Joe Walsh – You Get What You Came For

A few nights ago, I was sitting on a stage at Summerfest in Milwaukee next to a couple of former roadies and family members of the headliner. We were looking due east at the faces in the crowd while fireworks were blasting away in the sky over Lake Michigan. The temperature was around 100 degrees and the stage lights made it feel a lot hotter, but it really didn’t bother anyone in the audience as they got more than they could have imagined.

I have seen Joe Walsh many times with his own band, recently saw him on the Grammys with Paul McCartney, have seen him with The Eagles on several occasions, hired him to play a private Sonic Foundry party in Vegas and shot a couple of videos with him when I worked for Ensoniq. When I lived in Philly, he came out to our house for dinner and I spent a little time at his helping him with Ensoniq gear. With all those experiences, I have never been so entertained as I was a few nights ago. Aside from tasteful background videos, this performance didn’t have any crazy hats, balloons, costumes, laser lights, incredible special effects or theatrics. He just played and blew everyone in the audience away, including the people sitting on cases on the stage. When ex-roadies and relatives, who have heard these songs a gazillion times, are dancing, swaying back and forth, snapping photos and cheering at the conclusion of each song, you know it’s great.

At one point in the set Joe dedicated a song to his friend, Levon Helm, and it was truly a great moment as the back-up singers each took a verse and were spectacular. At the conclusion of “Rocky Mountain Way”, the fireworks went to a whole new level and finished about the same time the song did. It was one of those moments that wasn’t planned, but happened perfectly, and will be remembered forever by thousands of people.

One thing the audience didn’t see is that just behind his foot pedals and next to his floor monitor, there were a couple of small rubber duckies looking up at him. I wasn’t sure of the significance, but my guess it’s meaningful to him. On the other side of the stage, his awesome guitar rack had a small flag hanging from it and during the set he thanked the service men and women. It was a nice moment and brought a huge cheer from the crowd. The band, whose age range spanned four decades, consisted of two drummers, percussionist, bass, guitar, keyboards and three back-up singers. I remember thinking, “Here is a guy that has paid his dues many times and he is sharing the spotlight with so many young musicians. He deserves every bit of success that comes his way as he is original and genuine.” There really isn’t anyone like Joe Walsh.

Although I haven’t seen him in the past few years, I had a chance to spend a few minutes with him and his manager (truly one of the most decent people in the business) before the show. Joe has lost weight, looks like he has been working out and is the same “ordinary average guy” that we all know. He’s extremely focused and his performance certainly showed it.

If you want to see a guy just stand there and play his guitar better than he ever has, want to be motivated to play yours, want to hear and sing along with hit after hit, want to hear some great new tunes that are already classic, want to walk away with chills, want to listen to one of the classic voices in rock history at the top of his game or want to simply be a fan who is entertained, go see this tour of Joe Walsh and you will get what you came for.

Roy on the Founding of Broadjam Pt. 2

This is Mike Huberty, Broadjam’s Artist Services guy, talking. I just started working at Broadjam a couple of months ago (after being a member for several years) and I wanted to sit down with our founder and CEO, Roy Elkins, to see what inspired him to get Broadjam going in the first place. Last week we talked about the first years of the company and we got to go in-depth… here’s the second part of our Q&A where I talk about Broadjam with Roy in his own words:

Q: So you mentioned that the day that iTunes opened up was the day that online music was taken seriously for the first time.

A: That’s right. The investment world started validating it, it was relevant to customers for the first time, partners and advertisers that were never in the space finally said, “Apple’s in it, I’m in it.” People forget that prior to Apple, there was Sony Connect, MusicNet, PressPlay, all these other companies that we’re trying to do the same thing as iTunes and did not succeed.

Q: Why do you think it took Apple to get the ball rolling?

A: Innovation never comes from an industry. The guy that put wipers on his windshield didn’t work for an auto company, he just wanted the damn water off his windshield. So he figured out a way to do it.

