Will There Ever Be Another Bowie—Or Dire Straits, Deep Purple, or Queen?

Asher invites guest and colleague Steve Pruneau to answer the question, "Will there ever be another David Bowie?" (or The Clash, Blondie, The Police, etc). Steve agrees to search for "good" 21st century version of classic rock music, and Asher bets hard against him. Inevitably "Free Bird" comes up, but also Mumford and Sons and Townes Van Zandt.

Show Notes Delightfully un-edited and subject to error (blame the machines who might say ANYTHING).

Today we’re going to be joined by my colleague. Who many of you have heard before. So let’s get on with the show. Steve we’re back with you again, this guy — I’ve invited you here because few people know that you’re a musician I know from, from college anyway, and you’ve got the soul of the musician. The artist is in you and you and I are collaborators that talk about music a lot as a meme and use certain examples. So for instance, David Bowie, and some of the, the creative Verve that that guy put out, I liken him to Freddie mercury. It’s now a thing to look at Freddie mercury and queen with all the documentaries that have come out. But I, if you look at Queen’s versatility, if you look at the body of work, they put out, these are people that are superhuman compared to us laurels in terms of the volume of stuff you and I put out from our desk on a daily basis, the average person out there probably puts out, you look at something like what Freddie mercury has done. And it’s whether you like his music or not. It’s nothing short of. It’s like talking about Mozart. Is there not going to be another David Bowie?

There’s not going to be another David Bowie. So you can start the morning process. Now,

Steve, you didn’t know, you could have, let me down easy. You could’ve barricaded

To say I had a sort of feel that, you know, anyway, we just

Got done talking, right previously about you know, when you feel strongly about something you just going to come

Out with. That’s my point. I’m teasing. Yeah, go ahead. When you give it to me, rip the bandaid off, do it. Don’t I love the nurses, the big Husky Germanic nurses, that when I say they’re going to give me a shot, that’s one of these things. That’s the size of a, of a tube of toothpaste that I say, is this going to hurt me? Oh yeah. Like, thank you. That’s ma’am that’s all I wanted was honesty at it. Somebody give it to me stab. They just stab you. Yeah. Most of our men squeal a little bit. Anyway. Yes. You look like a man who respects the truth. You ask them to come on, let’s go. No more David Bowie. So please continue.

I gotta revise your intro. I need to add the word amateur musician, and let’s emphasize amateur big time, but certainly everything else is true that music is a big part of my life. And I look to it for inspiration and, and so forth. And I look like I look to music and performers and, and the history of bands, you know, to kind of figure out well, how did you all chart your course? How did you figure out what worked and how did you shake off what the industry said you should do? Or the producer or the record label said you should do and so forth. So that’s the creative process. And all of that is, is a big part of my interest because it helps with other parts of my life and business and, and the things that I build and work on.

I’ve heard, I’ve heard people, even when I was a kid, the complaint from people who are a generation or two older than me, when I was in my teens, say, music’s not like it used to be, you know, they don’t have the classics anymore. And they were referring to what they call the oldest standards from the thirties and forties as though there was a lack of talent. And so I part ways on this question of, oh, you know, we don’t have the same talent nowadays and we for sure don’t have the same. John rhe music continues to evolve. It, it doesn’t stay the same. Didn’t even stay the same. You know, in the 16 hundreds, people kept getting inspiration from each other and then it would bounce back and forth. And the political and social times were different, which is what artists and musicians react to. So these cultural currents keep moving on. I would suggest it is, it is not that the talent is gone is it’s that artists are reacting and building upon they’re reacting to the current cultural times and they’re building on what went before them. So you know, I think we’ll see iterations from time to time built on the classic rock masters. If we don’t already call them that we will, but I don’t think we’re going to see exactly the same thing. It’ll be some current musicians take on it

Are some criticisms of contemporary music. Meaning since the grunge era in the 1990s, one is made by some of those very musicians that participated in that movement, which is, Hey, look, music is part of a tradition. And the moment you say, I’m just going to invent something from scratch. And I don’t have any influences. We just write our own stuff. We don’t have any influences is the moment you’re a one hit wonder, but the musicians that play radically different music than the people they cite as influences, but then turn around. You got like the lead singer of Nirvana saying, well, I was inspired by Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash and you too. And I’m like, well, you don’t sound anything like those. He would say, that’s the point, right? That issue of, can you just be a punk? And I don’t mean punk in terms of punk music, can you just be a punk and pick a big Dar and play what you want?

