Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Does Lady Gaga "Fit the Suit?"

Those who don't study history, it is said, are doomed to repeat it.  This is not a good thing, no matter how "groovy" some of the past may be.

This was brought to mind recently when I saw a FaceBook discussion about the pros and cons of Lady Gaga.  To make a short story even shorter, one party was of the opinion that Lady Gaga is a star more or less in spite of herself, because she has no remarkable talent other than an ability to package and publicise herself.  The other party offered that the ability to package oneself is a kind of 'talent.'

Whilst I have no particular objection to Lady Gaga (I agree her 'singing,' such as it is, does not likely provoke jealousy in Julie Andrews) I do tend to think that she is a bellwether of sorts - that we have almost come full circle from where the music business was in 1962.

Put simply, I wonder if Lady Gaga (and 'Fergie' and American Idol) were not foretold more than 30 years ago?  A lot of people of roughly my age watched countless hours of Brady Bunch repeats, and thus will react with a knowing nod to the name 'Johnny Bravo.'

He Fit the Suit

In this 1973 episode, Greg Brady was selected to be a singing star - not because he was particularly talented, but because "he fit the suit."  Whether he could sing or not was beside the point.

In an age where a person need only sing in the same postal code as the key of the song in order to allow sound engineers with elaborate equipment to work their magic, I think Greg could have had a brilliant career.  That one need only "look the part" is the ultimate triumph of style over substance.

The bad perm, gull wing collars, and mood rings may be gone, but Johnny Bravo is back.

Those who know rudimentary music history of the 1950s and 1960s will recall the struggle between musical acts (e.g., the Beatles) and the record labels and writers (e.g.,  Leiber and Stoller).  With few exceptions (Chuck Berry), prior to Lennon and McCartney, the acts were pretty much puppets; think: the animatronic "children" in Disney's Small World ride.  Lennon and McCartney changed the paradigm, though not without a struggle.  One of the attempts to keep control - the Monkees - gave Don Kirshner one last shot.  The story, ironically, is played out in one of the episodes of The Monkees ('The Devil and Peter Tork').

Who knew that, 40 years later, the ghost of Kirshner would return, and Johnny Bravo would not be saying "Adios."