When an industry is stagnant, like the music industry has been, and they’re just making tons of money, you’re never going to see innovation. I don’t think there’s any coincidence that the best year ever for the record industry was the best year for the peer-to-peers. The record industry shot themselves in the foot when they sued the peer-to-peers. Those sites were exposing lots of music to new listeners and I think when you start suing people who are promoting your product (they call it stealing), you’re asking for trouble.

Q: So those music-sharing sites were a positive thing?

A: Well, it exposed new music to people who were stuck on old music and old music to kids who were only into new stuff. I think that’s what the peer-to-peers did. And that’s been validated over and over again.

If you get 100 million people listening to one of your songs, it doesn’t matter how big you are or who you are, you’re going to sell records. Some people did view the peer-to-peer networks as stealing, I never saw it that way.

Q: Music sharing is still rampant, but all of the centralized peer-to-peer sites are gone. How could it have gone differently?

A: If the peer-to-peers and the labels figured out a way to work together and the labels looked at it as a promotional tool, the industry would be in a much better place. But if you look at their history, they are afraid of technology. For example, do you remember DATs (Digital Audio Tapes)?

Q: Sure, it was digital quality audio that you could record on several years before CD-burners were commonplace.

A: Right. DATs were going to be the next big thing, but labels talked the manufacturers (sued, persuaded, whatever) into not doing it. Otherwise we would all have DATS on our shelves right now.

But if you even go back to the outcry when Edison invented the wax cylinder. The sheet music companies said, “Oh My God, no one will ever buy sheet music again.” Then when Marconi invented radio, they said “Who’s ever going to buy a wax disc again? Nobody’s ever gonna buy these things because they can just listen to it on the radio.” And now we know that radio drives album sales.

And there’s numerous technologies that have been shut down like the DAT player. Tapes were delayed five years, CDs were delayed five years… the industry has never embraced new technology as a solution. But with web technology, it’s different because it leveled the playing field. Nobody has broken out yet because of only the web, you still need the label machine to market. But somebody is going to break through in a certain way and that’s going to  be the new paradigm and everyone’s going to copy it.

Q: So how does Broadjam contribute to that new paradigm?

A: I think we are every day, we’re constantly building new features and our members are getting a little exposure here and a little there.  It’s all baby steps that helps an artist eventually make that giant leap. And as we build out our fan component we have just a good a chance as anybody to be that entity changes the paradigm. We’re not arrogant to think that we’re the only game in town, we don’t have a billion people coming to our site. If you look at Facebook, LinkedIn or even the early Myspace with so much volume, you don’t need the entertainment business, you have your own. You sign a band and you can sell that album through your website. At some point we hope to have significant fan volume that will help our members sell more music.

I’m just surprised that the bigger sites haven’t done this. I think the roles are going to change significantly in the next few years. If I was Facebook, I would be signing artists to exclusive deals, a clean deal where the artist retain the righst to their music, but we have the exclusive distribution deal.  But it’s really worthwhile to the artist because they can become a well-known entity in not months or years, but in minutes or hours.

With these bigger sites, you don’t need a music industry, you’ve got one. I’m not quite sure why they don’t engage it. They’re probably looking at a much higher dollar volume than we are and have many other industries they are thinking. One artist isn’t going to be a huge factor in the dollar amounts in the Facebook scheme of themes. I don’t mean to pick on Facebook, but it wasn’t tong ago that Netscape was “the” browser and CompuServe was “the” online network. That turned into IE and AOL, which turned into Firefox and Yahoo! And then social networks happened, so you can’t count on these online entities being dominant forever.

Q: But what can Broadjam do with its present community?

A: Song plugging is nothing new but we were one of the first ones to pioneer that on the web. Like what Facebook could do in breaking somebody, we took a business that took weeks or months to find songs, but now a music supervisor can find the rights song in minutes to hours.

Q: Broadjam has survived though, so how has its mission changed between its founding and now?

