Bob Schwartz

Tag: Jethro Tull

Grammy Nominations Time Again

Neon Philharmonic
It’s Grammy nominations time again, in advance of January’s awards for the best in recorded music.

In some circles, the relevance of the Grammys is beyond question—as in there’s no question that they are irrelevant. In part that’s because of their being behind the times and missing the mark at various points. Of course awards are matters of disagreement and controversy, so it does come with the territory.

Still, there have been some infamously wild choices. Most celebrated, and the emblematic botched call, was Jethro Tull’s winning the 1988 Grammy for Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, over Metallica among others. (When asked about this today, as he always is, Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson simply notes that he presumes the band got the award for being “nice guys’ who had never won.)

It takes literally an hour to read the entire list of nominations and probably days to listen to all the nominated music. It might be fair and nice to acknowledge what Grammy got right, but that’s no fun. They don’t need anybody’s encouragement and way to gos/att boys. Instead it is more hopefully corrective to list some offbeat nominations or lack thereof.

Lorde is nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year (songwriting) and Best Popo Solo Performance for Royals. But she is somehow not in the running for Best New Artist. That single and the album (Pure Heroine) have been monstrously popular across a variety of audiences. By way of bonus, this is genuinely original and interesting music, and she wrote and recorded it when she was only sixteen. So if she shouldn’t win Best New Artist—there are some worthy competitors—she kind of deserved a shot at it.

On the other chronological end we have the oldsters. For that weirdness, you have to check out the Grammy history for Led Zeppelin. They were nominated as Best New Artist in 1970, but lost to Crosby, Stills and Nash (the other nominees were Chicago, Neon Philharmonic and Oliver. Oliver.). Then nothing, no nominations, nada. Even though all the major Zep albums sit somewhere in the all-time 100, not to mention some of the even-more iconic tracks. (To keep from singing Stairway, I listened to Neon Philharmonic’s big hit Morning Girl and Oliver’s Jean. That’ll keep you from getting too crazy heavy.)

The reunited Led Zeppelin performed at a benefit concert in 2007, and the soundtrack of the film of that concert was released, and has resulted in two Grammy nominations: Best Rock Performance for Kashmir and Best Rock Album for Celebration Day, the concert soundtrack.

That’s right. A band that broke up in 1980 (33 years ago), a band that reunited for one performance in 2007 (six years ago) to record a song it first released in 1975 (38 years ago) is up for two Grammys.

Take that you naysayers. Who says Grammy isn’t still “with it”? If that is what the kids are saying these days.

Rock and Roll Prophecy: Show Biz Kids

Show Biz Kids
Show biz kids making movies
Of themselves you know they
Don’t give a fuck about anybody else
Show Biz Kids, Steely Dan

Pop music self-reflection has been around for decades. The wonderful Lorde does a take on it with Royals, looking at superstar excess from the perspective of a regular teenager. Jethro Tull sang “When you’re too old to rock and roll but too young to die” in 1976—without a time machine to watch 70-year-old Mick Jagger prance around the stage almost forty years later.

But when it comes to visionary, nothing beats Steely Dan’s 1973 Showbiz Kids from the Countdown to Ecstasy album. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen always cast a little bit of jaundiced eye on society, show business and fame, which along with their musical sophistication and eclecticism made them a lock to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Their lyrics are often poetic, obscure and ambiguous, but Show Biz Kids is just plain straightforward. Show business, including pop, has had its share of bratty, self-absorbed behavior from star children of all ages. So it’s nothing new, and it may not be more over the top than ever—even if it seems that way sometimes. The poor people are still sleepin’ with the shade on the light while the stars come out at night. Once in a while these days, it appears, as Steely Dan sang, the show biz kids don’t care what they do or how it looks.

While the poor people sleepin’
With the shade on the light
While the poor people sleepin’
All the stars come out at night

After closing time
At the Guernsey Fair
I detect the El Supremo
From the room at the top of the stairs
Well I’ve been around the world
And I’ve been in the Washington Zoo
And in all my travels
As the facts unravel
I’ve found this to be true

They got the house on the corner
With the rug inside
They got the booze they need
All that money can buy
They got the shapely bods
They got the Steely Dan T-shirt
And for the coup-de-gras
They’re outrageous

Show biz kids making movies
Of themselves you know they
Don’t give a fuck about anybody else