I’ve learned enough playing in bands over the years to have some wisdom to pass on. I see a lot of awful things bands pass off as normal behavior and hope I can make the world a better place by helping prevent this. I don’t know everything about ‘how to make it in the music biz.’ If I did I would be writing this from a tour bus and not my apartment. If you disagree with my views I encourage you to share your own. If you have another way of doing things which brings more success I’d love to hear it.
The Covers Debate
You probably don’t know this, but there is a war going on in your local scene. Bands aren’t fighting over the best venues, genres or turf; they’re just badmouthing each other based on the type of material they play.
You see, cover bands hate original bands because they think they’re too untalented and lazy to learn to play other peoples’ music and original bands hate cover bands because they think they’re too untalented and lazy to write their own music.
So who’s right? They both are, silly. I’ve always wanted to be in a band that was 50% covers and 50% originals, but I always come across assholes who agree 100% with the above paragraph.
Of course, if I have to pick a side I’d go with the cover bands. I’ve heard criticism that it doesn’t take any talent to learn someone else’s music, but I’m pretty sure it takes just as much talent as picking up an instrument and playing your own awful racket. Plus, cover band usually play good songs. Songs that people know and love. I like to think I’m a decent songwriter, but the best tune I’ve ever written was called “Our Band Sucks.” And that little ditty is nowhere near as good as some of the crap written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney or George Harrison. Although it may be somewhere close to some of Ringo Starr’s crap.
Hell, even Dave Grohl who is for all intents and purposes a very,very talented and successful songwriter (even if you don’t like the music you have to admit that he’s had a very prolific and profitable career) took a back seat in Nirvana because he felt that Kurt Cobain was a better song-smith. If it was good enough for Dave Grohl, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles and even Nirvana to play covers I don’t think there’s any person anywhere who is too good for it.
Elvis never even wrote his own songs. Elton John can’t write lyrics for shit. Neither can Meat Loaf. The difference between all of these great artists and every shitty original local band is that they admit they can’t write music. I’m all for artistic expression, but I don’t like hearing local bands playing crap because they think they’re too good to play a Ramones song.
The secret is that while it is very, very easy to play the main riff to “Smoke on the Water” it is nearly impossible to write something as catchy, simple and timeless. And most people in original bands are too lazy and self involved to learn other peoples’ music.