A: Well, now we have a lot of features like hosting and the review mechanism, the social aspects like the commenting pages. I think Pro Reviewers is a key feature where if I was on the other end of this, I would take a song I’ve written and save two or three hundred dollars to get it reviewed by pros. You get three or four completely different opinions on this song. That’s worth it to invest in my songwriting career. If you look at the pros we have lined up. We’ve got Joe Vitale who wrote “Rocky Mountain Way” and produced Joe Walsh records and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. We’ve got Jonathan Stone, who has published songs with virtually every artist in the history of man. We’ve got David Arkenstone who was a top selling New Age artist for years.

What we’re trying to do is provide as many tools as we can because we know everybody’s not going to make it.   Like the founder of this company,  it’s still really enjoyable to write songs, have fun, and get other people to listen to your music and get feedback. I don’t write songs anymore to get validated, I write because I love to do it. I think sometimes as musicians we get a little confused on the need for validation, we’re really doing it because we love it. You don’t need someone else to pay you or say “good job” to continue to love it.  But I also understand the desire to do it for a living.

Q: That’s exactly right, music still has to come from the heart.

A: You know, we’ve got a guy on the site who has been writing songs for thirty or forty years. He’s a great songwriter but he hasn’t had a ton of success because he’s got a very unique style. About once a year he sends me a note saying “This is it, I quit. I’m just going to give up” And I just respond “Do you love writing songs? Then why are you giving up?” We all want to make our living making music, but we’re still going to make music whether we make our living at it or not. So let’s not get the two confused. It’s a lot of fun to make the music, it’s a lot of work to promote it. It’s really hard work once the song is done to make something happen with it. That’s why I recommend most musicians should probably get somebody else to help them with that.

I don’t think our vision is tremendously different than our initial thought, which was getting songwriters exposure. We have always been primarily song and songwriter centric, but now we have bands, solo artists, and composers of all walks. We want to help musicians find an audience, and also help them find the people that can advance their career.

Alright, this is Mike again. So now I know, when people wonder what inspires us to provide the services we do for musicians and to try and build the community. We’re here to give songwriters and artists every opportunity we can to get their music heard by more people. That’s the driving goal, to leverage technology so that every artist gets a fair shake and a chance to be heard, no matter where they’re from. 

We would love to know how we can make our mission reflect your needs and what services you’re looking for. Feel free to leave comments on this interview plus your ideas!

Icon Digital Partners with Broadjam in the 6-Pack and More!

We’re excited to partner with Icon Digital for our 6-Pack Songwriting Competition and also offer Broadjam members a special discount on their fantastic music-making merchandise! Here’s their official press release and you can learn more about them at www.icondigitalusa.com!

 

PRESS RELEASE

Icon Digital comes to the USA

Creating digital innovative tools to inspire and improve the art of music.

Madison, June 21, 2013: Engineers, recording artists, and musicians create a link between the creation of Music and the improvement of Media Education. Funding of public school Music and Media Education has recently been reduced due to the reduction of State and Local Education Budgets. Icon Digital USA is the first private company introducing a sustainable business model which directly offsets the financial loss in music education programs by providing fine arts with equipment and an ongoing revenue stream to directly support music education.

Icon’s Encourage the Arts Program directly benefits students, teachers and school music programs. By providing Icon branded instruments and equipment at no cost to qualified schools expressing need and an interest in expanding curriculum to include electronic music and media production. Icon’s extensive product mix provides instruments and devices for creating, performing, mixing and recording music. Products such as keyboards, active monitors, microphones and digital audio workstation controllers have been well received by countless consumers in Europe, Asia and Africa since 2009. Icon is now ready to provide these tools in the U.S.As the manufacturer Icon’s “direct to consumer” sales model eliminates the middleman utilized by traditional musical instrument manufacturers resulting in decreased consumer price for Icon products when compared to competitive options. This model ultimately allows sufficient resources to properly fund the industry-first Encourage the Arts Program. Under this program the consumer defines their school or certified not-for-profit organization when ordering at  HYPERLINK “http://www.icondigitalusa.com” www.icondigitalusa.com. After the sale, 13% of the online purchase price will be donated to that charity thus allowing musicians, hobbyists, recording artists, engineers and others to directly support music education with every purchase. In addition to local funding, up to 2% of the purchase price will be contributed to the State and National music education associations to support grants, scholarships and other programs.

