The significance of Roger Waters

Roger Waters commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall in July 1990, and used it to promote his music. The destruction of the Soviet Union (1989-91) and collapse of the Eastern Bloc was a reactionary event in world history. Any Trotskyist will tell you that. It was a degenerated workers’ state falling back into capitalism because the Bolshevik revolution had been strangled & betrayed by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Since 1992, NATO has expanded some 800 miles eastwards up to Russia’s border, finally provoking Putin’s reactionary (but politically understandable) invasion of the Ukraine. Roger Waters is surely better than these modern musical clowns he publicly cites, and his support of Julian Assange proves it. But there are flaws in his overall politics, combined with monetary incentives, which tie him to the rotting corpse of capitalism.

The question wasn’t whether the fall of the Berlin Wall was a good/bad thing. All such walls are inherently bad. The historical question was: Who did the pushing and upon whose heads did the rubble fall? The standard-of-living for the vast populations in every former Eastern Bloc nation has declined, wars have flared up & never stopped, all while a corrupt billionaire class has been created which embraces neo-Nazi ideology with funding from the CIA/Pentagon complex.

Roger Waters got upset that the latest teen flavor was interviewed before him in Toronto. But the truth is Roger Waters isn’t significant to 16-24 year olds, and that’s the only demographic that matters in music. Waters doesn’t speak to them convincingly. If he was significantly influential with his anti-war message, he would have been cancelled like all the rest.

He’s allow to exist & go on because kids don’t care about him. It’s all “I, me, mine…” in that notorious interview, which tells you it’s more about promotion than anything else. Pink Floyd was never a political band, they were artistic stoners who hit the jackpot. Then punk/post-punk showed the world how stale they were, and they’ve been dinosaurs since.

Pink Floyd is a staple of classic rock, whose playlists were ossified by mafia programmers in the early 1980’s to the benefit of Roger Waters. He never objected that well-deserving artists such as the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, the Stooges, Modern Lovers, Sex Pistols, Wire, etc, never get played on classic rock stations, even though their music is of their era. Why is that?

As a middle-aged man, I can definitively say that I am sick & tired of hearing Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Boston, etc, over & over forever on rock stations. There HAS to be more to music than that, and in fact there is MUCH, MUCH more. All you need to do is turn off that boring classic rock you’ve gotten so comfortable with and try something new & different. It’s actually the music industry you’re listening to when you dial in the classic rock format. You’re feeding Clear Channel & EMI, who have an unlimited supply… of bullshit. Here’s the 2003 re-issue cover of Roger Waters Live in Berlin.

It’s capitalism you’re feeding. The music industry needs you to forever tune into their stale stuff, and they surely DON’T want you seeking an alternative. That’s why Husker Du & Sonic Youth were called “alternative” in the 1980’s and still are today. Never to be heard on programmed XM Satellite radio. Either you love the music or you don’t. To those who do, I’m with you.

Roger Waters has the right to be heard, and he has been. The rest of us have the right to criticize him because we bought his records a long time ago and have listened to them. I like Pink Floyd as a group. I like the fact that David Gilmour took care of Syd Barrett (as best he could) after he left the band. I didn’t like Roger Waters suing Pink Floyd after he left the band, over their name. He lost that one because he was selfish & wrong. Today, I view Roger Waters as selfish, but at least on the correct side politically– for now. We’ll see how things go. We’ll see if anyone cares.

For over 40 years now, punk rockers have considered Pink Floyd irrelevant. They were a decent band who made a few great records back in the day, then slowly disintegrated. Pink Floyd was often a Rogers Waters’ studio project more than anything else, and that’s why he finally went solo. For better or worse, that’s how I see this band and the creative force behind it. Over & Out

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Political guide to being an artist

Music is personal and everyone does it for their own reasons. Everyone who has tried knows that. This essay is to concisely explain my reasons, which are mostly misunderstood. I started like everyone else because I love music and wanted to do my own thing. At first the goal was to be a rock star. I eventually learned that wasn’t possible, so I outgrew the idea and became something more. I became an artist with socialist consciousness.

In the history of popular music, this has only been tried a few times, and it has always been met with virulent hostility & blacklisting from the entertainment industry & ruling establishment. The surrealists led by French writer André Breton were the earliest 20th century example of art & socialist politics meeting (through Trotsky), and their movement was deeply influential, though it was finally overwhelmed by fascism across Europe in the 1930’s. The surrealist movement deserves careful study today in terms of content, revolutionary potential, and its inherent limitations.

Mexican painter Diego Rivera, whose frescoes & murals dazzled the art world in the 1930’s, flirted with Trotsky, but eventually retreated to his mansion as World War II broke out in Europe.

Post-war art has been kept under the thumb of anti-communism, ever since President Truman laid out US Cold War policy, which has continued up to this day. Cold War policy can be summed up as: Russia is the evil enemy, and Marxism is never to be tolerated. If you were an advocate for civil rights (women, blacks, immigrants) & anti-war in this era, then you were branded as a godless communist that must be expunged from the Earth [!].

Popular folk music group, the Weavers, whose best known song was “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” were blacklisted because leading member Pete Seeger was a socialist. The Weavers had a “clean” playlist for live performance, but it didn’t matter to the anti-communists in 1950. The original Weavers disbanded in their prime by the summer of 1952, due to no gigs. They revived themselves a few years later with their famous Carnegie Hall performance, recorded Christmas Eve 1954, but not released by Vanguard Records until April, 1957.

* As a footnote. these irrational hysterics & witch hunts were brought back to life by today’s anti-communists with the Black Lives Matter & MeToo campaigns in the 2010’s. Their goal (as always) is to artificially divide the working masses through identity politics. No serious discussion of class inequality & imperialism is allowed with anti-communists. That’s when they get hostile & violent.

Bob Dylan’s working class appeal in his early to mid-1960’s era made people take sides on issues like racism, class society, the Vietnam War, etc. Fans & the establishment turned on him when he electrified (which magnified his message), to the point where he finally had to retreat & hide away.

