Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Derp Thoughts: Are Most Bands Only As Big As Their Influences?

 "You're only ever gonna become as big as your influences."

It was 1985 and my dad had just said something that I knew would stick with me after I had just pleaded my case for taking a semester off from college just to see how far the band could get with everyone making it their sole focus. To him, being in a moderately popular local band was one thing, but even aspiring to be one of the bands played on MTV was a whole other enchilada. To prove his point, he pointed to the nearest stack of records: "Near as I can tell, your influences are Platinum Blonde, The Jam, Angel City and Off Broadway so you might have a tough go of it if you're expecting to be the next Beatles." Hey, I'm not greedy, I thought at the time, just the one or two Top 40 hits will do. In and out, bada-boom, bada-bing, then just stick to playing street fairs and rib fests every summer. But, for the most part, my dad was absolutely right: If your biggest influence is Clan of Xymox, you should probably not be disappointed if your band didn't get any bigger than Clan of Xymox. A band like R.E.M. is a rare exception, though, comprised of four individuals all coming from completely different directions, musically, with the two guiding forces (Stipe and Buck) being heavily influenced by... Big Star and Velvet Underground? Excuse me while I still remain completely surprised that R.E.M. was able to become one of the biggest bands in the world on their own terms while everybody else was out buying synthesizers and skinny ties. Obviously, R.E.M. was that rare exception where the band's odd nature and obscure cultural and literary references were a big part of who they were as a band. As great as Chronic Town may have been, nobody who heard it could have possibly foreseen the band's gradual rise to the fourth most popular band in the world (or was it third?) just a few short years later.

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