Icon Digital is pleased to provide prize packages for Broadjam’s 6-pack Songwriting Competition, a worldwide peer- based collaborative competition where artists and musicians submit their songs in up to six music styles. At the end of the competition six winners receive the accolades of heir music playing peers and great prizes from music industry manufacturers, including professional audio gear from Icon Digital USA.

After Icon’s executive team personally listened to the winners music they decided on customized prizes specific to the musical interest of each 6 pack winner. Icon’s microphones, recording tools, MIDI control keyboards, and DJ tools were individually presented to each winning musician based on their musical style and career objective.

In addition to prizes for 6-Pack winners, Icon provides broadjam.com with an “Icon Friday” coupon offering a discount to all Broadjam subscribers on icondigitalusa.com. According to Steve Cohan, Icon’s Chief Of Inspiration, “Icon is helping Broadjam members satisfy their musical dreams by providing easy access to affordable music creation tools.”

Icon Digital is a well-seasoned manufacturer of selling instruments and devices for creating, performing, mixing and recording music. Icon’s “direct to consumer” sales model eliminates the middleman utilized by traditional musical instrument manufacturers resulting in decreased price to musicians, engineers, audio producers, and hobbyists. For further information please visit www.icondigitalusa.com.

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Roy on the Founding of Broadjam Pt. 1

This is Mike Huberty, Broadjam’s Artist Services guy, talking. I just started working at Broadjam a couple of months ago (after being a member for several years) and I wanted to sit down with our founder and CEO, Roy Elkins, to see what inspired him to get Broadjam going in the first place. It was a fascinating conversation and we got to go in-depth… here’s a little Q&A with Roy in his own words:

Q: So, what was the initial idea behind Broadjam?

A: I was a songwriter, and love songwriting. Obviously I’m very successful at it, that’s why I’m doing what I do for a living. You never heard any of my hits, the “s” in hits is on the wrong end of the word. That’s why I’m doing this!

But I love it, I don’t know if I have ever had a greater hobby than listening to original music, ever. I don’t know where it came from, but I just love it. There’s nothing I’d rather do here than listen to original music. Unfortunately, running a business does get in the way of that quite often, too often.

My background is technology, I’m not a programmer, but working for Ensoniq and Sonic Foundry I certainly have picked up technological concepts and knowledge from the great programmers I’ve worked with. I understand how to manage a product and get it from beginning to end, it made sense to me to combine my love of songwriting with technology. The idea initially was just to put up a website and help a few songwriters get a profile on the web. Who knew it would turn into 120,000 members from 190 countries?

Q: And how does a rocker from Michigan end up as a technology entrepreneur in Madison?

A: I joke about this a lot, I always felt as if I was going to be a starving musician, I was going to be starving and warm. So I moved down to Memphis and got a job in a bowling alley and eventually a job in a music store. And I’d died and gone to heaven, playing in bands and working in a music store during the day. What I didn’t know yet was that I had a knack for technology, for sampling and synthesizers.

We didn’t even have presets on synthesizers then, when you played live you had to program all the sounds into your keyboard every night. You couldn’t just reach over and hit a button that said flute or piano. I developed some programming chops because you had to. Anybody that played synths in the late 70’s or early 80’s developed programming chops. What I didn’t know at the time was that we were building a foundation of our knowledge of sound and sound creation. And then sampling came along and you take that basis of amplifier and filter knowledge and you throw it on top of live samples, you’re starting to develop things that have never been heard.

I started playing around with an E2 at the store I had and started sampling everything. When Ensoniq came out with the Mirage, I don’t think there was a TV show I didn’t sample. Every single sound that I could put a microphone on, I sampled. Some people didn’t want to hear, ha, but others were quite useful. Sometimes I turn on the radio and I swear I’m hearing some of my sounds. Because we just gave them away. We gave them to all of our customers, we just swapped them out. What I didn’t know was that there weren’t too many others doing this, just a handful.