On July 29th, 1966, a month after his final classic-period masterpiece Blonde On Blonde was released, Bob Dylan crashed his motorcycle near Woodstock, New York. He used this (relatively minor) accident as a pretext to remove himself from the political discussion in the mainstream. He did this to save his life. At this point, Vietnam was becoming out in-the-open & overwhelmingly polarizing. Bob Dylan risked being killed like Malcolm X, as he was the white equivalent at the time with his songs. MLK, and Democrat for President, Bobby Kennedy were gunned down in 1968, just to give you an idea of the times.

I don’t blame Bob Dylan for doing what he did to save his life, and neither should you. There was no organized political party on the left that he could have joined to protect himself and his political convictions. In revolutionary terms, Bob Dylan was too far ahead of his time. He had to retreat back into capitalism to carry on.

In the jazz realm, Sun Ra (pic above) stands as the shining star of revolution, with a catalog & body-of-work too vast to discuss here. His avant garde piano/electric keyboard/synthesizer style, backed by his Arkestra, seems to have come from another planet, which he claimed it did. Everything he did, from Saturn Records, to how he recorded & marketed himself, while holding his Arkestra together for 40+ years until his death (and then beyond), deserves careful study.

Sun Ra approached music as a conscious objector to WWII. He lived with, then ran afoul of the Black Panthers, a point ‘Afro-futurist’ racialists avoid. Sun Ra created his myth, to protect himself, and it worked. He died naturally in 1993, and never had to change his message.

If you are not a myth, whose reality are you?
If you are not a myth, whose reality are you?
If you are not a reality, whose myth are you?

— Sun Ra

Let the verse cited above roll around in your head for awhile, while contemplating deeply. I love Sun Ra, but I don’t want to be a myth, I’m a reality, so the question eventually became for me, as Ric Size: How do I become a revolutionary artist without having to retreat politically or descend into mysticism?

First, you must educate yourself in all spheres. You can’t be fooled by the bullshit, old & new, and you can’t rely any anyone else to tell you the truth. You must discover it for yourself & always keep it close. You must know yourself completely.

But beyond that you need help. No one is an island, and eventually everyone dies. You need to affiliate yourself with an organization that represents your political values and will survive into posterity. By the time I became serious about being an artist in the late 2000’s, such a political entity had come into existence– the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).

The WSWS has had an Arts section from the start, at the insistence of Arts editor David Walsh. As I understand the discussions which took place back in 1998, (and I wasn’t present), it was David Walsh who insisted on the inclusion of an ‘Arts’ section as essential, and he had to convince David North & Nick Beams (among others)– and finally did. It was a far-sighted inclusion which deserves socialist merit, because it is art that sparks revolutions by defining it to the masses through songs, film, literature, paintings, etc. You can’t separate art & revolution.

Let me finish on musical artists with socialist consciousness by pointing out that there is revolution in the reggae music of Bob Marley & the Wailers, Scratch Perry, etc. Same with P-funk, punk & post-punk. Same with Fela Kuti’s Afro-beat. Same with Eno, Fripp, Byrne…

I affiliate myself with the ICFI, the Trotskyist party of international socialism. By doing this, I never have to walk anything back. My art isn’t perfect, and there is no such thing anyways. All it’s meant to do is inspire & educate. As a revolutionary artist, you light a candle so others can follow. Whatever comes after is left up to others, as it should be.

All an artist can do is continue to work. The critics & naysayers will always be there. You can’t have fans, without having haters. The idea is to love your fans and always be true to them, while appropriately dealing with the haters. It’s serious work, so make sure you find good help & trusting allies.

I’ve written a lot about baseball analytics on this site and for good reason. There is a truth in the numbers, that is often hidden through only observing. MLB is such a long season, and the subtle differences between good teams & the best team, are often too slight to see with the naked eye. If you can see them, it helps to have numbers to back up what you are scouting.

It’s like this with art & politics. Art is creative freeflow, where politics can be studied scientifically using orthodox Marxism, known as Trotskyism. To make sure your art stays true to the truth, you need Trotskyism (the WSWS) as a political guide. Once you are fundamentally sound (politically speaking), a dialectical change will occur, and then you will be able to write anthems that appeal to kids & the masses with a revolutionary spirit.

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Electrified! promo/update

I went to a Catholic high school and then a Jesuit University. I’ve recently been thinking about what I’ve done that most offends these people, and it’s probably “Atheist Psalm” from this record.

As true-believing Christians, I seek your forgiveness on this. I’m not apologizing for it. “Atheist Psalm” is rated ‘Explicit’ by YouTube, Spotify, etc, when there are no swears in it. That’s a measure of its shock value & how much the censors hate it. The rest of Electrified! (2015) does the same. That’s why it’s so hard to find.

Electrified (2015)

There is a fascist paramilitary element that wants to overthrow the US Constitution and establish a personalist dictatorship in America. The US Constitution says ALL people are allowed to express their political feelings without fear of retribution violence, blacklisting, etc. It also explicitly expresses that there needs to be a separation of church & state.

If you disagree, then consider this thoughtfully instead of resorting directly to Biblical hysterics, guns & violence. That’s the difference between acceptable political debate and what fascists did on 1/6/21. The idea that politics is ideological discussion & ethical debate of history, class inequality, etc; and NOT hand-to-hand combat, is not yet for everybody– I understand. But someday it will be. It has to be for our species survival.

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Pussy Riot & Ukrainian ultra-nationalism

Preface: Music & art are aptitudes of mine, and you REALLY can’t fool me when it comes to punk rock. I know it because I’ve loved it since I was a kid.

A few weeks back it was announced with sensational fake media coverage that two members of the so-called “art collective” Pussy Riot, Masha Alyokhina & Lucy Shtein escaped from Russia.

Pussy Riot refers to themselves as an “art collective,” but gets promoted like a band. They are neither. Pussy Riot are foreign agents, as declared by Vladimir Putin’s Justice Ministry. Since December 30, 2021, when Nadya Tolokonnikova & Nika Nikulshina were added to the Russian government list of “foreign agents,” they have been required to start every tweet with this disclaimer:

THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT

“These people systematically distribute materials to an indefinite circle of persons, while receiving foreign funds,” the Russian Justice Ministry said in a statement. For the record, this author declared this conclusion a year-and-a-half earlier in this report.