You can, if you’re if you, if you’re Mozart, if you’re any van Halen. Yes. But for every one of those, there’s a thousand people that it’s a dead end B and they don’t improve the art form. I think because they neglect being rooted in something that’s traditional. I saw a movie the other day. It’s a biopic that features a time when Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Muhammad Ali met in hotel room for an evening shortly before Malcolm X was killed. And yeah, it’s very much like a music driven play that I love. I saw it in Chicago. I think it hit Broadway. It’s called million dollar quartet. And it’s also a true story about a recording session of an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash on December 4th, 1956, they all pulled over and walked into the same studio to kind of have a conversation with their, you know, out of a taxi music producer at the time.

This was before any of them were famous. And the recording session that came out of that is, is that, that this is a play of that meeting. Well, this show Malcolm X is berating. Sam cook about Bob Dylan and, and saying, look, Bob, Dylan’s reaching more people because he’s willing to address what our brothers are going through out there. And you’re still singing love songs. And the other point he made is look at these other white guys that have stolen our songs. And one might make the point. As many people have that everything builds on everything. And ultimately you could say it’s cultural appropriation, or you could say that the only way to play good songs is to acknowledge the debt. We have to a slave music blues, the music of the deep south and where jazz and all of that came from where rock and roll was really born.

Of course, these guys are gonna play it at music. And then it’s a question about, you know, who’s going to do what with it. So it was a fascinating, fascinating conversation about being rooted in tradition. But the other part is, do you think at times things do get lost. So you look at the difference between classical composers and Schoenberg. Schoenberg is deadly wake music, and what we’ve lost is melody. And I have a colleague who says the melody of the classical composers now exists only in the form of being carried by popular music. It’s rock and roll that carries that it’s led Zepplin. It’s black Sabbath that carry the melodies from those days and modern classical composers have lost the ability to do it. So I wonder if, if we aren’t at risk of some things getting permanently lost.

Yeah. There’s some things get permanently lost just because the culture of one generation is not the culture of the previous one. I think it’s like saying, you know, I would really like for the world to experience another David Bowie you know, we don’t want to be into artificial cloning and short of, and even if, and it’s it, you know, it’s been suggested even if you did you get the biological clone, not the, the emotional and intellectual clone and maybe I’m being overly harsh, but I, I don’t think it happens. I don’t think you get one music of one generation reproduced in another, but you get some really cool updates to it. You know, one of the things that the loss of power of record labels has produced and the presence of YouTube has produced are there, there are a couple of there’s actually three cover bands that I’ve been following, but I don’t want this hair over the last couple of years with YouTube discovering cover bands and all my gosh, I never thought I would say, you know, these guys are doing covers as good as an in some cases, I like it better than the original.

And you know, my first reaction is, oh man, I can’t believe you’re taking this on. And then I listened to it like, oh, wow, that’s really good. And I keep listening to it. So first of all, these guys, this Russian band, right? They love Chicago. I’m not exactly rock and roll. So I digressed from the point of rock and roll, but I want to come back to this point of, I think we will see music again, that’s repeated. So this guy’s called landed and friends, you know, you think have really, but they nail it a hundred percent awesome. Reproduction of original Chicago tunes, another group from Australia highly street country club. Their thing is the eighties. And they take on just about everything from the eighties and, and you know, a lot of stuff. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, you can do that. And then they take on some pretty challenging stuff and I’m thinking, whoa, and it’s nice.

It’s updated a little bit. And then this last group I discovered more recently scary pockets, which incidentally is the keyboard. The keyboard player is one of the founders from patriarch, which is kind of crazy in itself. Anyway, they did a cover of Fleetwood Mac dreams. And it was funk defied. That’s kind of their thing. They’ll funk, defy tunes. And now that, oh, you can, you know, really how good can this be? And then I listened to it. I’m like, Ooh, I like that a lot. So I don’t see an example at the moment a 21st century version of classic rock, but I’ll make you a prediction that we’re probably going to sit. I think somebody is going to grab a hold of, of some classic rock influences and they’re going to put whatever their take is on it. And I don’t know when it’s gonna pop out, but the barriers have come down. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it sometime the next few years.