And then I started selling a lot of the Ensoniq keyboards. And then they offered me a position to teach their music dealers on how to sell the product. So I trained them on the technology and then how to sell it retail as well.

Q: Funny, that almost thirty years later, you’re still dealing with digital files, albeit longer ones.

A: Well, there’s technology parallels from MP3s to digital samples. We found Broadjam in the late 90’s, we started in September of 1999. We didn’t use Flash back then, I don’t even know if Java was invented yet. It was pretty primitive by today’s standards just like back in the 80’s sampling was primitive. To see the evolution of the web… nobody even though about downloading .WAV files in 1999. Nobody thought about metadata, except we did. We were very clearly on top of that, ahead in that area. CDDB, which eventually became Gracenote, had their metadata for MP3s. But I always thought there was going to be a more advanced search, now it’s pretty standard on the web, back then it wasn’t. It was just a handful of fields you’d fill out.

And the other thing too, is that most people didn’t even know to do that. They weren’t award of using CDDB. That didn’t even become apparent until 3-4 years after we started. That was key for us.

The other thing that was key for us is the review mechanism. We were one of the first. I can’t remember if it was us or Garageband. But we both came out about the same time and we both had pretty solid review mechanisms. Obviously ours has grown over time to 4 different kinds of reviews on the site, but that has helped numerous musicians and writers over the years, it helps them get better. Certainly it’s frustrating sometimes when somebody gives you a shitty reviews. Our basis from the beginning was to help songwriters. Building a system where their songs can be found and building a review mechanism where they could get feedback was the initial basis of the company.

When we started the contest mechanism and all the other things we started doing to enhance the experience of our members. We were kind of on the cutting edge of that stuff. We were arguing on whether we should just focus on one thing or two things, my goal has always been to provide as many tools as we can to the members of our site.

There was such a huge curiosity about music on the web. The only other game was MP3.com. Napster, Limewire and Kazaa were all file-sharing sites. Everyone was skeptical about them. Unfortunately for us and some of the other sites, we were all lumped in with them. People said that the Internet music world was just a bunch of pirates.

When our life really changed was April 28th, 2003, and that’s when Apple announced iTunes. That was the day the Internet music space was validated…

We’ll continue the conversation talking more about the philosophy behind Broadjam next week. 

That Lick

A few weeks back, Ray Manzarek died.  For those of us who grew up in the 60s & 70s, he was a rock icon and brilliant songwriter who wrote one of the most famous organ licks in the history of music.  The opening to “Light My Fire” begins with a brief hit from the band, then an incredible organ lick that every player of my generation has in their repertoire.

“That lick,” written by Ray Manzarek, had so much influence on me and many other organ players…..and once you learned it, you wanted more.  Then we learned the piano “fall” on “Riders On the Storm”, which sounds extremely easy when listening to it, but playing it is a different story. The Harpsichord sounding solo that he played on “Love Me Two Times” was incredibly difficult to learn until you figured out that he played it with his left hand. By the way, the bass player in the Doors was “his left hand” on a Fender Rhodes.

I could go on forever about the innovative playing of Ray Manzarek as he was the first guy to really play rock keyboards. Although Jim Morrison deservedly received much of the credit regarding the success of The Doors, Ray was the guy who wrote the music and created so many great keyboard licks & parts.  Like George Gershwin before him and Jonathan Cain and so many others after, he was well aware that a great keyboard part can really make a song.  In fact, most of the great licks from The Doors were keyboard oriented….and if you layer a good vocal over the top, it’s magic.

Like seeing the Beatles on Sullivan, I didn’t realize then the profound impact learning “that lick” would ever have on me. Ray probably had more influence on me as a keyboard player, and especially as a part writer & arranger, than anyone. Somehow I feel I knew him well, but never met him. Thanks and R.I.P. Ray.