These foreign agents (AKA Pussy Riot) have mostly fled Russia since Putin’s reactionary invasion of the Ukraine began in late February 2022. The NYT breathtakingly describes their escape to Lithuania as a heroic dash to freedom. “A lot of magic happened last week… It sounds like a spy novel.” Maria Alyokhina said, perhaps revealing more than she meant.

Another agent of Western imperialism, Maria V. Alyokhina, said, “I still don’t understand completely what I’ve done,” in the New York Times propaganda piece, again revealing more than intended, because you don’t just escape from Putin’s Russia without knowing what you are doing!

These agents were under Russian police surveillance and forced to wear ankle bracelet ID trackers, etc. You need serious help from Western intelligence to escape that. Since Pussy Riot are simply patsies for US imperialism, they don’t fully understand the “magic” that made it possible. It’s somehow connected to a Turkmenistan embezzler, Swiss bank accounts, and $20M in cash that disappeared after he turned up dead in a hotel room. Murky, murky

Getting back to what we know, it is a historical fact that US President Joe Biden provoked Vladimir Putin’s desperate invasion. Biden and his colleagues have authorized $40B (& counting) in US taxpayer money for weapons & ammo to arm the Azov Battalion, Right Sector, etc, who are all fascist SS progeny. Their historical leader is Ukrainian ultra-nationalist Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Adolf Hitler in his war to exterminate Marxism & Jews in WWII. That is history. The rest is de-evolution.

Pussy Riot screams “Glory To Ukraine,” during all their “performances” across Europe now. This is the battle cry of the ultra-nationalists, CIA mercenary scum of the Maidan Putsch & Odessa Massacre of 2014. It is a historical fact that “Glory To Ukraine” is a Nazi anthem.

Since fleeing to the West with a lot help from their friends in Langley & Washington, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova & Maria Alyokhina now concentrate much of their activity on their anti-Russian (CIA) propaganda outlet, Mediazona. If you were a foreign agent posing as an art collective or punk band, you would do exactly this right now.

In late April 2022, the Dartmouth Political Union hosted a virtual event with Nadya Tolokonnikova, who had been booked months in advance, well before the Putin invasion. Of course, she was not asked if she is an agent of the US, but when asked how she comes up with ideas for “art protest” Tolokonnikova said “that it is not so much about the quality of the performance as it is the quality of the protest.”

As a revolutionary artist I can tell you that it is ALL ABOUT the quality of the performance, with politics being an essential part of it, but genuine art also has humor, humanity, love, science, culture, etc. That’s the difference of thought between a real artist and agents of imperialism.

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All about music & divas

I’m an underground musical artist on hiatus. No more songs to give and certainly no money or gigs. So when something like COVID-19 comes along, and it just isn’t going your way, you give it up before it consumes you to death. It’s called listening to that inner voice that’s telling you, “Listen to your mother.” So now I’m just a music fan again, which means I can catch up on what’s been going on for the last 25 years or so in popular music.

When you become an artist you commit yourself to the process and believe 100% in who you are and what you are doing. You must have this approach because no one else will believe in you. You rely on yourself because only you know what is in your head & heart. This is why I haven’t paid much attention to what’s been happening in the popular music realm these past two decades plus.

What I did musically (& with this blog) can be defined as underground. This is the realm of revolution. I always look at making a record as trying to set a standard that’s hard to beat. When you seriously listen to AC/DC’s Powerage (1978), or any of their other great records, you finish shaking your head & saying to yourself, “That’s hard to beat.”

That’s what inspired me over the years. I was always trying to make that song, EP, or LP/CD that was hard to beat. You have to know it’s going to be great before you record a note. Every great record you’ve ever heard in every genre had that. They all knew they were about to do something great, and then they did it. It’s a great feeling when it’s done. You know it’s going to be a classic because it’s hard to beat.

It’s harder than ever today to make a great record. It starts with great songs which have become scarce. A dirty truth of the music industry is that their popular music stars rely heavily on professional songwriters. These manufactured stars just don’t have much to say, and I get bored with that. I know I’m not the only one.

Songwriting is also a dividing line for those such as myself with punk ethics. Underground music in 100% organic, meaning it is not using professional songwriters, but instead creating its own material. Most of it isn’t very interesting, but there are genuine artists in every genre at all times, you just need to know how to find them. They’re all more interesting than Diane Warren & Max Martin.

For decades, you had to be a fan to know who the major artists were, especially in more esoteric genres such as electronic, dance, etc… Today, AllMusic & YouTube provide any eager listener with everything they need to decide who they really like. The basic rule for going into unfamiliar genres is to do early research and figure out who the major artists are– past & present. How long has the genre been around? Who started the genre, and who is the best artist today? Work your way forwards & backwards from there and you won’t get too lost. Lost means you don’t know and buy too much junk.

Let’s take country music as an example, as I’m not the biggest country music fan in the world. I lived in central Florida for over 25 years, and I’ve been around a lot of country music fans so I understand how they feel about it, but generally their contemporary stars don’t move me. I love Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie, Waylon & Jessi. But contemporary country largely doesn’t catch my ear. George Strait, Reba McEntire & Garth Brooks were the best & biggest country music artists through the early-1990’s, which is where I left it, so I’m looking for the best since then up to the present.

As you may have guessed, I’m more interested in songwriters & story tellers, especially in the country music genre. Contemporary country largely has the same problem that pop & rap absolutely have; there’s so few vital voices/performers who are their own songwriter anymore. The last time there was an “excess of originality” in songwriting was when indie grunge & hip-hop turned major label artists from John Mellencamp to Winger into has-beens overnight, when Nirvana hit with Nevermind in September 1991.