I don’t like rap music. I don’t like it, but I think that the police song sand, the remix with puff daddy is hot as hell. I love it. I just said like, yes, yes. I don’t even like the rap section of the music, but I liked the vibe that, that injected into the song. I think it added to it. It’s a riff on Roxanne by the police. And I, I was just like, yeah, man, keep it going. Yeah, Eddie Murphy did it in 48 hours and I liked his version better than stings. Now I’ll probably get shot, but I

Mean, let me remind you that Getty Lee did a rap on, oh, rush. Oh

God. Save me. Well, anyway the other thing that get me killed probably is for anybody that hasn’t seen the movie, there’s a movie called Elizabeth town and there’s a band in this movie. The fictional name of the band is ruckus, but the actual band is my morning’s jacket. And they do a cover of Freebird that sets the building on fire. I mean, literally the building catches fire and they keep playing. And yeah, I actually think it’s better than the standard radio version by Leonard Skinner. And that will get you killed, but I, in the, in the wrong part of the south, but I do, they thought they were hot as hell on those guitar licks. It was fantastic. The other thing I want to say besides covers is regardless of the kind of music he liked, there are some interesting innovations in 21st century music.

So in the area of rock music, I really kind of dig Mumford and sons. There’s very few bands. I’ve listened to that come out in the last few years, but Mumford and sons is something else and their story and their style. They just got a lot to bring in the area of Americana music. You know, I’m a guy that listens to Townes van Zandt and I did Ray LaMontagne. Some people call that country. I think there’s a distinction. You know, that’s like not everything Waylon Jennings did was country, man. I’m not knocking country. I like Johnny Cash. I just don’t like top 40 country. But Ray LaMontagne is, is epic. And somebody could say, well, he’s not so much country as a singer songwriter. And there’s a lot of shade being thrown on singer songwriters from sort of the punk crowd. But among that crowd, for instance, in country, there’s a guy named Slade Cleves and he, he does this song breakfast in hell and, and just a young guy, you know born in, in DC, grew up in Maine lives in Austin, Texas, and belted out with his guitar.

And I just think he’s, he’s fantastic. I predict guys like that. I’ll go far. Although in the singer song, you know, singer songwriters grow on trees, you look, go outside, look up in a tree. If you’re in Los Angeles, you probably see a singer songwriter busking up there. It’s just, it’s literally that common. And unfortunately it all gets diluted. But I do think some of these guys are really standouts. So I’m validating. I th I think you’re right there is I’m sad for prog rock because I think relative to what it is really, you’re only going to give us a 15 year span. We deserve more, but maybe people will read it, discover it in the way that people are rediscovering, you know, film the war and the comic book, right? The comic book was out comic book companies went under by the dozens when I was growing up in the, in the eighties and now they couldn’t be stronger. You’re

Making me, I didn’t complete thought. I was to elaborate on the point of covers, but for me, that, that creative process of redoing previous works is the often not always, but often the precursor of the foundation of new work. So I meant to finish that with saying, this is a signal to me that we’re going to see a lot more interesting stuff. I just haven’t yet seen it on the rock side. It might be out there. I just haven’t seen it yet, but yeah, that’s why I’m so enthusiastic that, you know, you see people reproducing the originals and okay. I think something’s going to grow out

Well, thanks for acknowledging that because people do do the song and dance. When you say I’m not seeing anything out of the younger set that grabs me in the way pink Floyd and led Zeppelin or rush grabbed me. What’s up. I hear two answers, which I don’t accept. Oh, you’re old. It’s like, no, man, I’m listening. I’m still listening. I’m open-minded, I’m the youngest 50 year old. He got, but the other is well, that stuff we now know better. You know, I agree with what the punks said, you know Joe Strummer, the clash if it wasn’t him, it was guys like him and Eddie pop that said, look, we’ve got enough songs about love. We got enough songs about boy meets girl. And they go to the sock hop, let’s start doing some songs about Margaret Thatcher. I dig that. I really do.

