People in crowds do strange things.
They follow the latest reality show fads. They Sometimes they hurl things at police, flip cars, and smash windows to protest government policies.
They even go in droves to see recycled drivel like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
But I have finally found an example of mob mentality that speaks to me.
Last Sunday, almost 1,700 guitar players gathered in Kansas City to jointly play the classic riff from Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”
We’ve seen big groups of musicians get together before. Here are just a few:
- Band Aid collected dozens of mostly British and Irish artists to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, releasing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984.
- A group of mostly American musicians calling themselves USA for Africa put out the “We Are the World” single later the same year to feed the hungry and fight disease in Africa.
- Artists United Against Apartheid recorded “Sun City” in 1985 to protest South Africa’s repressive regime.
- Metal musicians got in the act, forming Hear ’n Aid in 1985 and putting out the single “Stars” to help African famine victims.
- In 1997, a diverse group of artists sang Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” for the BBC Children in Need charity.
- The One World Project brought several British artists together in early 2005 to record “Grief Never Grows Old,” raising money for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
You’ll notice one thing that the items in this list share: Each gathering was for a cause greater than the music, philanthropy worth the effort to pull busy prima donnas together.
Not so much with this “Smoke on the Water” thing.
This time, instead of feeding the world or ending racism, the cause is much simpler: to break a Guinness world record, currently at 1,323 people playing a song together.
Does that diminish the accomplishment? That’s up to each one of us to decide. For me, it makes the event even greater than these previous efforts. First, there are simply more people. Second, everyone showed up with a guitar for an anonymous role in a world record that few will ever hear about—and even fewer will care about.
Now that’s what I call community spirit. Too bad they didn’t pick a different song to commemorate the communal nature of the effort.
Something like Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules.”