Music’s Asterisk Generation
A few year’s back, commentators were calling for an asterisk to be placed in the record books beside the names of guys like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, who had been accused of using steroids to enhance their game. Now a recent song has led me to call for something similar in music.
However, before we can properly look at what we’ve lost, we must first look at what we had. In the earliest days of recording, songs were recorded totally live, with no overdubbing. Later, in the 1950s, it was possible to splice several takes together to make the recording as good as possible, but what you were hearing was still living, breathing musicians playing live behind a vocalist equipped with only a microphone and whatever level of talent he or she possessed.
Starting in the 1960s, folks like Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, and eventually the Beatles and everybody else, took a “wall of sound” approach where everything was made to sound crisp, clear, and technically perfect. However, some were not pleased with the results. Sam Phillips, the legendary founder of Sun Records and music impresario, stated bluntly the overdubbing was destroying music, that in their quest for being technically and sonically perfect they were forgetting the most important thing, which is the heart and soul of a group of live musicians playing together. In retrospect, although there was plenty of great music in the ’60s and since, I believe that Mr. Phillips made an excellent point and the music he produced more than speaks for itself to back his statement up.