Auto tune. Ever heard of it? Neither had any of the singers and songwriters we grew up with.
Today, technology has taken the place of many things. Including real talent. Auto tune is a device that can take someone who sings off key and tune them to where it sounds as if they can sing on key.
It’s like rigging the game and then giving everyone a trophy.
This came to mind when I was listening to the radio (not Spotify or some other online pay-for-play jukebox) and heard The Ink Spots. Now there was a group that didn’t need digital assistance to sound great. They were great. Their version of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is still a musical masterpiece.
I used to be a disc jockey on the radio. I also had a mobile DJ business. Late in the evening when party guests were feeling no pain, I could put on Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and everyone got up to dance. Everyone.
Try that with anything by Justin Bieber and see how far that gets you.
And The Ink Spots recorded back when the musicians and singers all set up together to perform in a studio. There was no multi-tracking over overdubbing. They had to get it right, all of it, in one take to be able to put out a hit record.
Today, artists (and I use that term loosely) don’t always even use musicians. Sometimes, the music is created by computer software.
Again, that’s cheating.
After the Ink Spots the radio station played a song by Jim Croce, who wrote and performed his own songs. Time In A Bottle, Bad Bad Leroy Brown, and I Got A Name are just a few of his amazing pieces of work.
I can remember driving down the freeway in Dallas back in the 70s. The windows were down on my 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The cool early morning air felt great as the Dallas DJ introduced I Got A Name by Croce.
“Movin’ me down the highway. Rollin’ me down the highway. Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by.”
That song felt like freedom.
Much of the music today doesn’t come anywhere close to giving you that feel good kind of sensation. I’m not sure what it sounds like, but I don’t foresee a day when years from now people will be saying, “Gee, do you think Miley Cyrus will ever tour again?”
Young people today do have some musical advantages. They’ve rediscovered vinyl.
If you want to hear something great, put The Ink Spots, Jim Croce, or Johnny Cash on the turntable on your old console stereo. Vinyl has a richness that digital just can’t reproduce.
Sure, you may get a few pops and scratches, but hey, most of us at this age have a few pops and scratches. We’ve earned them.
There are some artists of days gone by who’ll admit they’re old school. And they aren’t ashamed of it.
In the early 90s, the rock group Pink Floyd toured to support a new album. It was one of their first to come out on compact disc (CD) instead of vinyl.
A buddy of mine who was also in radio took some contest winners backstage to meet the band and get their new CD signed. One of the band members didn’t want to sign it because he thought it would stop it from playing.
Unlike vinyl, only one side of a CD contains the digital version of the music, which is read by a laser.
The member of Pink Floyd cared about his work and the ability of his audience to hear it.
Joe Walsh put out an album a few years ago (it’s also available on vinyl) called Analog Man.
Analog was the technology of yore that included audio tape, which is how we recorded everything and how some of us listened to our music. I still have a reel-to-reel deck in my recording studio and every now and then will listen to it. Ditto on my turntable.
I have most of my dad’s vinyl. The Ink Spots, Buddy Holly, Jerry Reed, Simon and Garfunkel, and more. I grew up on those records and I’m glad I still have them.
I’m also glad that we still have a radio station where I live that plays the good music, and a large variety of it.
Having access to all of the great artists makes me happy. It still feels like freedom. Which almost feels like cheating.
©2023 John Moore
John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.