Bottom Line: Styles May Differ, But We Love Instrumental Music with a Melody

Today, I will go out on a limb and probably offend my refined free jazz-playing friends.  That, of course, assumes -- probably incorrectly -- that they read or even care about the musings of sexagenarian, less-than-talented rock’n’rollaphile.  Instrumental music which has a melody is what we low brow, less-refined folks like.

Some time ago, a friend observed I was a “one trick pony” because the Pups play one style of music.  Simple, primitive but melodic surf-inspired or retro instrumental rock.  The response was, “Yes, that is true.  But we put energy into our music and try to make it fun for everybody -- both the audience and the band.  And that’s about all my limited skills allow.”

One consequence of my friend’s observation is to pay better attention to what others do.  Dick Dale is other worldly with skills developed over 60 plus years of playing.  He is an icon who influences and affects every surf band that ever existed.



When we return to this world, Slacktone is the gold standard.  The Pups are the lead (as in Pb or plumbum) standard.  For learning purposes, what lies in between?

If you follow this blog very much, you may have read about the high energy double-picked, reverb-drenched, glissando-driven music of Slacktone, The Pyronauts and The Sneaky Tikis.  You also may have read about the precisely picked and effortless playing of Paul Johnson.  Or how Jon Blair and Ferenc Dobronyi combined those styles in their interpretations and compositions of instrumental surf music.

What do all of those performers have in common?  They play something to which an audience can relate.  They play to entertain those who came -- and usually paid -- to listen.  Their music is familiar as either recognizable songs or songs which sound like something an audience has heard before.  They also have made every song they play their own in some way.

The bands and performers differ in how they present their music.  They each engage their audience differently.  They may differ in delivery of what we know as “surf music.”  Yet, the bottom line is, despite differences in style, we love instrumental music which has a melody.

Guess what?  Audiences do too!

1 comment

  • VibroCount

    VibroCount

    "One Trick Pony"? There was a movie starring Paul Simon, backed by his band at the time: the amazing late Eric Gale, Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, Tony Levin. Simon's character 9and music) is called a one trick pony by a producer (played by Lou Reed). Every musician in the film could be referred to as a one trick pony (B-52s, Lovin' Spoonful, etc.), but all can play much more than the one style each became famous for. I resent great musicians who make snide comments about simple musical forms. The great Carol Kaye (who played on many surf hits) still berates surf music while she proudly lauds her big band background. Yet there are classical musicians and composers who deride all jazz as simplistic. It takes great skill to compose or play extremely complex music. It also takes great skill to play the simplest music and make it work. In comic books and comic strips, some artists draw everything: every nailhead, every screw, every switch, every leaf on every tree and bush. If the composition of the panel is not perfect, a well-placed gizmo with elaborate detail can mask the lack of balance. But it is far more difficult to place a simple round-headed kid on a horizontal line and make a work of art... as anyone who has attempted to make a strip as beautiful as Peanuts can attest. I have taken simple one-chord, highly rhythmic rock tunes and written complex 21-piece big band arrangements from them, and I've taken full orchestral jazz compositions and made them into guitar, bass, and drum trio pieces. I like a good melody. But I also like Charles Ives, Albert Ayler, all eras of John Coltrane, and field hollers. The blues can be (and often is) the simplest, most boring and repetitive music ever performed. But with great artistry, the most overused blues phrase can be as electrifying as the greatest work by Mozart. And beginning kid musicians can make simple Mozart seem as painful as a cat's howling. Is a show successful? Is a musical performance worthwhile? Only one consistant way to answer those questions... was it entertaining? And to each member of the audience, the answer might be different. Art does not always sell the most, and what sells is often poor art. But good one trick ponies can make art and money.

    "One Trick Pony"? There was a movie starring Paul Simon, backed by his band at the time: the amazing late Eric Gale, Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, Tony Levin. Simon's character 9and music) is called a one trick pony by a producer (played by Lou Reed). Every musician in the film could be referred to as a one trick pony (B-52s, Lovin' Spoonful, etc.), but all can play much more than the one style each became famous for.

    I resent great musicians who make snide comments about simple musical forms. The great Carol Kaye (who played on many surf hits) still berates surf music while she proudly lauds her big band background. Yet there are classical musicians and composers who deride all jazz as simplistic. It takes great skill to compose or play extremely complex music. It also takes great skill to play the simplest music and make it work.

    In comic books and comic strips, some artists draw everything: every nailhead, every screw, every switch, every leaf on every tree and bush. If the composition of the panel is not perfect, a well-placed gizmo with elaborate detail can mask the lack of balance. But it is far more difficult to place a simple round-headed kid on a horizontal line and make a work of art... as anyone who has attempted to make a strip as beautiful as Peanuts can attest.

    I have taken simple one-chord, highly rhythmic rock tunes and written complex 21-piece big band arrangements from them, and I've taken full orchestral jazz compositions and made them into guitar, bass, and drum trio pieces.

    I like a good melody. But I also like Charles Ives, Albert Ayler, all eras of John Coltrane, and field hollers. The blues can be (and often is) the simplest, most boring and repetitive music ever performed. But with great artistry, the most overused blues phrase can be as electrifying as the greatest work by Mozart. And beginning kid musicians can make simple Mozart seem as painful as a cat's howling.

    Is a show successful? Is a musical performance worthwhile? Only one consistant way to answer those questions... was it entertaining? And to each member of the audience, the answer might be different. Art does not always sell the most, and what sells is often poor art. But good one trick ponies can make art and money.

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