Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Stroke This

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.”


At June 06, 2007 1:09 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Wait I love Pirates of the Caribbean!! Oh wait I am thinking of the ride at Disney, although they did add Jack Sparrow!

You forgot Hands Across AMerican, I can't remmeber if that had a song? OR was that we are the world? I am really confused now

At June 06, 2007 1:59 AM, Blogger Jay replied to my musings ...

It seems to me that the children are still poor and the africans still hungry and people all over the world still dying of aids - maybe music is not the answer but the problem!

At June 06, 2007 7:15 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe replied to my musings ...

Is it any different to celebrities adopting children from Africa? It's all publicity.

At June 06, 2007 7:52 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

I actually like that song and think the whole event is a fun idea!

At June 06, 2007 11:23 AM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

I'd like to know how much money was actually produced for those celebrity charities (for the actual people in need.)

The mass guitarism was very cool.

At June 06, 2007 12:15 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

That's cool.........but only for about 12 seconds of hearing, "Da, da, daaaaaaaa. Dat, dat, da-daaaaaaaaa" Then I'd have to walk away.

At June 06, 2007 12:51 PM, Blogger Layla (aka Barbara) replied to my musings ...

I think its fun. The real question for you, David is - would you have participated if you lived, lets say, within an hours drive from there???

As far as making money for Africa, etc. I do think that these events have made a difference because they've raised awareness of something and forced people to see that no everyone lives in world where you have roof over your head, a fridge full of food, can choose from a list of medical professionals for your specific ailment, and ... well you get the idea. Even the poor here in the US have lots of programs to help them, we rarely see children dying of starvation.

At June 06, 2007 1:42 PM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...

The fifty-cent word for mob rules is deindividualization.

At June 06, 2007 3:55 PM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

Cool. I could add to the list "The Concert for Bangladesh" which was the prototype of the charity events that followed, only way cooler 'cause they had Dylan, Clapton, Preston, and Harrison.

Smoke On The Water is still way better then one of those hot dog eating contests. :)

At June 07, 2007 6:27 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Phats: Did they really add Jack to the ride? That makes me sad--it violates my childhood memories of the experience. And I did skip Hands Across America, good addition.

Jay: I'm not sure that music causes the crises ... but that would be funny. Imagine artists banding together against global warming in the 1960s!

CB: I'm sure that some celebrities really care about the causes, and some really want to have a child from a foreign land. But I agree that some have probably used both for publicity.

LIsa: I like the song, too. I haven't heard what it sounded like, but I find it hard to believe that all 1,680 people were in synch.

-- david

At June 07, 2007 6:31 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

GN: I remember much controversy after these benefits about the money going through the African governments, many of which were corrupt and probably didn't pass all the money to the people in need.

Mike: I guess if you're going to include almost 1,700 people, you need an easy song. LEt's hope it didn't go on too long.

Layla: I forgot--thanks for the insipration for this!! Your post on this spurred me to write this. And you can be damn sure if this event were down the street I would have done it--but I would have performed a screaming solo over the top of the mass chords.

Cube: You have just increased the value of this blog by $0.50.

GW: The Bangla Desh concert started it all, I think. Now it's common--then, it was rare.

-- david

At June 07, 2007 9:58 AM, Blogger bob_vinyl replied to my musings ...

I don't think fun is a bad reason for people to get together. Any type of positive human interaction is a good thing. If everytime people get together, it's serious business, it drains the joy out of life (and music). Still, I think it's good that people have tried different things to raise money and awareness even if it isn't the ultimate solution. I recognize that in some cases, money exacerbates the problem, because it feeds the profit in poverty, but that doesn't mean that those raising money are a part of the problem. I can also see the angle that it allows people to "feel" like they're doing something when they're not. While music didn't solve any of these problems, I still disagree with jay that music is the problem. None of these events was a principle funding for the profit that goes along with poverty. I'd just say the events probably didn't help. I think that's why Live 8 didn't attempt to raise money.

At June 07, 2007 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

I agree about the song choice for the love of sweet baby jesus, even I, in my infinite retardation could play THAT song 2 minutes after I bought my guitar.

At June 07, 2007 1:48 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Yes they did, he is all over it now. Also they have a jack sparrow show right outside the line daily. It's sad I know this much about Disney I know :)

At June 07, 2007 6:21 PM, Blogger Janet replied to my musings ...

I've got mixed feelings about this. Getting people together to play a guitar riff is cool, but how about getting people together to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony? That idea was completely abandoned, huh?

At June 07, 2007 7:15 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

I bet half couldn't really even play the guitar. They were there just for the weed.

At June 07, 2007 9:50 PM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

Well I agree that it is good for people to come together, especially for a good time. Music is one thing which can bring the world together because it appeals to everyone in every culture, the riff of "Smoke on the Water" doesn't speak any language nor is it a race or religion it is just good music.

At June 07, 2007 10:26 PM, Blogger Rocky replied to my musings ...

I am not very musically talented, but I would be a great roadie!

I might be able to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on my recorder from fifth grade, but that would probably get me killed by a Somalian warlord.

At June 07, 2007 10:53 PM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

Absolutely capital idea, but I too question the song choice... I like yours better.

At June 07, 2007 11:44 PM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

Honestly, if I'm not listening to Machine Head, I want nothing to do with that damned song. Fucking commercials that exploiting it like "Iron Man" and "Rock and Roll" Blah!

At least Hear 'n Aid got voted as the number one metal moment on that VH1 thingamabob.

At June 08, 2007 6:21 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Bob: Maybe just getting attention for causes is a more reasonble goal than "solving" problems.

BD: Even Stephen Colbert played it on the Report the other night.

Phats: Scary. Next thing you know, they will add space shuttles to Space Mountain.

Janet: Wasn't that a Coke ad? It rings a bell...

Phoenix: I saw a few seconds of video, and it looked like everyone played. But it also looked like many were on something.

-- david

At June 08, 2007 6:25 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Jeff: You're right about the crossing cultures/languages thing. It's either music ... or we all speak Esperanto. I think we know which one would be more fun.

Rocky: This would be the exception to Jeff's rule. Whether that's due to the recorder or the Somali warlord, I can't say.

Perplexio: I was also thinking "Anthem" by Rush would be a clever choice given its individualist lyrics.

Ray: I disagreed with the Hear 'n Aid vote on Most Metal Moments, but it was still good to see it get some recognition.

-- david

At June 11, 2007 11:42 AM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

At least they weren't attempting Stairway To Heaven.

At June 15, 2007 10:45 AM, Blogger ~d replied to my musings ...

O happy DAY! I need to go and search for an AUDIO of the Smoke on the Water! How COOL! I would learn that riff JUST TO ATTEND!


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