To Heck With the ‘Consensus’: Try it Anyway

There are Blogs or Sites within the writer-author community here on WordPress doing great, and there are those not doing great, just as there are authors mega-selling and those who aren’t. I’m not going to get into the reasons for that (except to say that if you aren’t a ‘celebrity’ you’re likely not going to be a ‘mega-seller’ until you become one!)

And how does one become a ‘celebrity’? I’ll sum it up in one word: consensus.

Here is how the consensus works, for examples.

The consensus ‘greatest rock band of all time’ is the Beatles, and nothing any other rock band does is going to change that, even if some band comes along in five years to revive this music genre that has–mainstream, anyway–fallen by the wayside somewhat as ‘everyone’ (according to the consensus) has now made rap, hip-hop, or ‘pop’ music their favorite (again, I’m not going to get into why this has happened, but I think it’s obvious why this has happened. The proof? Guitar companies like Gibson have declared bankruptcy, and guitar seller-outlets have also…because rock music isn’t THE popular genre it once was). Remember, this is the consensus, not necessarily the truth. And another thing: this is only true ‘consensus-wise’ in the US. In Europe it is still likely number one, and it has been growing in Asia for years.

The consensus ‘greatest guitar player’ in rock history is Jimi Hendrix.

My opinion? Hendrix IS the greatest guitarist in rock history, while I DISAGREE that the Beatles are the greatest rock band in history. While NO ROCK GUITARIST could play like Hendrix could back then, or in the 70s, 80s, 90s or today–could Page or Clapton or Walsh or Vaughn play his guitar like Hendrix played the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock? I  doubt it! So then why would the consensus claim the Beatles are the greatest rock band in history? Influence. Not talent, not music-writing, not stage performances (and the Beatles stopped touring in 1966 anyway! Too much Maharishi?), or personality (though John Lennon certainly tried here). Influence? Basically, as I’ve already states on other posts, the Beatles revived the genre that was already fading by 1963-64 what with most ‘Billboard’ chart-toppers being ‘boy meets girl’ tripe (and enough one-hit-wonders to make it tripe…thanks, American Bandstand!). Then came the Beatles and the so-called ‘British Invasion,’ which also revived the best of the American groups including the Four Seasons, Jay and the Americans, Bob Dylan, and a host of mostly Afro-groups and pop-soul stuff such as by the Supremes and the Four Tops and others.  Add to that the Beatles influence in the ‘psychedelicizing’ (as the Chambers Brothers would put it in their monster hit, ‘Time Has Come Today’) during the late 60s, new age stuff contrasted to Lennon’s huge faux pas in denigrating Christ in 1965 which nearly led to the out-casting of the Fab Four in the US on radio anyway, and Lennon’s ‘anti-war’ stances, again contrasted to George Harrison’s support for the Bangladesh ‘independence’ movement from Pakistan (and dependence on India…some even claim Harrison was a proxy agent for the Indian government under the Maharishi’s guidance!) and his crapola ‘My Sweet Lord’ nonsense supporting Hari Krishna’s cult (I had a friend who was victimized by this cult, and I do NOT appreciate Harrison’s promotion of this cult!)

Whether or not the Beatles are the greatest band ever by the consensus and whether or not you believe this (I don’t) doesn’t matter. What matters is how the consensus influences one’s thinking, one’s conformity (as I am someone who prefers non-conformity), and one’s buying habits. And one’s writing habits or creative habits, as well.

Don’t write something just because ‘the consensus’ would prefer that you do. Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut–two of America’s greatest fiction writers IMHO, to heck with ‘the consensus’–wrote what they wanted or were inspired to despite what a so-called ‘consensus’ wanted. In the 1990s virtually nobody self-published with printed novels (and only James Redfield of “Celestine Prophesy’ fame made it big in this business!), but I did so anyway because I was inspired to despite NOT having lots of money to do this. Today, anyone can self-publish, including in print (Lulu.com has some really affordable print-e-book programs if you want to check it out). I’d like to say these days ‘the consensus’ is meaningless, but I won’t, because it is only meaningless for me, a non-conformist and proud of it.

