17 Jun Contemporary music mixes up blues, folk, schmaltz, comedy.
Imagine you are a visitor from outer space. A planet where music has not evolved to its present Earth state of screeching guitars, throbbing drums, arid ultrasonic amplification. A planet where followers of modern music have not suffered damage to their ear drums.
On arrival in Toronto from Planet X, you switch on a radio to catch the news (if any) from home, but accidentally you tune to CKFH. Chances are that you would be completely at a loss deciding just what is happening in the contemporary music scene. Mainly because so much is happening from wide and diverse sources.
Elements of blues, folk, schmaltz, and even camp comedy (i.e. Tiny Tim) have invaded the pop field, turning the best-sellers list into a patchwork quilt of variety.
To determine precisely what is happening, I made a survey from a recent list of the 100 best selling single records in North America, as compiled by Record World, the industry trade magazine. From top to bottom of the chart, it’s obvious that the teenyboppers (those between 9 and 18) still rule the roost and dictate the trends.
Forty-three of the top 100 fall into that bracket while a mere nine discs are in the much-hailed avant-garde rock category.
Rhythm and blues, a perennially favored field where stars do not rise and fall with such startling speed, accounts for 38 songs on the list. In the country and western field, only two of their stars, Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette, make the best-selling list this week.
Though they may not know it, adults still have some say in the pop scene. Non-rock, soft-sounding records represent 7 per cent of the current chart, including the number one disc. Herb Alpert’s sugary-sweet and sentimental This Guy’s In Love With You. In addition, the list includes one novelty disc—Tiny Tim’s whiny revival of the evergreen Tip Toe Through the Tulips.
The group invasion is far from over; some say it’s just beginning. Forty-three of the top 100 songs are contributed by groups of assorted sizes, shapes, sounds and derivation. That awesome British invasion of the North American charts appears now to be in a sorry slump. Where once 90 per cent of the hits originated from Britain, this week the chart lists eight titles.
Of the remainder, 91 per cent come from the United States and one from Toronto. Our contribution is the Irish Rovers’ Whisky On a Sunday, which is hardly symbolic.
The poor folks with shattered ears who’ve had more than enough of the big beat will not be pleased to hear that of the 100 best selling discs, 90 are in the rock bag. Which indicates that far from losing its grip, the rock sound is bigger, if not better, than ever.
Are you ready to return to your home planet?