The mafia which runs the corrupt music industry machinery weathered this crisis and adapted by buying-up all the indie labels & college radio stations. U2, REM, Metallica, Soundgarden, etc, were then canonized into classic rock. 1980’s indie label bands such as the Minutemen, Husker Du, the Pixies, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, etc, never reached mainstream radio. They had too much VU & Andy Warhol in them. The mafia that owns & runs the music industry hates its artists because they can’t control them. They hate artists for devaluing all of their mediocrities & posers which they throw stupid money at to promote. If the kids only knew…

Artists take everything seriously which means they must develop a razor-sharp sense of humor with ironic sensibilities in order to get along. You can’t be serious & on-point forever, especially without money, as it will burn you out and/or kill you. You have to be able to let it go & adapt.

I celebrated Record Store day during the few weeks leading up to it, as well as the day itself. It was April 23 this year, the day after Earth Day. The truth is every day is Earth Day and I wrote that long before it became a meme.

Vinyl costs a lot for a good reason. Its expensive & dirty to produce. New CD’s now list for roughly half the cost of vinyl on new releases. It is my professional record collecting opinion that records have gotten too expensive in every sense, therefore I go for what I only absolutely need on vinyl, otherwise I go for CD. I’ve always been like that in building my music collection: whenever the market is zigging, I zag.

That’s how you find the best deals and stay on budget. Records now cost ~$25 apiece. If you want 1000 records in your new collection that’s $25,000 cost. The used record bins have all been scoured at this point, and there are very few bargains remaining, with too much to hunt through to get to them. That’s my feeling on record buying at this point.

I’m not so much about the format anymore as I am about having the music itself. CD’s & records let you play what you want, without an app tracking you & sending you messages. Put mp3’s on an external Ipod and connect it into an auxiliary input on your stereo. That’s how you have a rocking music collection that doesn’t need to be online.

Until my recent record store binging, I hadn’t considered 21st-century artists very seriously for the reasons stated above. When I began my artist journey it was Alanis Morrisette, Brittany Spears & American Idol coming online. That didn’t impress me much. But Shania Twain did, so I bought all her classic stuff that she made with her then-husband, the famous rock producer who did so many records I love. Shania Twain is perfect pop, with irresistible hooks & a beautiful voice. She translates best to CD in terms of top sound quality and typical album length which exceeds the LP format.

Compact discs are perfect masters which means they can be ripped onto a computer & pirated, which is what happens everywhere. CD’s have wav files of the songs with all the metadata. When Napster came along, kids who had ripped their CD’s shared them online as compressed audio files known as mp3’s. YouTube is mp4, an audio & video file. Compression means some loss of fidelity. The gain is smaller files which are easier to share. I review all this basic stuff because this is how you look for & buy music today. You research & listen online. After you figure out what you really like, go to the record/CD store and buy what you love.

Vinyl is the original format of rock & roll. It was 45’s when Elvis Presley hit in 1955. Black artists such as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard & Bo Diddley became huge stars. Jim Crow racism had kept black artists down, but when rock & rock was unleashed it was irresistible to the kids. After Elvis hit, rock & roll became bigger than Jesus, and young Presley was vilified for it along with all the rest.

Scandals & tragedy took most of them down, except for Fats Domino. It wasn’t until Elvis first became a GI and then returned as a teen idol, hopelessly behind-the-times that he became mainstream with adults. He still produced hits, but when the Beatles arrived in 1964, Elvis & the rest went into the oldies bin. AM radio formats this “golden hits era” as oldies, as compared to the FM dial’s classic rock. It’s the difference between mono & stereo.

Rock in 1955 was 45’s in a jukebox format. Kids would meet wherever there was a jukebox and room to dance. 45’s are different than albums which are 33.3 RPM. 45’s are singles, so you’re always looking for that GREAT song that grabbed you from the first time you heard it. If the artist who made that song never made another one, then get that single on 45 or mp3. Most flip-sides of 45’s aren’t good songs, but occasionally there will be a gem.

When vinyl (33’s & 45’s) was deleted by 1990, the singles format disappeared, as CD’s don’t work as singles or as EP’s. This was a creative problem for nearly a decade until mp3 sharing came about, because there are many, many more artists who can make a great song or two, versus those who can make a great album. Those who can make multiple great albums are the major artists.

The advantage of CD’s (over records) is their ability to hold up to 80 minutes of length. A vinyl record sounds best if the album can be split into two 22+ minute sides. Anything at or over 23 minutes/side degrades the sound quality significantly, meaning you must either make it a double album or else go to CD.

My advice for young artists is to make great CD’s. The CD revolution was not only a quantum leap in audio fidelity, but also creativity. If you’ve got 75 minutes of great music you can put it online & onto CD. Then people like me will want to hear it. Once you impress enough people and become a huge success, then you can sell that album as a double LP on vinyl.

Making records involves the use of toxic petrochemicals which degrade our Earth’s ecosystem. Therefore my rules on vinyl are these. Reissue only great & very good records. No more Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Supertramp, Yes, ELO, etc, re-issues. These such albums sat unclaimed in used bins I looked through for years, so why is the industry still pumping out fresh copies of this mediocre, industry-produced fodder? It’s the great rock records of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Mott the Hoople, along with the groove of P-funk & David Bowie that represent the best of 1970’s rock. Punk, reggae, funk & disco are what people covet most from the 1970’s.

Releases from 1990 onward are universally considered CD’s. Genres like pop, rap, country & rock are all recorded digitally with in-studio multi-tracking. Songs are constructed over hours, days, weeks & months on computers with the musicians, engineers & producers. This allows the sound geeks to get the best (loudest) sounds.

This has led to the “loudness wars” an industry term extensively discussed by serious sound professionals in online forums. Basically everyone in pop, rock & rap wants the loudest records, so we’ve reached the point where there is so much compression on all the tracks (guitars, bass, vocals, drum kit, etc) that the music lacks heart & soul. It’s sounds too slick & digitized because it is.

No popular artist in any of these genres does live-performance studio recordings on their albums. It’s kinda been that way since the Beatles did Sgt. Pepper’s in 1967. You can always make it cleaner & louder if you multi-track, because it allows sound separations and treatments (reverb, compression, etc) of each individual track.