And here’s a playlist of some Broadjam artists playing classic Doors songs.

I wrote this blog a few years ago about a family friend who taught me “that lick.”  

Performing Rights Organizations

Performing Rights Organizations (or PROs) are companies that collect royalties every time your song gets played on the radio, TV, film, or on the Internet. When you license a song to a TV show or film, not only would you get paid a fee for your music, but you should get paid every time the song plays. You would be surprised how many artists don’t have their songs registered and are missing out!

Here’s the list of PROs for the English-speaking countries. If you haven’t already registered with one of these agencies, jump in and do it today. Any dues come out of your royalties (so there’s no upfront costs) and this is an essential part of earning every penny you deserve with your music.

USA

ASCAP - http://www.ascap.com/about/ascapadvantage.aspx

BMI - http://www.bmi.com/about/

SoundExchange (for Internet and satellite) - http://www.soundexchange.com/about/

 

CANADA

SOCAN - http://www.socan.ca/about

UK

PRS for Music - http://www.prsformusic.com/aboutus/ourmission/Pages/default.aspx

AUSTRALIA

APRA – AMCOS - http://www.apra-amcos.com.au

Top 3 Reasons Why Songs Are Selected and Why They’re Not

Top 3 most common reasons songs are selected

1. They fit what the listing is looking for.

This one is important, make sure you’re paying close attention the the listing and if they include a video or song example, watch it! Make sure that what you submit is what they’re asking for.

2. They are competitive.

Your songs need to be contemporary (if that’s what they’re looking for.) Take a listen to the radio, watch TV shows, pay attention to the music in the films that you enjoy. Your research is easy, it’s out there in the media and it’s all around you. If you’re looking to make music for films, TV, and ads, then make sure you’re familiar with the music they’re already using!

3. The production is Top Notch

Make sure that your song is the best-produced it can be. If you have an excuse or a disclaimer, don’t submit it. These songs are meant to be listened to in a vacuum, without context, because that’s how they’ll be in a movie or TV show or ad. Make sure that you’re submitting the very best quality that you possibly can.

Top 3 most common reasons songs are declined/not selected

1. They aren’t broadcast quality

Look to the above. Something that doesn’t have the sound quality necessary will never be selected because it can’t be used. Some of our opportunities are looking for demos, but unless the listing specifically asks for that, make sure your production is ready for Prime Time.

2. Lazy production/arrangements

Make sure you’re sending your absolute best!

3. The vocals are out of tune

With pitch correction built into most Digital Audio Workstations, make sure that the vocals are perfect. Need help with that? We’ve got software for it!

Now that you’re armed with a little more info, you can check out some of our latest listings right now!

RIP Sherman Hemsley

I have known Sherman Hemsley for over 20 years. Although most remember him for his role as George Jefferson, I remember him as a friend.

He grew up in Philly and eventually moved on to NYC. Norman Lear saw him in a Broadway play and offered him the role of Archie Bunker’s nemesis on All In The Family. In the spinoff, The Jeffersons, he starred as the very successful neurotic businessman, George Jefferson. Once I got to know him, I realized what an incredible actor he was as he was nothing like the character we all knew. He was as laid back as anyone I have ever met and was all about peace and love.

I don’t remember how we met, but Sherman and I became very close in the 90s. I was working for Ensoniq and was traveling to LA on a regular basis. I would take some sub sandwiches to his house, show him a few things on his Ensoniq gear and then listen to some of the music he wrote using it. (He was so recognized that he couldn’t go anywhere without someone yelling “Weezy,” so it was just easier for him to stay home. One time I asked if these comments ever bothered him and he told me they were fans just showing love in a strange way.) It surprised me how much he talked about his desire to write music and, like most writers, he was always anxious to play his latest creation. He was a master at choosing the right sounds and it was interesting to watch him create in his own unique way. And as I write this, I am listening to some of it now.

