The Quarrymen in a 1957 recording. Notice anyone familiar here?
There has been some discussion both here and over on nyvs.com about the competing roles of ‘amateurs’ with video cameras vs. the ‘professionals.
This is not the first time that ‘amateurism’ has raised its ugly head to the anger and ire of the ‘professionals’.
Throughout most of the history of music, if you wanted to be a ‘professional’ musician you sought work with a ‘professional’ gig – that might ahve been an appointment with the Royal Court or a place with a professional band – or even The NBC Orchestra (there once was such a thing).
Musical instruments, of course, have been in the hands of ‘amateurs’ since the advent of stretched skins on drums.
What was lacking, at least until the 1950s, was a mechanism for distribution. Technology changed all of that.
The Quarrymen (above) were a British garage band (for want of a better term), formed in March 1957 by a few young Liverpool schoolboys- 16-year old John Lennon and 15-year old Paul McCartney. You may have heard of them. The following February 14-year old George Harrison joined the group.
Amateurs! Kids with guitars.
By 1962 they had morphed into something a bit more recognizable. It took five years.
The Cavern Club, August 22, 1962
The Beatles (and the host of other bands that followed) were about as ‘professional’ as any 15 year old kid today with a video camera and Final Cut Pro.
That is to say, not at all.
And like any kid with a video camera, the 15 year olds with guitars were the object of deep derision from the ‘professional’ musicians of the time.
But the arrival of garage bands came concurrently with the arrival of another critical piece of technology:
The transistor radio.
While records had been around since the 1930s in one iteration or another, transistor radios first burst on the scene in 1957, (oddly concurrent woth the arrival of The Quarrymen), and by 1962 had deeply penetrated the general public – particularly the young.
Unlike LPs or 45′s that had a limited run time, transistor radios came with an insatiable appetite for content – short content, and lots of it.
(Does this start to sound familiar?)
So here’s my guess:
iPads and iPhones are the transistor radios of the 2010′s (or whatever we call them).
They also have an insatiable appetite for content, but this time in video.
The Beatles didn’t set out to imitate The London Symphony Orchestra, but with cheaper instruments and fewer people – they created their own sound.
I am willing to bet that there are few (or maybe more) 15 year olds in Liverpool or Mumbai with video cameras and iMovie who are ready to craete their own vision.
And I am willing to be that there are about 4.6 billion smart phones (at last count) ready to broadcast what they make.