So which format (record/CD/mp3) is best? Here’s my rule, if it has great songs and performances it will sound great on any format. Pre-1990, everything was released as a vinyl record. Pre-Beatles was 45’s, except for Bob Dylan who was always an album artist. Note that these are guides and that when you are record shopping you have to adapt to what is actually there. Don’t go insisting on a certain format when it’s unavailable or too pricey everywhere. The best deals today are on used CD’s. Major artists past & present in every genre populate the “used CD’s” bins, so find them.

Good stuff can be hard to find, and when it’s a good deal you should jump on it. If it moves you and has great songs from start to finish it will sound great in ANY format. The exception is cassette tapes, which degrade over time no matter what you do. Cassette tapes always have hiss, and are susceptible to getting eaten by vehicle tape decks & boom boxes.

It was always considered smarter to buy vinyl, and then record it onto a blank 45/90 cassette tape, than to buy pre-recorded cassettes. That way you got two albums per tape and if it got eaten or lost, just record another. Turntables were considered a nuisance by most as the 1980’s progressed, as CD players changed the music market.

VCR’s had revolutionized television watching habits and opened up new avenues in home recording. MTV hit in 1981 and popular music was never the same. From MTV on, you had to look good in front of the camera, otherwise you had no chance with the kids. Before MTV, oldies bands & performers could hide & hang-on as “rockers”. MTV immediately assigned REO Speedwagon, CSN, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, etc, to “classic rock” & “adult contemporary” status.

Of all of the classic rockers, it was Tom Petty who best survived the 80’s into the 1990’s when grunge & hip-hop exploded. By then Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson, etc, no longer had the kids attention, and were then considered legacy artists along with Billy Joel, Elton John, Eric Clapton, etc.

Grunge proved that kids liked bands influenced by the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart & the Stooges better than those championed by the classic rock dogmatists. The music industry canonized classic rock in the 1970’s under the institution of Rolling Stone magazine in which a few ex-musician hangers-on anointed themselves as the preeminent critics on rock, country & pop music.

Since the grunge wave of the early 1990’s, Rolling Stone has lost much of its credibility as the unassailable critics of music & pop culture. The more one learns of this institution, the more it can be seen for what it is: a tool of the music industry which employs its legion of hack writers, fake journalists & unserious critics to prop up the latest project the music industry deems important. These industry creations will always get a positive review in Rolling Stone; and depending on their industry clout, they may also get anything from a quick (positive) write-up, to a cover with full interview. That’s mainstream popular music in all genres. It’s totally a business, and that’s why it sucks so hard.

Divas are the explosive phenomenon in popular music in the last 25 years. The last divas I loved were Gloria Estefan & Madonna back in the day. Before them, Deborah Harry (Blondie) & Pat Benatar were my original favorites. MTV & the internet made divas more possible. The original modern diva in pop culture was Marilyn Monroe. In rock music it was Nico with the Velvet Underground & Warhol. Nico was the original bad girl, and a fascinating study in the ephemeral character of divas. They all want to be considered as artists.

The previously mentioned Shania Twain was first American pop music diva of the 21st century. Just to define the term, divas have to be beautiful, stylized & talented. Divas are coveted by all straight men, so they set the standard for women. Country music never really had a diva before Shania Twain. The original female country star was Patsy Cline. For a long time Dolly Parton was the closest thing to a country music diva in a genre dominated by wholesome-image female artists.

Country music since the 1970’s (at least) can be classified into two distinct styles: Nashville sound & outlaw. It must be understood that all country records are recorded in Nashville, TN, but there is a difference in style. Outlaw is rootsier and appeals to purists, while Nashville sound is slicker and more pop oriented. Contemporary country has been profoundly changed by pop, rock & rap. I listen to country songs that have a singer with a twangy voice, but if it’s a fast song, it’s rock music. Maybe they throw-in a harmonica & steel pedal guitar track to countrify it, but it’s basically rock. All the country ballads are basically pop & rap production.

In contemporary country music, the biggest pop diva has been Carrie Underwood since she won Season 3 of American Idol. Her first CD Some Hearts (2005) had the entire music industry behind it, so it was going to be a success no matter what, kinda like Titanic (1997). My listening of her first few albums is that they are highly polished, with some good singles, but also with too much well-constructed filler. Carrie Underwood has an amazing voice, but I never much cared for Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, etc, and that’s her style. It’s too much syrupy pop for my taste, which leans towards rock. My best chance of finding something I like in country music was in the outlaw style that takes Waylon & Willie as its roots.

The biggest star in country music for the past 15+ years has been Miranda Lambert. Like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert also came from reality TV, and released her debut album Kerosene in 2005. Reading both these album credits today provides definitive clues in advance as to who would be the enduring artist in country music.

Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts has only one song that she wrote, “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore,” while Miranda Lambert wrote (or co-wrote) every song on Kerosene except one. Both their follow-ups are they same way, and so on…

Miranda Lambert does use professional songwriters, but I get a sense that she really gets to pick the songs she likes. She also collaborates with these songwriters much more, in order to get them right for the album. Carrie Underwood had the material handed to her, and if Max Martin insisted that his song be on her CD, it got done. Carrie Underwood does the best she can, but too much of her material isn’t very inspired.

The songs that Miranda Lambert writes have more depth, heart & soul. These are songs of a restless artist who has the songwriter gift. I have nothing but respect & admiration for that because I know how hard it is. Carrie Underwood is more of a true diva, where Miranda Lambert is more of a Woodie Guthrie folk singer. They’re both country singers and both divas. Miranda Lambert is the true artist.

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The “Boycott Spotify” campaign

It was just over a year ago that Neil Young sold 50% of his worldwide copyright & income interests in his 1,180 song catalog to some UK capitalist whale. Now Neil Young has started this ‘boycott Spotify’ campaign over some reactionary podcast that promotes COVID misinformation, when it’s mass media misinformation EVERYWHERE.

I respect Neil Young the musician as I have many of his records & CD’s, but it just feels like all the wrong people are making money for all the wrong causes and nothing ever gets better under this existing set-up. I respect Neil Young’s & other artists’ right to use their political clout, so I hope they respect my right to say it’s self serving and a political dead end.

