8. 50 year anniversary of ‘Revolver’
In August 1966 The Beatles released ‘Revolver’, a remarkable and magnificent album for many reasons. On its 50 year anniversary I will only focus on one aspect, the way it paved the way for ‘cut and paste’, tape loop based (electronic) music. With ‘tomorrow never knows’, the closing song of the album, The Beatles translated the work of Stockhausen and other contemporary classical composers into a pop format. They did so by recording, cutting up and glueing back together all sorts of sounds (most noticeably Paul McCartney’s laugh which you hear back as a sound similar to the shrieking of a seagull) and experimenting with microphone positions (for Tomorrow never knows the microphone was swinging back and forth to John Lennon). Just imagine how difficult and time-consuming that was in a Mid 1960’s studio environment.
7. The death of Leonard Cohen
The most noble and aristocratic death of 2016. Personally I think the Nobel Prize committee could also have awarded the Nobel Prize for literature to Leonard Cohen. With Cohen I always felt everything was a conscious decision. Just before the death of Marianne Ihlen, one of his early muses, in July 2016, he wrote her:
‘Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.’
On November 7, 2016 he followed her. As promised.
6. Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize for Literature
I’m not the biggest Dylan fan. I love his best records (Highway 61 revisited, Blood on the tracks, Blonde on blonde…), but a 36-disc box set of his (full) 1966 world tour…no thanks. I even don’t always understand why people call his lyrics poetry. To me, true poetry shows itself in simplicity, in using as few words as possible to say what you mean. Complex analogies, comparisons, elaborate story telling, it is often lost on me. Still, the Nobel Prize for Dylan marks an important event. It signals that song writing is now considered an art form, finally.
5. The death of George Martin
The fifth Beatle, their mentor, father figure, above all their producer. He steered them in the direction of writing their own songs, later he guided them on the path of using the studio and studio equipment. Maybe he just opened doors, made it possible for their talent to blossom. Even so, he was the one who recognised their talent when no one else did. A true visionary and one of the greatest record producers ever.
4. The death of Prince
I barely sort of recovered from David Bowie’s death when Prince died on April 21, 2016. In just over 3 months time two of the greatest music innovators died. Impossible to overstate Prince’s importance in terms of eclecticism, essentially mixing Soul, Disco, R&B, New Wave, Psychedelia into something totally new, songwriting, showmanship and pure, old-fashioned musicianship. A far better guitar player than many people know or realise and an incredible dancer. ‘Parade’ (1986) will always be one of my favourite albums, ‘Anotherloverholenyohead’ one of my favourite songs
3. Waning influence of celebrities
If 2016 taught us anything it is that celebrities are of no importance to the common man anymore. Michael Gove might have said ‘the people had enough of experts’, I think they really had enough of people living outside (their) reality, telling them something about that reality and how life should be lived. Most celebrities and pop stars gathered around the ‘remain’ camp in the months and weeks before the Brexit vote, most celebrities and pop stars (actively) supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but all of it had no noticeable effect on the voting behaviour of the people. Maybe all the (political) turmoil will result in a new phase of punk rock and activism, but it would still be ‘grassroots activism’, the era of the celebrity is over.
2. Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter…at least…in music. Look at what were supposedly the best albums of 2016, and what do we see? Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Solange, Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Blood Orange all in top spots, on practically every year list. Lets be positive and assume that musical taste (and culture in general) changes faster than society or politics. I know, 2016 certainly didn’t give us plenty of reason for such optimism, but sometimes…one has to hit rock bottom before improvement can kick in. Lets just listen, enjoy, and work out what difference we all can make, individually, in 2017.
1. The death of David Bowie
I read a comment the other day. It basically said: ‘why would David Bowie be in a 2016 list…I mean…the guy barely lived for a week in 2016’. I didn’t even make me angry. In David Bowie we lost the greatest musical innovator, someone who was always ahead of the curve and, in the words of Guillermo del Toro, someone who ‘existed so that all of us misfits learned that an oddity was a precious thing’. He left on a high, releasing ‘Blackstar’ days before his death. The world would never be the same again. Goodbye, Starman!