A perfectly clean glass is useless for champagne; champagne needs a bit of dirt to form bubbles around. It will taste flat and boring in a perfectly clean glass. I had to think about this when Tony Visconti recently commented on Adele’s voice, questioning if we even hear her real voice when listening to her records. In today’s social media landscape he obviously had to quickly apologise for thinking the unthinkable and actually saying it, but that didn’t make it less true. We live in times where technical perfection is more important than authenticity, in much the same way as was true in the 70’s and the late 80’s.
In the 70’s Progrock Dinosaurs increasingly made energy and true feeling secondary to technical perfection, resulting in endless songs with multiple solos, all perfectly executed and produced. The reaction was Punk, a short phase of kids taking up the arms and making basic three chord rock with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and anger. In the 80’s perfection was more of a visual thing; MTV created the platform for perfectly modeled artists in perfectly shot video clips. The reaction was Grunge, Seattle’s dirty answer to perfect image pop.
So much for the past.Today studio and recording tools can make a perfect artist out of everyone. I’ve never been a great fan of Amy Winehouse, but lately I’ve come to realise that it’s not her early death but all of her imperfections that made her a great artist. Do we really want to go to a concert knowing that set list and execution will basically be the same as the day before? Or do we want a once in a lifetime experience, good or bad? Amy Winehouse was an addict and a wildly irresponsible person. She could well have been Iggy Pop’s (illegitimate) child. Amy and Iggy, even the combination sounds good. In the late 60’s and early 70’s Iggy Pop had the same reputation. He was a drunk, an addict and a violent person on stage. He only refused to die. Maybe because David Bowie took him under his wings (and taught him how to use drugs ‘sensibly’), or maybe because he was just lucky.
Dirt, from the Stooges’ second album Fun House (1970), is a perfect champagne song, and not just because of the title. The song sounds like a dead man’s blues played by a bunch of kids. The music is already pretty grim and nihilistic but then comes Iggy. He just howls, groans and spits the words around. It’s almost perfect. Almost.