Spotify basically doesn’t pay the artists, especially indies. The reason our music is still on their platform is because it’s “new radio,” meaning free distribution through the internet. The music goes online through a major label (or the likes of CD Baby), which places it on every streaming site: iTunes, Spotify, etc, and you don’t get to pick & choose. The problem for indies (besides not getting paid) is that all their algorithms work against us, so relatively few listeners can find us. It’s like that with all the corporate platforms.

The original streaming service was Napster (1999-2002), which was destroyed by the RIAA, when its well-heeled shills (Metallica & Dr. Dre) did their dirty work for them. Their claim was artists needed to get paid. Napster offered to work out an artist payment model, but they wouldn’t listen or negotiate, only the destruction of Napster would suffice.

This opened the way for Apple iTunes & venture capitalism (Spotify, Pandora, etc) to monopolize the mp3 market. This is why 99+% of all mp3 downloads are “illegal” today. We need a revolution, not reformism, because these elitist bloodsuckers will never willingly give up control.

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Get Back (2021)

I just watched Get Back (2021) and it’s amazing! Get Back is directed & produced by Peter Jackson, who takes the vast film footage & audio material originally captured for Let It Be (1970) a documentary of the album by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, whose 16mm cinematography is stunning. Get Back seamlessly transports you back in time, while the digital editing & titles give it a clean modern look. Pushing eight hours in length, it never gets dull. It was all filmed & recorded in January 1969, and then finally put together just recently, but everything about this Beatles documentary is timeless.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg was a pioneer in music film production, who makes his face seen & voice heard in Get Back. For instance, there’s a debate among the band over 35mm vs 16mm for filming. Paul insists it should be 35mm, or else it won’t look right. Michael Lindsay-Hogg then interjects that 16mm will be fine, and that’s it. Watching in early 2022, it looks like Get Back was shot a few months ago, and put together quickly. Of course it was all shot 53 years ago, and took 4 years to produce. There are no flaws in the moving images, and the camera framing is exquisite, giving Get Back an authentic appeal.

This is mostly a testament to how well the original film crew & Michael Lindsay-Hogg did their jobs. This made the digital transfer much easier, and the result is one of the great rock documentaries ever, maybe THE best. And to think, it sat “in the can,” wasted & unused for decades. In many ways it compares to the Netflix release of Orson Welles’ famous unfinished film, The Other Side of the Wind in 2018.

Get Back is Disney property, which maintains strict monopoly distribution of its content. I’ve got friends who have pirated it, because that what happens when you try to “own” something that really should be public domain. Everyone has the right to see this film, as the Beatles are part of the fabric of our popular culture. I know it’s being called a TV series by Disney, but really it’s a 3-part movie that runs 468 minutes total. That’s too long of a film for most people, so it’s marketed as a TV-series.

This definitive Beatles documentary of their early break-up phase has an unending cast of interesting characters; Mal Evans, Peter Sellers [!] & (of course) Billy Preston are a few of my favorites. There’s plenty to choose from as each of the Fab Four comes to life under constant camera & microphone recording, which (in retrospect) was their recording of Let It Be, released in May 1970; after Abbey Road (September 1969), and after their break-up was officially announced by Paul in April. Paul is the one who tries the hardest to prevent their inevitable break-up, because he profits the most from working with John. Everyone loves Ringo, so it’s George that’s made the target of Paul’s frustrations.

The real war in Get Back is between Paul & John for band leadership. John had always been the leader of the Beatles, but increasingly Paul feels he is more than qualified to lead. The disagreements are creative, as well as financial. Linda Eastman makes her first appearance on the scene during filming, and becomes another of the cast of characters fans will come to know better in time. There’s a scene featuring Paul working out a song on piano, with Linda & Yoko talking in the background so we can’t hear them. As far as popular music & human interest goes, it hard to get much more fascinating than that.

Paul always had a tough time with Yoko, which meant a conflict with John. This is early tabloid era, where you just needed to refer to them by their first names. Nothing ever again approached 1960’s Beatlemania, not even K-pop. The Beatles separate oldies & doo wop from classic rock. The Beatles flipped the switch, and music went from AM to FM; from mono to stereo. John sings “Revolution” in different ways, single vs. album. The Beatles changed cover art & lyric writing. The Beatles led the counter-culture & anti-war movements. In a word, they forever changed everything in popular culture.

As a diehard Velvet Underground fan, I take the Beatles as the pop standard no one can match. The Velvets did their underground Factory multi-media show with Andy Warhol & Nico in 1966. The Beatles were attempting to put on some kind of TV show in Get Back, but mostly it’s bad ideas, and then the drama of George leaving the band for a few days over Paul’s harassment. Artistically, the Velvets were far ahead of the Beatles in many important ways, but they were both broken-up (around the same time) by the same industry forces.

George was always the weakest link in the Beatles, and not coincidentally he’s the one who was most taken-in by Allen Klein in his post-Beatles career. George has a weakness for mysticism and is most-influenced by John, whom he idolizes for his songwriting & emulates in his singing style. George also is in awe of Paul for his prolific songwriting, musicianship & sweet singing voice; and thus covets his respect & approval.

Allen Klein is introduced to John & Yoko on the evening of January 26, 1969, and it’s referenced, but not filmed in Get Back. It helps if you know your Beatle-ology here, as Allen Klein is one the most notorious & prolific conmen in music business history. Allen Klein made a career for himself by ripping-off artists such as Sam Cooke, and then the Rolling Stones with his ABKCO Records, but his ultimate ambition was to manage the Beatles. Eventually he would, over Paul & Linda’s strenuous objections. It was definitely one of those times in Beatles’ history where Paul was right. Allowing Allen Klein to manage Apple Records for just a few years, led to bad personnel decisions, millions in lost royalties & endless lawsuits.

In Get Back, Paul has ideas for his new songs, that George can’t get to. It’s a truth of the Beatles that John is their best guitar player. George offers little when it comes to being a “lead guitarist,” and that’s why in his early solo career he worked with Eric Clapton so much. By 1969, George is a rhythm guitarist & aspiring songwriter, who is of little use to Paul. This is why Billy Preston is the key to making the Get Back sessions work, as the “Fifth Beatle.” As Paul acknowledges, “Billy Preston solves a lot of problems,” meaning his musicianship helps Paul realize his songs more fully, which eases George back into the band and relieves the pressure, which was immense.