I’m not talking about the content because ProgRock had all of that for instance, and I’m not holding progress as the only solution. I’m just saying we had an interesting 15 year run there that where music felt like it had unlimited possibility so much so, and I think this is the negative side of it. Every band did at least two songs about rock and roll. Bob Seger, rush limelight, living in the limelight. It’s about you being up on stage. It became such a cliche, led Zeppelin. Every band has done a song about being a band member. And you’re like, ah, that’s like the book from the writer. Who’s a college professor about the struggles of a college professor. Who’s a writer and it’s like, stop it. So I I’m hoping that you’re right. I haven’t seen it. I’m interested though. Have you seen anything produced recently that gets you hot? You know, that makes you a little wet.

Whoa, that’s kind of a personal question, I think. So like the graphic nature of it. So I, I’m going to tell you, you were talking about social commentary. So this is where I’m going to counter you on rap a little bit. So yes, the majority of soul R and B is about boy meets girl or girl meets girl, whatever it happens to be, but rap has carried with it an enormous amount of social commentary and protest against the current situation, whatever the current situation is being described. And not specifically, I’m not about any particular social topic, but it has been an art form to express that it’s also a lot about blaming and money and women and men and stuff like that. But I’m just trying to say it it’s occurring in another genre. I don’t think we’re seeing it really in, in rock much.

But I, yeah, I see stuff that really gets me excited. This is a little bit further back. I’m not seeing things in, in rock. It, like I said, maybe out there, but the guy I have watched in previous years is mark Ronson as the producer for Amy Winehouse. He put together the uptown special album with Bruno Mars. And man, I got to find out what he’s working on. Cause he, he produces some, some crazy stuff. There was a group, this is also a little bit further back. There is a group from Paris, I think, or at least France called caravan palace. And they do electro swing and they just made that their thing they’re, they’re getting older now. So I don’t know how much more material they’re going to produce or maybe it’s going to change, but just those takes on, on previous music and it is original. Very impressive. But yeah, I will concede I’m not seeing anything in, in the rock genre. That is that original, the way these other genres are original. So yeah, maybe, maybe some, maybe we’ll see it. I

Got a point I’ve heard some hip hop that I grudgingly reluctantly think this is not my form of music, but right on man and a lot more sort of remixes, right. That DJ’s put together. And I’ve had some respect for the synergy between melodic music and some of the, the force of delivery. I’ve heard some of it and thought, yeah, right on. Obviously I NWA and spend some, some groups that have done some interesting things that I, man, I, I probably couldn’t listen to a whole album and enjoy myself, but there’s been one or two songs that have hit the nail on the head of many. All right. Yeah. If I remember Jerry Maguire flipping channels in that movie, until he finally lands on the Tom petty song, you know, free fall in and then he’s like, he stays and I hate that song.

I like Tom petty before 1984 refugee the old days, but he hits that song and I’m like, okay. Yeah, that’s what happened to Tom? No offense, Tom, if you’re listening, but that’s how I feel about some rap music. All right. If it’s playing at the moment and it, and it strikes a nerve, I’ll stay with it, but don’t ask me to it. Yeah. I think you’re right. Well, I’m hoping I got my fingers crossed for the younger generation. You know, I still stick with the principle of physics out of nothing, nothing comes. And so I worry about people talking a little too musically. Illiterately about, you know, inventing something out of whole cloth, out of nothing, without honoring the tradition, we have to reject the traditions and you know, Pam gerber@manhearted.com. She wrote an article about the New York resurgence in rock music. And her point was at some point they ran out of things to break, you know, the rule was break the rules but eventually breaking the rules became the last rule to break. And that was it. That was the end of the movement. And it’s like, at some point you gotta revisit the root, get back to tradition and then branch off a new, you know, find the living root. That’s still has that depth of, I think there are aspects of all music that’s effective that mirror the qualities in a good story, meaning they’re tapping something universal, ancient and sacred that had been there forever. And so I, I think that the key to finding that music for a new generation is tap that root, tap it.

