Thursday, June 18, 2015

Money!!!

Money is both a motivating factor in writing
music and sometimes is representative of the true nature of some musicians and their intent when they form a band and begin to write and perform songs for live audiences. The old adage of 'Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll' might have an addendum to it that reads: 'And a little bit of money wouldn't hurt either.' While some artists wear bling and drive expensive cars, others choose to live more modestly. Some need to be magnanimous and show their wealth to prove their status, while other artists choose to keep their assets hidden away. Some artists are truly stingy with their money, while others have learned to be strict because they've been burned by some conniving business manager or tight-fisted record company. Others have sold out their music, image, band-name or brand-name, simply for an extra summer home, while others have done the same thing only to get out of onerous debt and earn a decent living.
   Of course, we all like our artists to be broke, 'starving for their art' . That way the artist can be truly honest when he or she writes songs that convey the sadness and unfairness of society and life in general without the horrible baggage of having a brand name and merchandise to sell and records to promote. In this case, the best artist is the one that dies broke and has their works recognized and appreciated long after they are laid to rest, often reaching their peak value decades or even centuries after their demise. At this point the musicians involved are unable to collect royalties for themselves or their families and, though cited and praised as a greatly talented and referred to as a 'genius', he or she can often be ripped off in whole or in part by numerous others who will easily make a few bucks in the short term. Like it or not, money plays an important role in music and art and will continue pestering musicians well into the foreseeable future.


Perspective
There are two significant early rock n' roll songs about money. One is by the Beatles and the other is the one that everyone thinks is by the Beatles.
'Money' (That's What I Want) was originally written by Berry Gordy and performed by Barrett Strong and covered by numerous groups. The most famous cover-version is by the Beatles, who played the song during their formative German club gigs in their early years. And perhaps, after spending years singing that song, Lennon and McCartney were inspired to write the famous antithesis to the song 'Money' when they wrote 'Can't Buy Me Love'. It's difficult to think of the one song without thinking of the other because of the obvious opposing messages. One claims 'That's what I want' while the other says 'I don't care too much for money.' Of course, they are both truthful in their messages:
Money can't buy real love, and even though love is great, it can't 'pay the bills'.
These opposing sides show that Money and Money problems are sometimes a matter of perspective. It depends on what you value more highly. Is love more important, or would you rather just leave it to the birds and bees? It's something to ponder the next time that you pay for something like say... companionship.
Another early rock tune that is noteworthy for its money perspective is one created by the predecessors to the legendary rock group Spinal Tap.
Before they formed Spinal Tap, David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel were in a group called the Thamesmen, and through a certain video that's dated 'circa 1965', it could be discerned that, like the Beatles and Barrett Strong, they also cared enough about money to write a song about it. If their song 'Gimme Some Money' rings true, then the Thamesmen not only formed a band to make money, but were apparently hitting up potential girlfriends for pound notes and loose change. Of course, we wouldn't have had Spinal Tap today if the Thamesmen hadn't broken-up. Bass player Ronnie Pudding would leave the group for other endeavours, but unfortunately drummer John 'Stumpy' Pepys (peeps) died tragically in a bizarre gardening accident. (If you've noticed it, you're not the first: Many have commented that 'Stumpy' bears a remarkable resemblance to Hollywood actor Ed Begley Jr.) Spinal Tap has to be one of the most obviously money-driven rock bands ever, but eventually even Spinal Tap would learn not to be so greedy and start playing some charity gigs like Hear n' Aid in 1985 with the great Ronnie James Dio. Charity or not, it didn't stop bass-player Derek Smalls from custom-designing the first 'Dollar Sign' Double-neck bass (picture above). Spinal Tap would go on to write more money-oriented songs such as 'Bent for the Rent' and 'Cash On Delivery' (C.O.D.).


