I was out at the once lively and exciting — now sad and slightly weird — XTC fan site, chalkhills.org, where I found a reference to the ongoing XTC-like work of a guy named Robert Wegmann. Being in possession of a fairly open mind, I headed out to the Internet to see what I could see.
What I saw made me feel deeply conflicted. Here’s what I saw:
And here’s how it made me feel:
I am now officially a middle-aged man. Though I never really strove for any kind of significant success in the field of music, I did keep trying, for the fun of it — and I still write music, of a style not totally dissimilar to Mr. Wegmann’s. My music is better than some, and worse than others — like Mr. Wegmann’s. I sort of feel like I could be Robert Wegmann. I feel for the guy. Hell, I may even feel like the guy.
But I’m not Robert Wegmann, and that, believe me, is a choice I have made very deliberately. I think I am too old for a bowl hair-do. I am too old to mug and wink in a “music video.” I am too old to play rock star on camera — especially while playing a kind of prock that was never really in fashion, not even 30 years ago. And I am too old, for crying out loud, to be pretending to play a Chapman stick. I am too old for this, and so is Robert Wegmann. He and I should just stop.
This relates to a conversation I had just yesterday with my brother. I saw Robbie Fulks twice this week. Monday in New Haven he played to 29 people; Tuesday in Northampton it was 60 people. He’s traveling with a three piece band and a sound guy. I saw Sam Amidon (solo) a few weeks ago playing to 70 people. My brother saw Garland Jeffreys with his band a couple of nights ago in Philly with crowd of about 60-70 people.
I would love to understand the economics of this sort of thing. Somebody – artist, venue, label – is taking a bath.
But the discussion was more along the lines of Why? Why does Fulks or Jeffreys do this, after decades in the business? Why does Robert Wegman mug for the video and play rock star? (And, btw, I like the cut. I see the XTC comparisons, although he’s a long way from XTC.)
I realized this question of Why not only applies to those who haven’t had much success after a long time trying (and no matter how talented I may think they are) but the same question could be asked of Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen or Mick Jagger. MIllion dollar a gig payday or not, none of them could spend the money they already have. I can imagine, though, how strong the drug that live performance in front of 10s of thousands, even 100s of thousands of people, must be.
But what does Macca or Bruce get out of flogging new music? I understand creating new music; it’s the marketing I don’t get. I’d wager for these two artists, sales of new product can be predicted pretty well and that prediction probably doesn’t have much to do with whether Macca takes over Hollywood Boulevard for a Jimmy Kimmel performance or not. This new album of his can’t possibly live up to the hype he’s clearly deliberately creating in a well-thought out PR campaign.
Pleaee don’t stop. I am not a musician like many of you, but I am always listening. Who cares how old you are?
I will need to sit down with that video, HVB, but I’m sure I will land on a similar page to yours. The making of music should not be denied, but finding a way to perform with relevance is a bitch past a certain point. Rock ‘ n roll has few paths cut for people past a certain age and level of maturity, especially if you are in no way roots-rock. The Boss manages to stay huge and IMPORTANT. That must feel amazing. McCartney’s assumed relevance is as thin and phony as his chestnut mane.
Maybe — in fact, almost certainly — it’s the whole Look and visual ‘tude in this Wegmann video that gave me the age-ist oogies. There are a few tracks of his on his reverbnation site that I quite like.
I liked that guy as much as I seem to like XTC. Which seems to be not a whole lot.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but that opening drum beat is a sample from “This Year’s Girl,” yes? An XTC-influenced artist sampling Elvis Costello is not exactly a mark of originality, if you catch my drift.
Drift caught, but it’s all part of that phony Beatlemania that some of us have trouble leaving alone more than on the weekends or over holidays. As a result of overuse so much of that stuff ends up sounding like Utopia.
Looks like Snape. I kinda liked it, Chapman Stick withstanding. I say never-too-old to do anything, rhetorically speaking. Especially if anyone enjoys it, including the maker.
I get the conflicted part. I’m no musician, but the feeling is similar to the way I feel when I strap on pointe shoes and attempt to dance with 14 year olds. I’m middle aged and enjoy ballet, but there is a level that is very very ridiculous.
Mr. Royale and I have become rather friendly with David J, originally through Mr. R’s art, but now because we just like a lot of the same stuff. The man continues to tour, in small clubs, and I’m not quite ready to ask him, “WTF?” He continues to be a great performer and he still writes interesting music, but ultimately, I think he (and other former professionals I know, mostly dancers) are trying to figure out how to remain relevant. They like music/dance/art/whatever but realize that some of their interests are considered dated. Us plain old middle-age people have enough mixed feelings, hopes and regrets without having to add bittersweet memories of former stardom. Regardless, what I honestly say to David, and I would say to you, too, HVB, is I like your music and kuddos for you for keeping up with it. I’ll be in the audience cheering you on (thank goodness the club is dark and I don’t have to look at the weirdos there in the club with us.)
Thank you for an insightful and thought provoking review of my video. While perhaps some of your observations may be valid, I can only say videos are a necessary evil, however banal they might seem, for song delivery these days. the tone was a choice of the director and it seemed fine at the time. I don’t recall winking but mugging well perhaps, I can only say oh well.
To address the question of sampled drum beats, no samples were used here all beats were in fact played by a live drummer. And I actually do play a chapman stick in the recording.
In any case thank you all for your sage advice. I will consider this discussion as a compliment and strive to live up to it!!
Thanks for checking in and sharing the story behind your video. Thanks for being a bigger man when confronted by absolute strangers airing out their rock therapy sessions in public. I feel a little bad whenever artists have to read the stuff we shoot at from the hip from time to time, but that’s part of the culture around here and there’s no point in pretending we don’t get into the same discussions in the privacy of our own home. I am sure I’m not alone in saying that I appreciate that you’re keeping up the good fight to make original, melodic, personal rock ‘n roll.
Absolutely, what Mod said. I shudder to think what my friends would say about *my* music if they didn’t have to pull any punches. As I said in a follow-on post, I really do think much of your work is quite good. Thanks for letting me use your video as a conduit for letting go of my very personal age-related Rock neuroses.