Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

04 February 2010

Calling All Friends

The way we hear and buy music is forever changed.

I was watching “Cougar Town” on tv last night. Towards the end, they played a song under the last few scenes, as tv shows do these days. It was a catchy melody with tight harmonies…something about “calling all friends.” Since my laptop was handy (it always is), I jumped on iTunes and keyed in that phrase. I was immediately rewarded with the result: A group called Low Stars. I had the album bought and downloaded before the episode ended.

It used to be, we’d hear new music on the radio. When I was a kid, we listened to Top-40 AM radio because that’s all there was. Artists recorded albums, and then released 45-rpm “singles” – songs that they and the record company hoped would be popular and spur sales either of the single itself of the whole album from which it came. Each week, the radio stations would introduce one or two of these new songs. Then they ranked them in terms of popularity (although sometimes it was just arbitrary on the part of the station).

In the 1970’s, “progressive rock” FM radio stations began playing a wider range of artists/bands, as well as more songs from the albums than just the singles.

In the 1980’s, MTV gave us videos to go along with the songs. We now got to see the bands, who could increase their popularity/sales if they were video-friendly (think Duran Duran)...and sometimes even if they weren't (Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister springs immediately to mind).

Vinyl records gave way to 8-track tapes (briefly), then cassette tapes, then CD’s. But we still had to go out to the record store to buy the music and see what else was on the album.

The internet gave us Napster, a “file sharing” (really: music swapping) network I never got into. But a couple of years ago Matt gave me an iPod as a gift. I’ve been downloading music ever since, and cannot remember the last time I went out and bought a music CD. It's just not going to happen anymore. In fact, I hardly listen to the radio anymore either. It is certainly not the first place I’d go to hear new music.

Television producers have figured this out. They began including music as an integral part of the show, not just as background music but often to set a mood. Maybe “Dawson’s Creek” (aimed at teenagers) was the first to exploit this. Other shows have followed suit. "Grey's Anatomy" is famous for it. Which brings us to last night’s episode of “Cougar Town.”

Actually, “Cougar Town” wasn’t the first use of “Calling All Friends.” ABC used it as the theme song for a short-lived series called “What About Brian” back in 2006. Obviously, somebody at ABC likes the group.

The Low Stars have been around since 2005 or so. According to Wikipedia, the founding members were sitting around on the porch, singing and playing. Someone from inside the house heard them and remarked that she missed that type of music. “That type of music” being harmonies like The Eagles, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. (I hear more than a little Poco in there as well, but that’s not surprising.)

Anyways, here’s Low Stars doing a “live” version of the song…

They look like they're having a good time, no? Although there are officially only two guys in the group, the lineup is variable, it seems. It grows and shrinks, depending on what they're doing at the time. They are intertwined with other artists, like Roseanne Cash and the Counting Crows. Their so far one-and-only self-titled album was released in 2007. A new one should be out this year.

If you like this sort of guitar-driven rock that’s not too heavy/not too light, then you might like the Low Stars. Personally, I love the album. Every cut is good, and some are outstanding. The slower songs are good too, but check, “Just Around The Corner.”

It is true that this music is a throwback. Just goes to show that even if the technology and means by which we access the music changes, some genres really are timeless.


Bob said...

Man this takes me back! I can remember listening to the Top 40 on Sunday afternoons. You can still catch it on Satellite Radio. Funny to hear it now.

I never had an 8-track but my brother did. My whole family has iPods but I have never gotten one. Just can't make that leap. I rarely buy CDs but still listen to the radio because I drive a lot.

Wife and I are going to see Carole King and James Taylor in concert here in Nashville in May. That should be incredible. I wore out the Tapestry album and his Greatest Hits.

Hal Johnson said...

Catchy stuff there. I missed this when you first posted it. Thanks Bob.