About the Prodigal Band Trilogy–Main Characters-Part 2: the Band

The fictitious rock and roll band that is on a journey to either choosing a good vs. evil path that ultimately all must take at some point called–for a very good reason–Sound Unltd, consists of six musicians of worthy talent, ambition, drive, and goals, with an instrument make up resembling most rock bands regardless of origin: guitarists–in this case, two–bass, percussion, keyboard-synthesizer, and lead singer/frontman. Since the time of the Beatles, this has been the usual configuration, more or less. Some of the six can play other instruments, as well, and some also have classical or operatic training. Three of the six come from musical families.

Descriptions of the band members:

I will offer physical descriptions two ways: one by actual overall description in word, and also a comparison to actual rock musicians or singers that should be well known…that is, character A looks like or plays his instrument like “so-and-so.” The word description of each band member comes from the beginning of the Prologue of ‘The Prodigal Band’, and I will name the character within the description:

“A lead singer (Erik) with dark brown shoulder-length hair accentuated by sensuous bangs on a baby-face was slender, thin-lipped and of medium height. Voice a Godly gift. Yet, some said, the devil’s tool.”  Within The Prodigal Band I compare his looks to Elvis Presley, but a lot skinnier; plus he has a Nordic complexion. His mother is from Norway, thus his name is spelled with a ‘k’ and not the usual ‘c’ ending. His voice is also similar to Elvis, deep and rich sounding.

“A tall, angular-faced guitarist (Jack) possessed dirty-blond hair now growing on once-shaved sides of his head. Now without the screaming instrument he fired into immortality.” I don’t really have an actual guitarist he resembles, but as for his playing style, it is not quite Hendrix, but still innovative, and has various qualities one would expect from Clapton, Page, Townsend, Walsh, or Prince.

“The dark, strapping bass guitar player (Keith) with bushy black hair and dark-coal eyes walked without his trademark gold chains.” The closest comparison to a renowned bassist is Jack Bruce of Cream, who, in my opinion, is the best bassist in rock history. And, for the sake of diversity which is rampant in England since the 60s, Keith’s grandmother is African, from Nigeria. I made Keith part-black while I was writing ‘Battle of the Band,’ but I did not stress this change until ‘The Prodigal Band’, where I bring up the issue or racism–I hate racism of any kind! As for looks, he certainly isn’t as dark as Hendrix! He and Erik call each other ‘bro.’

“The tall, lanky, beak-nosed, ringlet-haired album producer and master of many guitars (Mick) worried over his past perversions.” Mick is a cross physically between Jimmy Page, Alice Cooper, and Ozzie Osbourne, but much taller and skinnier (his nickname is ‘Skinny’). As with Page, he is an occultist, more or less. Jimmy Page bought occult cult leader Aleister Crowley’s Loch Ness occult estate, while in the books, Mick lives in an ancient occultist castle in the Cambrian Mountains of Wales near a burial site of an ancient Celtic occult high priest. The supposedly satanic memes of Page’s Led Zeppelin also provide a comparison for my fictitious band.

“The pot-bellied, biker-esque keyboard-synthesizer player (Bryan) famed for red hair wild as the wind, fiery as his brew, bore a downcast of regret.” I really cannot think of a keyboard-synth or piano player in rock music that has a similar description, but he does look like a typical Hell’s Angels biker. His nickname is ‘Bry’ or ‘Redbeard.’ As for playing style, his style reminds me of the keyboardist for Dire Straits, but the keyboardist of the previously referenced 60s group the Animals, Alan Price, is also a reference here, if you remember back to those days. Plus, he also plays Northumberland bagpipes and some horned instruments.

