Posted: Mar 17, 2013
Category: The Lefsetz Letter
**Guest post from Bob Lefsetz of "The Lefsetz Letter."
Bob Lefsetz is the author of "The Lefsetz Letter." Famous for being beholden to no one and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself. His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to EVERYBODY who’s in the music business. Never boring, always entertaining, Bob’s insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music’s American division and consultancies to major labels.
3/14/2013 - You've got to strike when the iron is hot, when you're inspired. Sure, there are artists who labor over their work, like those schmos who believe writing is rewriting. Sure, fix the mistakes, but if you're sharpening your pencils trying to get it right, chances are you never will. Don't eke it out, go to the movies, read a book, and when the moment of inspiration hits, RUN TO THE STUDIO! OR THE COMPUTER! OR WHATEVER MEDIUM YOU USE TO LAY DOWN YOUR ART.
I heard "Instant Karma" on the radio today. It's my favorite Lennon solo cut because of the EXUBERANCE! If you ain't got conviction, if you ain't giving it all you've got, if you're not willing to put yourself on the line, you're never gonna close a single listener, you're never going to make any fans. Stop apologizing, just DO IT!
John Lennon's "Instant Karma"
Then again, everybody is not John Lennon. "Instant Karma" was not his initial work, rather it was recorded when the Beatles were already toast, when John knew his way around the studio, how he sounded good. But Lennon did not make this record alone. He employed PHIL SPECTOR! Now Spector may have ruined "Let It Be," but he made "Instant Karma" into a masterpiece.
It's the DRUMS! Played by Alan White, eventually to be of Yes, I'd credit him, but I've never heard him play this sound since. Maybe Phil coached him. But really, I think it comes down to the way they're recorded. Usually, the drums are buried. They're way down in the mix. But here the drums are right up front, they're almost soloing. And they're not the fat drums of engineers who spend hours getting the tone right, it almost sounds like White is in his bedroom, whacking along to the track on pillows. He's so relaxed, there's so much joy, he's having FUN!
You remember fun, it's the one thing that money can't buy. And that's what you hear too much in today's music, the money, everybody's trying to get it exactly right, eliminating all humanity, all attraction from the cut (+Are We There Yet?). Come on, how often is the demo better than the finished product? But the acts won't put out the demo, for fear of looking less than. Like those idiot actresses who plump their lips, blanding out their look, in search of accolades from people who don't even care.
Now "Instant Karma" does not sound that good at home. Dial it up on YouTube or MOG, it's thin, but it sounded absolutely FANTASTIC on the radio! We didn't know it was coming. Then one day we turned on the radio AND THERE IT WAS! We couldn't dial it up on YouTube, we couldn't even buy it, we were just slaves to the radio, tuned in, waiting for another hit of the magic elixir, written and recorded in a single day, released to the world not even a fortnight later.
Instant karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You'd better get yourself together
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead
Was John prescient? OF COURSE NOT! We're all gonna be dead. Sooner rather than later. If you're lucky, one day you wake up and you're old. And then you're gone, done and forgotten. Time slips by, very slowly when you're young, and incredibly quickly as you age. You can't do everything in life, but focus on a couple of important things, otherwise you're gonna have regrets.
How in the world you gonna see
Laughing at fools like me
Who on earth do you think you are
A superstar, well right you are!
Only a musician could write this. Combining confidence and ignorance in the same verse. Ignore John Lennon at your peril, then again, what does he know? He yields the floor to you, you're just as valid as he is, you're a superstar! We're all equal, we're all in this together. "Job creators" truly think they're the creator, better than the rest of us, god-like when we're all truly clueless and we're best off listening to artists who are in it for nothing other than the truth, as opposed to rip-off industrialists. Who ran Goldman Sachs in 1970? I surely don't know, I bet most of the firm's present employees don't know, but we all know John Lennon.
Why in the world are we here
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there
When you're everywhere
Come and get your share
The dirty little secret of aging... You're risk-averse, you're scared. You can't ski because you might break a leg, and then you might miss work, and then what? You're playing it safe, and missing out on all the joy, all the fun. Come and get your share, not of cash, not of fame, but of LIFE!
Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Everyone, come on
A deranged idiot cut down John Lennon. He gained fame, but it ruined his life. You think you want to be famous? Just look at Mark David Chapman. You're better off living in obscurity, doing good, having friends. But one thing we know for sure, John Lennon shines on, decades later, and will continue to burn bright for future generations to learn from and enjoy.
And it's not only Lennon. McCartney's willing to leave in mistakes. And no one works faster than Bob Dylan. He wants to capture lightning in a bottle, and if he doesn't, he shrugs his shoulders and moves on, writes something new. Because it's not what you've done, but what you're doing."
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