I gotta go check SoundCloud where all the, a lot of the independents are hanging out and see, see what’s happening with rock there.

I’m lazy. I just have Spotify suggests Spotify doesn’t know me. I hate it. It’s like, have you seen the latest app for it? It kind of like, you don’t know me. Why would you suggest that to a guy they’re

Curating for you? We’re now in an age where we can curate first.

I just wish it did a better job. Netflix in its early days, it’s first generation of curation software was way better than it is now. And if you actually take that back, Netflix skipped a generation and then it’s third generation of AI and Amazon’s has gotten pretty good. Spotify, I think is still in the early stages. They don’t know me. So yeah, I’d have to go to SoundCloud, but I’m not like you you’re older than me, but I’m old in spirit. And so I’m more likely to just drive through towns across the U S and flip the dial, looking on an actual radio, looking for an indie station, and then just discover music that way. Or I’ll just be the uptown Brooklyn night that listens to that show on Sunday evenings on NPR, we’ve curated the indie rock from across the country. I’m sure the Indian museum students hate that, but it is a discovery vehicle for guys like,

Well, the way I look at music and musicians is is close to the DNA of man hearted, which is why are you doing this? You know, you’re doing it to be a guitar hero for the money and the fame, or is there something that you want to express about yourself? There’s a couple of examples of, and they’re a little older, right. But the stuff that I, that I’m familiar with, right. And his whole point about understanding yourself of what are you here for? What do you enjoy doing? What do you want to be good at? What do you want to make? I always loved, I always go back to the Playboy interview with David Lee Roth. You know, there’s, there’s a lot of people I used to think, oh, you know, if you really want to live that lifestyle, you gotta be David Lee Roth.

But you know, if you actually try to do that, there’s a reason that he was the front man for van Halen. And he said it himself. And it took me a long time. This is a, this is central to the theme of Manhart it. I think at least for me it took me a long time to figure out I’m never going to be David Lee Roth, or even have a bunch of his attributes. So why do I bother, you know, looking at someone like that in that kind of admiration, just look at them and admiration for who they are, the uniqueness that they bring and just Marvel at the whole randomness of it. But anyway, the Playboy interview, he says, this thing, he says, I’m not this way because I’m in rock and roll. I am in rock and roll because I’m this way. And, you know, I wish I had figured that out when I was in my teens or early twenties is you gotta look at what you love to do, what you are, what you bring to the party and do that.

And now I do, I’m living a life that is very much in alignment with, with who I am, what I love. But it’s not like David Lee Roth. So he’s an outrageous character. And that’s what he does. He does outrageous things he’s wildly entertaining, you know, was with Bannon Hammond. So that’s my takeaway. I will, that’s always my go-to for aligning your life with who you are. So there’s another one. That’s a variation of that. You know, one of the greatest albums of all time, Boston, the original first album, there’s a, there’s an interview from not too long ago, just a few years ago with Tom Scholz and people who love Boston, you know, who may not, he would only, you know, if there was a time, like why didn’t they produce more albums? Why didn’t they have more of a run? And I’ve never heard that.

I mean, he has answered it in different ways, but this interview with him on YouTube starts in his studio. And I didn’t know this. He actually didn’t start out as a young musician, obviously knew how to perform, but it says he was, he was, it was after college before he was seriously thinking about being a performer. And the cool story is, you know, he’s an, he’s an engineer from MIT. So he was approaching it from an engineering perspective. How can I make these sounds? And, and as an artist he started thinking about, I want to make these sounds. And you know, when you look at it from the perspective of somebody in pursuit of certain sounds, rather than I want to be a guitar hero, you know, that’s a whole different set of drivers and it really puts their work Boston in, in context of, they just wanted to produce a sound. And of course I I’m sure they enjoyed the run that they had, but yeah, they’re coming at it from, I want to make this, I want to produce this. And he talks about, you know, I really didn’t know if people would love this or not.