“A short, curly-blond percussionist (Tom) once angered by lost love approached with the others to an unknown destination, glad with a full life behind him.” The closest resemblance here is to Ginger Baker, rock and roll’s version of the greatest drummer of all time, Gene Krupa, who was the drummer for Benny Goodman’s Orchestra, an icon of the ‘big band era’ of the late 1930s and 1940s. Plus, Tom also looks kind of like Baker, with blonder and curlier hair, and shorter a well. Tom’s nickname is ‘Shorty.’

Music style–One reason I named them ‘Sound Unltd’ is that they can play virtually any rock and roll style, from fifties throw-back to progressive-psychedelic-late 60s to heavy metal to punk to new wave to grunge to rock-rap to even orchestral and rock-aria and operatic. There is a scene in ‘The Prophesied Band’ where the narrator, a fictitious ‘Rolling Stone’ reporter, imagines lead singer Erik on operatic stage while performing a rock aria he wrote. Their stage performances resemble the gigs of the 90s, with all the pyrotechnics, raunchy stage-mic stand-sex antics, guitar-bashing (first performed by the Who’s Pete Townsend in the 60s), faked amp burning, and other attention seeking behaviors.

Music influences–The Beatles, certainly, but also Mick Jagger’s notorious stage antics, and Led Zeppelin’s supposedly occultist influences as well. Other influences include Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Prince–who is one heckuva musician–Michael Jackson even, with his dancing on stage, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix…there will never be another guitarist like him!

That’s all I’m going to say about the characters and their personalities. If you want to really know their personalities, read the books! Hint: my own daughter loves these guys! Maybe so will you.

About the Prodigal Band Trilogy: the Main Characters, Part 1

In the previous post and other various posts, I stated that my main characters morphed from a gang or clique of boys in the area I grew up, Long Island and New York City, to rock musicians from England–a decision influenced by, first, the fact that I actually made it into a local band; second, rock music was my main connection to youth culture of my generation (60s and 70s); third, my fave bands of that era–and the most influential bands of that era–were Brits, and I had visited England as well as attended the 1970 Isle of Wight Rock Festival which featured the Who, Traffic, ELP, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix (who died in London a few weeks later) and others of note (some whom I missed since we had to leave early to get the flight back to the States).

That the most influential rock bands of that era were from England was a major reason my fictional band, Sound Untd, is from England. And what band from that era had the most influence on how I constructed my fictional band? Why, the Beatles of course! The so-called Fab Four–whom many claim are the greatest rock band of all time…basically re-invigorated the genre leading the so-called ‘British Invasion’ in 1963-64 as rock music in the States had been, IMHO, flat-lining since the plane crash of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in 1958. One doesn’t need to read the ‘Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll’ books to know that from 1959 until the Beatles, rock was tripe, was cutesy-wootsey, was just ‘boy meets girl, boy ‘dances’ girl’ stuff (and you know what they mean by ‘dance’–having sex, right?), with a few true rock outfits to keep the genre alive (Del Shannon, Dion and the Belmonts, Beach Boys and a few others). Folks, it wasn’t until the Beatles came around–and the groups that followed them–that I had any interest in rock music at all. With the arrival of the Beatles, my world–and the world of my friends–became consumed by listening to the radio and records, reading ‘fan magazines,’ including the British one called ‘Melody Maker,’ and even getting together and pretending we were the Beatles on stage as the Beatles records played on victrolas or stereos (and not just the Beatles, either) in bedrooms or basements. It was this “pretending” to be John or Paul or George that would later give me the idea of learning guitar.

It was the Beatles and the other groups that helped me to grow up amongst my peers and not just be the loner, sort of, that I had been before. Finally, I was able to ‘fit in.’ Finally, I became interested, somewhat, in boys–it would take several years, however, before boys became interested in me. I wasn’t exactly a ‘hot date’ if you know what I mean. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I even thought I was good-looking enough (despite my acne) and finally landed a boyfriend of sorts (whose acne was even worse, but anyway…). Oh, as for my friends–most were better looking than me, and one of them, who looked like the model ‘Twiggy,’ (remember her? And she appeared in the movie ‘Blues Brothers’ as well toward the end), actually had a rock musician boyfriend–lead singer and lead guitar, of course. Another friend also dated once or twice another band singer who graduated the year before I did. And another friend had her band and she could sing like Janis Joplin! So, folks, since I knew I had writing talent since I’d been writing since the age of 8 or so, what better way to get the ball rolling than to write fiction stuff about an imaginary rock band?

