David Lowery made and makes some fantastic indie music, and writes deep, thoughtful blogposts on the state of the music industry that has both succored and frustrated him. Emily White is a college DJ and blogger whose stray thoughts on music as physical medium vs. free digital commodity got published by NPR. Sir Paul McCartney recorded Ram in an attempt to convince the world he wrote all of John Lennon’s Beatles stuff.
I kid, except I don’t: Have you listened to Ram? The thing these three people have in common is music, and its role in artistic achievement. White thinks music alone isn’t worth paying for, but the mechanism for receiving and sharing it might be. Lowery strongly retorts that music is the only thing that gives the mechanism any value, so why short the artists who create it? McCartney, perhaps more than anyone living, proved the power of music to establish an artist as a force in control of his or her commercial destiny. (The fallout from the Lowery-White tit-for-tat deluged Twitter on Sir Paul’s 70th birthday, and I love the synchronicity of that.)
When the Beatles ceased touring in 1966, no one at Capitol/EMI could tell them to get back on the bus. They’d sold too many records.
When McCartney and George Martin hired a string octet to record “Eleanor Rigby” on what was supposed to be a rock record, no one at Capitol/EMI could tell them to scrap the strings and plug back in. They’d sold too many records.
When the Beatles locked themselves into Abbey Road Studios for 129 days of late-night recording and mixing sessions, trying to create the most provocative, impressionistic and eclectic LP in rock to that point, no one at Capitol/EMI could order them into detox. They’d sold too many records. Also, detox hadn’t been invented.