Yeah. I think the idea that you got to find yourself first before you found your sound is, is like you find yourself before you find your commitment or you find a story. So obviously a man hearted idea, I agree,

By the way, there’s a moment in that interview where he talks about the very first album, you know, he was sending out demo tapes and right away, he was saying that the producer and the record label were wanting to negotiate. They didn’t want him to use his equipment. And he said, you’re going to make, use that homegrown equipment to record your album. And he said, yeah, that’s what our sound is. And they’re trying to negotiate that away. And once again, he said, he took an all in commitment. Like if this are no album, I’m recording this way, or I don’t want to do it. You know, you hear this coming up over and over the world society whoever is, is the person you’re, you’re trying to, to work with to get your work out there. They want to negotiate a way. And they don’t think of it as anything significant. But yeah, he said he dug in and he got what he wanted, you know? And, and that’s what produced the Boston sound is, is his music devices, the sound devices. I want

To talk to you a minute about Sam Ash stores, that Sam, as in Sam and Ash, as in Ash, Sam ash.com is their website. Sam Ash stores are all over the country, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Nevada, Illinois, Arizona, California, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, and Georgia. And the thing I dig about this store, I mean, where do you begin? First it’s family owned. I was in the Manhattan store and the guy checking me out at the counter. His last name is Ash. That’s, that’s how family owned it is the kids, cousins, grandkids. They work there. It’s pretty sweet because when you’re talking to somebody, you’re talking to somebody that not only gets the product that they put out, which is musical equipment. So if you want to guitar, you want an amp. You want to, you know, something else that makes music, this is your place.

I consider it. The go-to guitar store. They not only know it, but they come from a long history and culture since 1924 of delivering this product. So they knew who to ask. They built up all of this, what I would call institutional knowledge in the best way, which is what a family business does. But it’s a great experience. You know, you’ve got a CMS. What I liked, man, is there’s a sound proof room, or I think it’s soundproof. I didn’t always close the door and I could tell what it looks in. Some people’s faces when I was ruining the guitar for them forever, that it wasn’t completely soundproof, but they give you the room and they’re like, yeah, yeah, sure. What do you want to play? Pick a guitar, pick an amp. And I could play it and decide. And sure enough, I walked out of there with the original guitar I walked in for and a completely different amp than I would’ve thought of man, am I happy with it?

I don’t have any regrets. The guitar is a little heavy. But I like it. It’s kind of a Telecaster that isn’t a Telecaster, it’s a Telecaster style and it’s, it’s made out of Rosewood, which makes it freaking heavy. But I love it. The sound is fantastic. The look is awesome and I’m not a music expert. I’m a novice man, but you also get a lot of good advice and they’ve got a pretty good return policy and they got a really wide selection of really cool equipment. And here’s something that’s really clinches it. If you’re after something rare or obscure, they have connections throughout the market and know how to get you that rare amp or rare guitar that you’re looking for. So are you going to do is talk to them about it. You’re not limited to the stuff you see on the shelf.

That’s just sort of the beginning. Think of the stories, essentially endless like that scene in the matrix where the guy says that he guns lots of guns. Well, that’s what they’ve got is guitars and amps and lots of guitars and amps. So I encourage you to visit your local Sam Ash store. I had a really great time. They treated me right. And I think you’ll have a good time as well. This has been another episode of man hearted. The show about being a man I’m Ashley Black, your host, my thanks to Steve porno for joining us much appreciated Steve. And just a reminder that Anderson Cooper is still the winner of the current excellence in manhood award. EIMA from the first.

Thanks and cheers to Harrison.

Asher Black

Asher is a fabulist, maximist, humorist, and raconteur. By day, he works with companies to find and tell their story effectively. By night, he is a human bonfire.

Manhearted is the show about being a man—one man—Asher Black—powered by spunk. Asher is a ferocious professional smart-aleck who goes off like a rocket, picking fights with swaggering bullies, sacred certainties, and hollow-shirted heroes. Manhearted looks at culture through a neurodivergent lens, with a polymath host's cross-disciplinary references and occasional absurd awards. A withering but playful and tongue-in-cheek take on current events and the state of civilization, with transgressive humor, a hypermasculine critique of hypermasculinity, and enthusiastic swearing. You may disagree but, if you've had a Scotch or two, you'll be entertained. Either way, it will at least be MANHEARTED.