Most Harrisongs aren’t Lennon-McCartney quality, but any attempt at songwriting is always welcome in any serious band. John encourages it, while Paul mostly dismisses George’s new ideas. The hardest thing to do is produce good new material. The Beatles did this for a dozen albums, all classics, due to an amazing songwriting team in Lennon-McCartney, which gave them a freshness & unique sound that always put them at the cutting edge, from mop-top sensations, to rock pioneers of studio recording.

A lot of people like to slag Paul, but I’ll take him in my band any day. Bass players are hard to find, and prolific songwriters are even rarer. That’s why John latched onto him when they were the Quarrymen. To have talent means you recognize it in others. The hard truth was that most of George’s new songs weren’t that good, but he had colleagues (outside the band) who were telling him they were, so egos start flying.

One can argue that it was George Harrison who broke up the Beatles, as he wanted to do a solo album of songs that Paul wouldn’t do, and John wasn’t crazy about. Or you could just Let It Be. For those who don’t know, writing songs is serious business, and the true artists who can do it don’t hand out free passes just because you’re a bandmate with ambition. You have to deliver, repeatedly, at a high level. These lessons in collaborative creativity & artistic standards remain relevant today.

The confusion that permeates their first rehearsal location, as well as the Apple Records studio are brought into focus when George Martin finally arrives, and promises the band in his assured & professional style that he will get all the sound issues straightened-out by the next day. The band finally breathes a sigh of relief as they leave. This is how it was.

The Beatles never really had a manager who could handle everything, because nothing like the Beatles had ever happened before. Brian Epstein had their best interests at heart and guided them to stardom, but he wasn’t tough, and he died in August 1967. Apple Records was established in January 1968, with no leadership, which meant the Beatles financial issues wouldn’t start to get resolved until the mid 1970’s.

But they always had a great producer in George Martin, and that’s more important, because if you don’t make great records then no one cares. Great records start with great songs, which means the producer has to recognize it, and then record an inspired performance. Then it can be produced. Get Back proves once again that no matter how gifted you are creatively & musically, you need a producer with a clear head.

The legends of decadence & excess at Apple Records are confirmed in Get Back, with all kinds of stoned employees, gay groupies & other hangers-on, etc, occupying the studio. Who are these fucking people? Answer: It was the 1960’s. Many appear well-meaning, but too many are wasted and none can handle the Mafiosos constantly in the background, rubbing their hands over how much money they were going to make. It should be noted in retrospect that it’s this lack of attention to security that ultimately got John killed.

Perhaps the best part of Get Back is when the Apple employees handle the bobbies, as the Beatles are playing their final concert unannounced on the rooftop of Apple Records in London. “It’s making quite a bit of racket… We’ve had over 30 complaints already,” claims the UK cop immortalized in the footage. Apple Records receptionist Debbie, and Beatles road manager, Mal are priceless here. So much love went into this music created by John, Paul, George, Ringo & Billy with their ever-producer, George Martin, and yet it’s the businessmen who are raking. That’s how it is when you’re an artist, and it’s all in the film.

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Extended Play 2019-21: “Primary Colors” & Bonus Tracks

      1. Bitter To Better - Ric Size
      2. It's A Steamy Jungle - Ric Size
      3. When You're Out There - Ric Size
      4. Primary Colors - Ric Size

 

Extended Play 2019-21 has undergone many permeations, as “Millennial Whoop”, “The Road Rage Song” and “Patch Me Up Doc” have been released. This EP originally had 4 songs, and was to be finished by the end of 2019. But “Primary Colors” was never properly done, and then the coronavirus pandemic struck, causing further delays in production & release. When it finally came time to try again on that song, and then again, I had written more new tunes, which I’m calling “bonus tracks” for clarity on this sprawling 7-song EP which took two years to complete.

Tom Pearce & I got recordings of two brand new songs, “(It’s a) Steamy Jungle” & “When You’re Out There,” so it was a nice session on December 2, 2020 in Sanford FL. Minimalist studio recording is the only safe way to deliver meaningful new music during this coronavirus pandemic. That’s the idea here.

Tom brought a somewhat different recording rig this time. He still uses a Mac flatscreen installed with Studio One software. But now he’s using a router to connect wirelessly to a Behringer rack pre-amp, which he likes. This rack pre-amplifier rests solidly on a milk crate which carried the cables, etc. The vocal & guitar microphones were wired to the pre-amp, as well as a line-in from the guitar through a DI-box, for crystal clean three-track live recording.

I’m the one who insists on the guitar line-in, as it gives the producer another track to fatten the sound, if needed. I play an acoustic-electric so I can get both sounds. The two live mics have “sound spillage” due to their proximity, so lining-in gives the producer a clean track to boost the guitar sound without affecting the vocals. It’s called double tracking the guitar, and I know I didn’t invent it.

As you can see in these images, Tom used folding microphone stands to drape blankets & create sound screens which envelop me. This significantly cuts down on the guitar & vocal reverberation in the room, giving Tom a cleaner acoustic recording.

My vintage Tech 21 Trademark 60 guitar amplifier never got plugged in, again, instead it made a comfortable seat with a sofa cushion in-between. It really helps when taking pictures, I think. We also had a different headphone monitoring set-up, with me getting a small wireless dedicated unit, while Tom was headphone monitoring through his computer jack. This performer monitoring unit can rest on a flat surface, or be clipped to the microphone stand.

Tom’s always explaining this stuff to me as he’s setting up. I’m listening until it gets too technical, and it’s time for me to check my lyric sheet one last time, or whatever. Lots of nervous energy being exchanged. He goes on until he finishes and then says to me, “Got all that?” I reply, “No. But as long as you like it, I’m good.” Then he says, “I think you’ll like it.” And I respond, “Alright, let’s rock.”

And then we do it. And when it’s over, we get photos. As an artist, if you do this well here, it’s so much easier to get everything done & online. Good images help with visualization & concretizing of abstract ideas into forms people can recognize & relate to. If the song is strong & well-performed, then artwork is the final piece that the artist must give to the producer to help him finish.

