hot. And really, it’s the same as it ever was, right? Most of us want to see what’s HOT. Oh –YAWN –right, Mr. Polich……

But, the access to ‘hot’ is virtually unlimited due to the internet. Personally at this point, I think your chances of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack are better, and less subjective, to what’s hot, in, cool, now, boss, or any other dated adjectives, in music. If that’s your reason for enjoying music – because it will make you appear as Mr. or Mrs. Hip – then, so be it. Yep, I was that way, too – now, I really don’t give a rodent’s hiney.

For me, I still like to explore what’s out there in art and music, then I’ll make assessments on what I like and don’t like about it. And folks, I’ve listened to A LOT of different music in my time – something that can’t be summed up in ,” oh yeah, I’ve heard that group”. I’ve given away, or sold, more CD’s, tapes, records, and downloads from all musical genres that most people have in their collections.

So, what’s the point? Is there a lot of b.s. music out there still, after all these years? It’s an objective, and subjective term. Sure, I get a bit warm / fuzzy, and moldy-headed when I think about my past popular music listening habits – in a way, it shaped me. I know well enough that there’s quite a bit of interesting music that you have to seek out, or that comes to you locally when you live in an area for so long. That’s why I don’t deem popular media outlets as the sole sources of what is suppose to be good and bad for music. I still read SPIN, Rolling Stone, and CMJ and No Depression on-line. I’m still looking for reviews and reviewers for art and music. I read, I think, then I make my choice to pursue the matter any further.

Schlock rock or not, I suggest read, or listen, decide if the music works for ya in some fashion, then make your choice.

I think music and art play a much bigger choice in people’s lives than what most folks realize. Think about going thru a day without hearing sounds, ringtones, downloads, theme songs, commercials, i Pods. It would be horrible to have the physical limitations not to be able to enjoy that stuff, let alone if some extremist government took that away from you. But just realize when you feel the need to branch further out on the artistic limb, you can very easily. If you feel the need to get away from spoon-fed mass media, you can by diving into the spoon-fed, mass media pool to search the digital waves to find some interesting and cool music. Schlock is fine, schlock has it’s place, schlock will always be with us. But it may take a few .99 downloads to take some chances on discovering a new horizon of music that wasn’t available to us 15,10 or even 5 years ago.

Screw mass media, but embrace it for your own measures!!!! Hey, it’s the 40th anniversary of the apex of the whole ‘summer of love’ that supposedly stamped the boomer generation( sorry Elvis, but there are a lot of funny things about peace, love, and understanding when it gets filtered through mass media!), so let’s take technology, and explore what’s out there that’s new and exciting in the arts, o.k.? Believe me, it’s a much bigger world than you think!

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