This following article is from the blog of Bob Lefsetz, an American music industry figure and author of the email newsletter and blog, the Lefsetz Letter. Based in Santa Monica, California, Lefsetz worked previously as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music’s American division and as a consultant to major record labels. Lefsetz deals with issues at the core of the music industry.
He posted a blog about Chickenfoot yesterday, entitled, “Down The Drain”. Here it is:
I don’t know what’s happening with that Coldplay lawsuit, especially now that Cat Stevens has weighed in, but I’ve always thought Joe Satriani has had better chops than material. That’s the plight of too many of these eighties guitar superstars, they had technique, they spent 10,000 hours practicing in their bedrooms, they just neglected to take any SONGWRITING CLASSES!
Can’t say I was a big fan of Montrose, my radio didn’t go to that big rocky candy mountain. But I bought Sammy Hagar’s second solo album, wherein he truly became the Red Rocker, but stopped buying when he started wearing jumpsuits and playing to the lowest common denominator. But then Sammy joined Van Halen.
We all agree Dave Van Halen is best. But that first album with Sammy, IT SMOKES! “Best Of Both Worlds” lacks the humor of Mr. Roth, but I like it almost as much as “And The Cradle Will Rock…”, presently my favorite Van Halen track. And sure, it’s Eddie’s dynamics, his exquisite guitar work that makes “Best Of Both Worlds” work, still, Sammy SELLS IT! We’ve got the best of both worlds, a guitar god and a man who can truly sing!
But then Sammy got lost in a haze of tequila sales, his live shows became carnivals, after signing hats on stage during the Van Halen reunion he slunk off into obscurity, supported by the beer-bellied drunks driving their F-150s who wanted to party till they dropped. At least in between changing diapers and wearing themselves out at their blue collar jobs. Sammy became a footnote. And I wouldn’t care, except my buddy Joel Selvin just wrote about his new act, Chickenfoot, on the San Francisco Gate:
Guitarist Satriani joins Hagar for Chickenfoot fun
I knew Joel before the Internet exploded, I loved his book about the Summer of Love, he added me to his e-mail distribution list years ago, I check out what he has to say, because I know the man. And today’s article tells me about a supergroup, a new Sammy Hagar concoction. But what truly intrigues me is the inclusion of the Chili Peppers’ drummer, Chad Smith, and…Joe Satriani?
Has Joe ever gotten drunk in his life? Isn’t this the guy who taught guitar in the Valley? Isn’t this like putting Taylor Swift together with Keith Richards? But what got me clicking was the statement that one of the band’s tracks was already a hit in Canada. OH YEAH?
That’s the name of the cut. I figure you can hear it somewhere online. So I fire up MySpace.
What comes out of the speakers is more than serviceable. If it were fifteen years ago and MTV still played music, was still the arbiter of public taste, this act would break through. Impressed, but not wanting to burden you with this cut that will make non-believers say SO WHAT, I decide to tweet about it. But as I’m composing my 140 character missive the MySpace player slides into the next cut, “Down The Drain”.
There’s an ethereal guitar figure, that only a maestro could concoct and execute, and then a thundering bass, played by the replaced by Wolfie on the Van Halen cleanup tour Michael Anthony, and pounding drums.
This is headbanging music. The kind Beavis & Butt-head loved. The kind that was replaced by the beat-driven, dance drivel that came to dominate the popular airwaves. Instead of buying a Strat and Marshall and turning it up to 11, youngsters focused on hair and makeup and making deals with beat doctors. The focus left rock and went to spectacle.
That’s what a Britney Spears show is, that’s what’s got Live Nation in such a pickle. After you’ve paid to see the two-headed dwarf once, ARE YOU GOING TO GO AGAIN?
The sets keep getting more expensive. Gossip sites reveal the dancing divas don’t even sing. You overpay for a moment in time, which you’re ashamed you dropped your dollars on mere moments later.
The rock show was something different. There were no special outfits, no elaborate sets. The driving sound was enough. It went straight up the little girls’ vaginas, had them screaming in ecstasy as the boys pumped their fists in the air, enthralled.
But it all depends on a virtuoso guitarist. Ozzy needed Randy Rhoads. Still needs Zakk Wylde. David Lee Roth needs Eddie Van Halen. And even though Sammy Hagar can pick a few notes himself, he needs somebody world class. And now he’s found him. And stunningly, he’s JOE SATRIANI?
“Down The Drain” is six minutes long. Plods in the beginning, like a Neanderthal trampling the landscape, but rings of the modern era, because of Satriani’s guitar flourishes and Sammy’s screams. The riff bludgeons, your head starts to bob, you can’t turn it off, you want to see where it goes.
And it’s not done too soon. This track is not condensed to fit a radio format, it stretches out, so you can grin and slap the dashboard as you drive, so you can raise your beer and toast life with your buddies.
There’s something here. It’s not about the marketing plan, it’s about the music. There’s an audience for this music. The rock acts always pull an audience. I’m spreading the word because if you like this kind of music, you’ll be satisfied. If you don’t, I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!
That’s today’s mantra. If you don’t like my music, FUCK OFF! Go to the Hold Steady show, listen to TV On The Radio, which is not bad, but too intellectual. Sometimes we need something that speaks to our nuts! You can talk to a girl all night, but that’s not going to bring you to orgasm. At some point you’ve got to take off your pants, she’s got to stroke your dick, you’ve got to go inside. It’s music like this that makes you hard. Allows you to fantasize and become erect!
Stay through until the end, where the whole number breaks down and it sounds like Sammy’s just done the deed, like he’s rolled off and is in ECSTASY!
Yes, the greatest rock and roll music exudes sex. And by that criterion, “Down The Drain” is a ravishing success.
This is the music that sells concert tickets. This is the gig you want to go to, to be amongst the teeming masses, rubbing up against those who are no longer self-conscious, but freed and transported by the tunes.
I don’t give a shit who wins the Coldplay lawsuit. All I know is I’d rather see Chickenfoot! That’s a real rock show, not one peopled by frightened college students driven by Apple ads. Chickenfoot’s music is enough to sell the act. Marketing efforts are superfluous. Because if you like this kind of music, and you’d be surprised how many truly do, you can’t stop playing it, and you have to tell everybody about it. And go to the show.
We’re still waiting for new Van Halen tunes. Hopefully they’ll be better than this Chickenfoot stuff. Eddie’s a savant and Dave’s so bright he can concoct fascinating lyrics. But they’re so busy cleaning up on the reunion circuit, so afraid of taking risks, that there’s nothing available. In the interim, check this out!
(Turn off the video featuring Michael Anthony’s face and click on cut 2!)