When the song is mastered, what I need from my producer is a jacketed mp3 & the cover art image jpeg. With that I can make a thumbnail video, which allows me to promote & distribute the song across all platforms. This is everything necessary to promote a song, with minimal resources spent. A website with a running blog, a YouTube channel, and a social media presence is your ‘press release’ department. You have to wear a lot of hats, and stay on top of things as best you can to succeed against these industry odds.

Live streaming is now a valid artist delivery method. It works better as a revenue stream if you are a ‘name performer,’ otherwise you are better off streaming for free, and soliciting donations. Live streams are the now & future, so prepare for it, while understanding there’s a limited amount of excitement that an artist can create with a live streaming performance. Live streams are better for interviews, discussions, comedy, etc. Making new music is the most effective way to reach fans during this pandemic.

The next step is pressing CD’s & vinyl, but that takes money & connections, so be sure you have a deal that pays you (the record & publishing company) upfront, otherwise stick mostly to the low-budget DIY model. If you’re insistent on selling CDs, do it right. Keep the publishing & copyrights updated, the website & social media running with consistent fresh content, and the domain name locked up.

“When You’re Out There” was written in August 2020 after I listened to a LOT of Sun Ra on YouTube. With COVID-19 killing the live music scene, it was a good opportunity for me to finally hear many of his records which were never really available during the vinyl era, and were overpriced during the CD era.

Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth was always a champion of Sun Ra, and was the one who introduced this unheralded genius jazz composer & virtuoso to me. Sun Ra’s music is timeless, with depth, and a spirit of fierce independence. He’s out there, and that’s what inspired this song.

The other bonus track we recorded during this session was “(It’s a) Steamy Jungle,” an acoustic reggae song I came up with in October 2020.

Tom took all the pictures of me, and I took the set-up shots. He ripped mp3’s of all the recorded songs during playback, and put them on my thumbdrive. The mp3’s are uploaded onto my computer and checked (skimmed before parting) for audio fidelity & length, meaning all songs are clear, and none are cut-off short. That is what an artist expects & needs from a producer after recording.

These mp3’s are “prints,” meaning raw stereo recordings with no processing. This is what the artist listens to and determines if there is a song that can be produced, or if it needs more work, re-recording, etc. Pictures are shared & reviewed, and we discuss the ones we like, and how they are to be used. Cover art is a collaborative effort, where we both share thoughts & ideas, and then I let Tom do it. Meanwhile, these liner notes are written [12-2-20], while everything is still fresh in the mind.

“Primary Colors” & “Bitter to Better” were recorded on March 1, 2021 in Sanford, FL. Pics by Tom. In total there were 5 recording sessions in Sanford, from August 2019 to March 2021, to get 7 songs. The coronavirus pandemic was the primary reason for the long process in making & releasing this EP. Tom recorded the electronic beats & drums to “Millennial Whoop” & “Patch Me Up Doc” at his home in Tavares, FL sometime in 2020. Ask him for details on that.

As an artist, stay connected with your producer during mixing & mastering, and LISTEN. Production is not your domain, otherwise you would be doing it, so the producer gets the final call on sound. The producer has the song(s), and how long it takes depends on: 1) how good are the recordings, 2) how good is the producer, and 3) how much it costs? Choose wisely.

These are hard truths. As an artist, transition your efforts into online marketing by publishing videos, pictures, press releases to encourage discussion among fans, friends, etc. Use friendly forums, your website, preferred platforms, etc. This is how to generate content & promote– DIY.

Below in bold type is the template I now use for releasing songs as singles on my site. It can be as brief or as long as needed, rearranged, etc, but this is a professional press release. This is your first chance to promote your new song, so do it right.

“Song title”

jacketed mp3

liner notes & discussion

cover image

lyrics image

video

tags: album title (year), official mp3 release

Once all the singles to this EP are online, I then publish these liner notes as a post, and create a permanent Media page for the album on my site. I also update my Free Music Downloads page by adding the new mp3’s as they are released. Every song is released onto Spotify, iTunes, and all the rest of the streaming services for maximum distribution, along with the thumbnail videos on YouTube. That’s all you can do when you’re blacklisted.

Everyone says “organic is best” for promotion, but the rub is that it’s a lot of work, and there’s a lot of censorship, with nefarious spamming, hacking & de-platforming across the internet. The world goes on 24/7/365, and no one can be there for all of it. So be smart about putting up media that keeps working for you. Pick your spots to be active, and engage in real debate on serious issues, when it matters most. That will attract people on all sides, because EVERYBODY is sick of the pablum from the fake media. Everything you see, hear & read here is an alternative to MSM.

The message is that we have a choice in deciding on what the future of music will be. It’s the artists who create the culture and it’s the cool young kids that are hip to it who promote it. That is who this music is for and why it was created. Tom & I hope you enjoy it.

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“Primary Colors”

      1. Primary Colors - Ric Size

 

Recorded March 1, 2021 in Sanford, FL, by Tom Pearce who used Behringer software to record & monitor on his Mac flatscreen, to match with his Behringer wireless pre-amp, which is the heart of everything. Two cabled microphones, one on vocals & one on acoustic guitar, and a line-in guitar through a DI-box to the pre-amp.

Photo by Jose Luis Magana (AP), taken on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC

Production & art design by Tom Pearce. Previous references to this song on Extended Play 2019-21 are to a version we recorded in 2019 which didn’t work out. This song was also recorded (mono live) on March 20, 2020 as part of my Coronavirus Concerts project.

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Bandcamp page promo

I’ve been repeatedly asked how my music can be legally purchased in a way that pays the artist. As of now, everything Ric Size from Magnified (2012), Electrified! (2015), Hwy 19 & Main St (2015), Fully Covered (2016), and Over & Out (2017) is available as a HQ digital download on Bandcamp.
 
Over & Out (above) is available on CD for $10 + S&H. Supplies are limited. This is currently my only album available on CD, as the cost of production is too high, while sales opportunities are too restricted, under conditions of censorship & de facto blacklisting.
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