But from England…but where in England?

My fictitious band absolutely could NOT be from Liverpool because that’s where the Beatles are from, and because they spoke with one of the weirdest accents on God’s green earth–Scouse. Sing-songy, to the point of crazy (and yes, folks, out here where I live a recent property owner just happened to be from Liverpool). And anyway, no way was my group going to be from where the Beatles were. London? Nope. Several bands, especially the Rolling Stones, were from London and, as with the Beatles, the Stones were prominent enough to where they, too, would be a serious influence on how my band was created. Manchester? A group that hit it huge for about a year, Hermann’s Hermits, was from there, but after a while they just did what I thought was tripe. And it seemed to me that most of these British Invasion groups were from either Liverpool, London, or Manchester.

Another group from another part of England hit it big in the summer and fall of 1964, and this group did some very interesting–and different–music, more bluesy, and with a really, really good keyboard player that really titillated my ears–the Animals, whose first hit was a remake of the Bob Dylan song, ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ Later songs had a bluesy style, such as ‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Bo Diddley.’ I saw them one night on the Ed Sullivan Show, and, after performing, Sullivan started to interview them, and–well, talk about weird accents! Neither I–nor by the looks of it, Sullivan–could understand about half of what they said, but it turned out they were from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which is way up north and close to Scotland. In fact, the accent had a Scottish lilt to it–and that was the fascinating part. Their music, and their accent.

Then, in 1970–and I’ve stated this in a previous post as well–the night before taking the ferry from Portsmouth (I think, or South Hampton) to the Isle of Wight, I just happened to meet three guys from Newcastle, and while one of them was hard to understand, the others were easier–but still, they spoke with that fascinating accent, called Geordie. Several years later after meeting some folks from Scotland, they told me the Geordie accent (and there is a dialect, as well, but I won’t get into that) was very similar to and actually derived somewhat from Scottish. Historically it makes sense: Hadrian’s Wall, which the Tyneside town of Wallsend is named for, was in fact the old time border between England and Scotland. The portion of the county of Northumberland (or Northumbria) north of that wall was part of Scotland off and on for centuries, and was finally incorporated into England in 1744, the days of ‘Bonnie Prince Charley” and that war. And, the more I hear Geordie (YouTube videos and the like), the more I’m glad I chose that area and that accent for my characters in the band.

They come from the fictitious city of Walltown (south of Wallsend on the Tyne river where they build boats and stuff, and east of Newcastle), and the main tourist attraction of this fictitious city is an angelic statue called The Tooters (referencing the horn-blowing angels in the Book of Revelation). Well guess what? Across from Newcastle is Gateshead, and it just so happens that the main tourist attraction in Gateshead is–and angelic statue! (The thing is, it looks more like a bird, but at least it has wings, if not horns). And bear in mind I didn’t know ANY of this when I started writing my book(s)!

Finally, why did I call my group ‘Sound Unltd’? The original name for the group was the actual original name in my books, the Smash. Later, I changed it to ‘Smash Unltd’ (you do realize ‘unltd’ is short for ‘unlimited,’ right?). Two things caused me to change it to ‘Sound Unltd’–one, the fact that a group called ‘Sounds Incorporated’ existed in the 60s (of course, they never made it here), and that spiritual inspiration that came to me in the early 90s. Further, the name Sound Unltd is so ‘pretentious sounding’ that I figured no one would ever call themselves by that name, and so far, no one has–and they better not, since the name exists in copyrighted manuscripts! I do hope I never to lay out a couple o’ hundred dollars to trademark it!