He loved listening to Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Jon Anderson. He turned me onto a band called Eloy from Germany and insisted that I pick up a couple of their CDs. So we hopped in the car at about 11PM and drove to a CD shop in Hollywood and bought a couple of their records. In that same time period, we were also supplying gear to the reunited Yes, so we arranged for him to meet Jon Anderson in the Mackie booth at the NAMM show. Sherman and Jon later got together and worked on an album, but I don’t think it ever got released. He was truly honored to collaborate with Jon.

A short while later, we had a product at Ensoniq that wasn’t doing well and needed a jolt in sales. So we took the sales reps to LA to meet a few of the celebs who were using them but Sherman insisted that I bring the reps to his house for a few beers. To this day many of the guys still talk about going to Sherms’ house and just hanging with him.

On one trip, my wife was with me and he invited us over. His house was just off Laurel Canyon up the mountain with a northern view of the valley from his deck. His driveway was the steepest I have ever been on in my life and one slip of the brake and you were over the cliff. My wife mentioned that she was just getting into Yoga and Sherman immediately got up, pulled two Yoga books off his shelf and gave them to her. They talked about Yoga for a while and she was truly touched by his inherent and natural generosity. In every conversation after that, he always asked how she was doing.

He moved to El Paso a few years ago so we didn’t connect as much in person as in the past. Occasionally and usually around the holidays, we would talk by phone. If he called first, I would answer and hear this voice say, “Rooooooooooooy” and I would smile as I immediately knew who it was. And an hour later, the conversation was over. I loved talking with him.

As I was writing this, I was contemplating what stories to share as there are so many. I chose the ones that showed his love for songwriting and hopefully conveyed how different he was than the character we all knew. Although he had much fame and success as an entertainer, he loved to write music. He was deep, sensitive, generous, spiritual, passionate, creative with an incredible taste in music and truly at peace with his life. He was loved by everyone who knew him.

Thoughts on Jon Lord’s Passing

Jon Lord
Yesterday, I heard the news Jon Lord passed away. He was a founding member of Deep Purple. Many great players have developed a unique style on the organ, but very few have been “sound” innovators like Jon Lord. He was the first and best heavy metal rock organist ever. In the famous “1 –minor 3rd- 4” line that defines Deep Purple, he plugged his Hammond into a Marshall amp and created what would become the signature sound of 70’s rock. As a young organist in that era, I was mesmerized by it and wanted it so bad. By the time I could actually afford the gear, it wasn’t cool to play “Smoke On The Water” anymore. But the sound he created is still a standard in every keyboard players’ arsenal.

If you wanted to learn a song back then, you either bought the record and lifted the needle over and over again until you got it right or you attempted on an 8-track player. For those of you who were born A.B. (After Beatles), an 8-track cartridge plugged into the player like a key into a door and usually played one album at a time. The music was broken into 4 different sections playing two or three songs in each section. After each section, you would hear an annoying click and the tape would move on to the next. It was very aggravating trying to learn a song with an 8-track. Trying to learn the organ solo to “Highway Star”, which is the first cut on Deep Purple’s Machine Head, without the ability to rewind or lift the needle is almost impossible. So after it plays once, you have to listen to the next song on the tape and then half of the next, click the selector 3 times and start the tape over as there was no rewind feature on 8-tracks. Those of you who have had this love affair with 8-tracks are cracking up right now and those who haven’t are saying, “What the hell is he talking about?” Eventually, you picked up a few licks, but got frustrated on a song like “Highway Star”. Then you would find someone who has already learned it and ask them to show you. This was one of those solos that was almost impossible to learn on an 8-Track as it was so technical, tasteful and long.  Like most of his work, it was timeless and a classic solo played by a legend.

I’m sure I’m not the only keyboard player in the world who is thinking about the influence of Jon Lord. I have been fortunate in my career to meet many of my heroes and work with some, but I never got to meet him. If I did, I would simply thank him for the influence he had on me. He was the keyboard player that got me thinking about soloing for the first time and more importantly, the sound of my instrument. I am truly thankful for that and send best wishes to all those who were close to him.