During the 1960's as pot started to become more popular as a recreational drug most of the attitude amongst my friends and fellow musicians was a fairly mellow one and it reflected in the music that was being made at that time. Smokin a joint before a set or a session was not at all uncommon and despite the fact that pot made me feel self conscious and shy on stage, I liked the way music sounded when I was high. Make no mistake I liked to rock out and put all of my energy and thought into the music but if I had to choose between harsh and ahead of the beat playing or right on the beat or slightly behind I would choose the latter. For most of that decade I think many of my fellow musicians also felt that way or at least most of the music made in the 60's tended to be of a mellower variety. Even the LSD influenced jam music of that time was dreamily drifting and meditative.
As the decade drew to a close I started to see more of the harder drugs being introduced around the scene. After Woodstock with it's positive vibe despite the harsh environment it took place in and for reasons I still don't understand, cocaine, meth and heroin gained a foothold in popular culture. It seemed to me that even though I on occasion used the harder drugs that were all around me, I still preferred pot for my drug of choice. As the 70's moved on along with the great music that was being created at the time there was the slow but steady influence of "ATTITUDE". Instead of getting on stage and playing your music with as much enthusiasm as you felt, I witnessed the new 'struttin your stuff' style of presentation which to me was epitomized by The Rolling Stones. From being the 'bad boys' of rock with great blues based rockin songs and a subtle but noticeable style as what differentiated the "mods" from the "rockers" where they were the "rockers" and The Beatles were the "mods" to what appeared to me as Mick Jaeger prancing around like a banty rooster and the rest of the band trying to look as deranged as the neighborhood junkie. What were they trying to say I asked myself? And then of course Keith Moon had to destroy his drum kit on stage and the race was on to show the most attitude as possible for virtually all of the new generation of rock stars. Now it is important to mention that these bands and others were creating great music but why did it have to be accompanied by such over the top theatrics?
Of course there is no need in going down the list of outrageous behavior bands as by the mid 70's even such mellow music bands as Fleetwood Mac were going over the top and I would say under the influence. So instead zoom ahead to 1981 and the launch of MTV. All music all day long. It was great and I loved it. You could grab some snack food and a beer or a joint and sit and watch and listen to the music of the day in living color on your tube. VH1 came next and now there was MTV for the more rocking music and VH1 for the mellower set. But in order to keep the audience tuned in because you could just put on FM radio and close your eyes for the visuals, the music TV channels had to encourage the artists that wanted to be on their channels to have more ATTITUDE in their performance. Smashing guitars, tights and make up on guys, sexual ambiguity, grand drama on stage had rock and roll turned nearly into a contest for the most outrageous onstage behavior possible and lots and lots of ATTITUDE.
So now there are the Baby Boomers with their relatively mellow demands of their favorites on stage and then come the Gen X&Y'ers with at least more than cum by yah to rouse the spirit still letting the music be the constant source of enjoyment but after that there came the heavy, heavy doses of attitude, attitude, attitude.
Now every artist has to have made attitude as the prerequisite of their performance style and can be entertaining when it is for a reason. Hip Hop when it began really needed big time attitude as their environment was forged by the fire of dis-empowerment and neglect. Like the folk movement that gave birth to the anti war protests, Hip Hop was letting the powers that be know that there was a fire burning down deep in the ghetto. But what did the grunge movement really have to say about their condition and or life style. Comfortably middle class and educated they were mad about something but what was it? Same thing with punk of an earlier generation. Was the message that they were presenting an image or a statement? Even Hip Hop has now become more of a fashion presentation than a political statement. Cristal and Bentleys, chin out 'tude and glamorizing thug life. 99% of their audience are just trying to achieve a middle class life and their role models extol wretched excess. It is no wonder that there is little conscience involved in the wholesale piracy of music via the internet. If I was a youngster today and all I saw was no respect for moderation and hard work, television "stars" that have done little more than project major attitude and conceit and a music industry that has no place for artist development. I would find it hard to understand why I should support it.
Even in sports where attitude is a part of an athletes tool box there is almost a ritual for how attitude should be portrayed. Celebrations have become automatic and with little spontaneity increasingly predictable.
How does this fit into everyday life for most of us? When attending an event whether sports or entertainment there is little originality left. If all you are going to get is the gnarly face down or de rigueur chest bump why spend all that money to go out. Live entertainment and sports should be about spontaneity and surprise and I see little of that today. Lots more fortitude and a lot less attitude would go a long way. What do you think?