Relationships
Money can cause trouble in relationships for many reasons. Sometimes financial difficulties can quite easily break relationships, especially those that are superficial or short-term. And there's always the question of what kind of financial situation that a relationship is based on. Is your own or your partner's career more important than the bond between the two? Will the relationship survive despite one or even both person's losing their jobs? And sometimes, one person clearly feels that the other is either not holding up their end, pulling their weight, or perhaps even using the other for whatever finances they lack. And everyone knows that sometimes it's money and the potential 'security' gained by a relationship that will draw two people together who otherwise would seem 'opposite' in personality or interests.
Destiny's Child has, perhaps inadvertently, presented the opposite side point of view of the Thamesmen's 'Gimme Some Money' in their song 'Bills Bills Bills,' in which they tell the story of a boyfriend who seems more interested in his girlfriend's financial support than her moral support or companionship. While Cyndi Lauper reminds us that 'Money Changes Everything' in both relationships and other aspects of life.
Materialism can also play a part in relationships, and it's well-known that there are certain people that are considered an 'expensive date' or a 'high-maintenance' girl/boyfriend. Madonna's 'Material Girl' video was clearly inspired by Marilyn Monroe's 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend' musical endeavour, but both songs essentially convey the same idea: Sometimes your significant other is really more interested in what you can buy rather than how much love you can give.


What will we do for money?
Sometimes it's the lack of money that will cause people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't. It's not a very good excuse for crime, but it's no doubt that the two are related. On the legal side, however, is it any better or more noble that a person should work themselves halfway to death at a dead end job for money? Numerous people around the world have had life-changing injuries at some job-site, and though it would seem terribly unfortunate, it would only be because they were trying to earn some money for their family or just for a decent livelihood for themselves. Any soldier or firefighter is always taking the chance that they could be killed while doing their job. Perhaps the most dangerous profession in the world nowadays is that of a Stadium-builder for the 2022 World Cup, where migrant workers are dying at a rate of one person every two days. And there are numerous other professions where death is a distinct possibility and an unavoidable risk, and yet people may do this job on a daily basis. It seems many people are willing to do many things for money, and the range goes from absolutely heinous crimes to unbelievable self-sacrifice.

Greed
If poverty were a disease, there is a simple cure. Give poor people money and they are no longer in poverty. However, the one thing that can't be cured by money is greed. The last ten years worth of disastrous high-finance debacles and criminal behaviour by the vicious and evil Banksters around the world have proven that the wealthiest 1% of the world view 'the law' as something that is merely an obstacle to their terrible greed. Since 2008, governments around the world have been acting on the idea that somehow giving more money to greedy rich arseholes and their corporations will somehow cure them of their 'greed' affliction, but this flawed theory has only proven what everyone already knows. Give rich people more money, and they only get more greedy. And the greed of the rich doesn't know any boundaries, and it certainly doesn't stop at any international law or political system. In fact, it is becoming more and more obvious that it's money and the wealthiest corporations that are running this world, and politicians, legislators and even bureaucratic heads of central banks are merely figureheads; simple, stupid, rented patsies of the richest of the rich. The truth, unfortunately, is that those richest of the rich do not know self-sacrifice for their wealth, but more likely only view their continued greed as their own sense of self worth.


Hubris
We at Very Us Mumblings are fully aware that there are many and varied interpretations of one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Perhaps the most obvious one is to take the lyrics at face value and say that the song is about a lady who is attempting to buy a Stairway to Heaven. It really makes a person wonder how many crucifixes or coffee/muffin combos at the local friary bake sale must be bought before the retailer can stamp a card that says: 'Free Stairway to Heaven'. There is currently no actual place where a person could buy a Stairway to Heaven or even that it's for sale, but it seems that it doesn't matter to this 'lady' whether an object is material or spiritual because she draws no line between the two. Of course, what Led Zeppelin is describing is not an actual retail monetary transaction, but the hubris and/or foolishness of human beings. The kind of human arrogance that would lead a person to believe that this is the way to gain favour with our eternal lord. Perhaps a much more serious thought than the Beatles 'Can't buy me Love', the idea that a person could actuallly think that he or she can purchase their way to eternal salvation in the afterlife is far more troubling. To think that our monetary currency, class structure and material posessions would all somehow be valued in the hereafter or in some spiritual way beyond this mortal existence is something far more grandiose and suggests the egotistical nature of those who have an abundance of money and riches. But certainly, as we wind on down the road, we know that Led Zeppelin has spoken some truth; that there are indeed people who are sure that all that glitters is gold, and nothing is beyond price, and to them, it may not matter whether that evaluation is provided by a stock market or divine being. It is a sad thought, but take heart, there are two paths...