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Thread: A Return to Form or Why Are Their Best Years Always Behind Them

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    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    A Return to Form or Why Are Their Best Years Always Behind Them

    There's a thread blazing over on Hoffman "Do Rockers wear their Debauchery and drug abuse as a badge of honor" and one tangent in that thread was about how some musicians credited their best work to drug use. I have read this trope many times over the years but I wonder if something else isn't in play: youth.

    We've seen it in our favorite musical acts, film directors, authors, etc. The early stuff is better, burns hotter. An artist bursts onto the scene, full of new ideas and a passion that is tangible. They find their groove, release a seminal series of albums, paintings, or films. Then it fades. Often, as they say about regarding rock or 50s jazz, "the drugs stopped working". Or the heat of youth is replaced by the burdens and distractions of maturity. I know there's many cases where the drugs did take a toll on creativity. There are many artists in my collection that just lost the muse after a while.

    But is this always the case. I've got that red Dylan box from several years ago and the third disc, full of miserable old bastard songs, is the one I return to the most. In a way, it seems to be the most self-aware of his work. But I can think of few other examples where there was a return to form or at least a new perspective on life that was as revealing as their early work. Maybe Bowie's last album? Richard Thompson still seems sharp, though not equal to that peak of Mock Tudor. Are there any other examples of where time didn't take its terrible toll?
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Success, more than time, is the enemy of creativity.

    Some artists remain creative their whole lives, despite the trappings of success. But it's rare.

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    Very few bands weather time well. That being said, I was deeply impressed by Black Sabbath- 13 and the recent live King Crimson is nothing to sneeze at.

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    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    It's been said there's a fine line between genius and insanity. When one uses a psychedelic substance, one experiences effects very similar to schizophrenia. It's no surprise to me people would have strokes of creativity in an altered state of mind.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Psychedelics don't create creativity. They might remove inhibitions or change perspectives or focus a person on previously-ignored facts/feelings/interpretations, but they can't make a dull person creative.

    Not all geniuses are borderline insane, either. Some troubled individuals turn to art as a way to express the hurricanes whirling within them, but probably just as many artistic geniuses are just really good at capturing the river of inspiration that flows (usually gently) through all of us.

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    Progdog ThomasKDye's Avatar
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    Uriah Heep is still kind of killing it, honestly. Bernie Shaw is a great vocalist and their songs alternate between blistering rock and big thoughtful ballads. They feel as solid as their early stuff.
    "Arf." -- Frank Zappa, "Beauty Knows No Pain" (live version)

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    Drugs or not, bands/artists seem to have a good 10 years in them. Look at all the 70s bands and what happened to them in the 80s. Creativity decreases, production value changes (for the worst in the 80s and bands don't have anything to prove. Over the last 25 years bands seem to at least sound ok since production is not as dated. Can't think of anyone who continued to produce memorable music over their career than maybe Tom Petty. All of this is fascinating to me.

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    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    It depends what you like, of course. I and a lot of other Marillion fans think their most recent album (I forget what it is - the fifteenth or sixteenth or something) is one of their best, but some fans think their best days are long behind them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Psychedelics don't create creativity. They might remove inhibitions or change perspectives or focus a person on previously-ignored facts/feelings/interpretations, but they can't make a dull person creative.

    Not all geniuses are borderline insane, either. Some troubled individuals turn to art as a way to express the hurricanes whirling within them, but probably just as many artistic geniuses are just really good at capturing the river of inspiration that flows (usually gently) through all of us.
    Thank you.. I wanna say this came up before in another thread some years back.. I voiced the same opinion as yours and whomever it was that differed went on and on saying the opposite.. As I recall their opinion had to do with John Lennon writings..

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    Not a good example, as Mick Box is the only holdover from their "prime" period.

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    Pikachupacabra spellbound's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo
    There's a thread blazing over on Hoffman "Do Rockers wear their Debauchery and drug abuse as a badge of honor" and one tangent in that thread was about how some musicians credited their best work to drug use. I have read this trope many times over the years but I wonder if something else isn't in play: youth.
    I think you're right about the youth thing. Even Keith Richards eventually gave up drugs and stopped singing their praises. I'm sure acid or other hallucinogenics/psychedelics can enhance your creativity, but that, too, is a young person's game. How many old, lucid acidheads have you encountered? The old artists who are still lucid and creative? Exceptions. Not the rule.

    "Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
    You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
    The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget
    Oh, you're a rock 'n' roll suicide" - David Bowie
    Can this be the swan song? The final elbow?

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    Progdog ThomasKDye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M Sary View Post
    Not a good example, as Mick Box is the only holdover from their "prime" period.
    Well, Steve Howe is the only holdover from the "prime" period of Yes, and everyone here seems to think they should shuffle off and die somewhere, so I dunno.
    "Arf." -- Frank Zappa, "Beauty Knows No Pain" (live version)

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    Member moecurlythanu's Avatar
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    Psychedelics cannot create creativity. What they do is open doors in the mind that would not otherwise be opened. Because of that, they were highly instrumental in bringing about the cultural Renaissance that took place in the late 60s and early 70s, but they were not the source of the talent that created the music and other art forms we all love. As far as longevity, psychedelics as a "learning aid" are subject to the Law Of Diminishing Returns. At a certain point, the benefit wanes in terms of self exploration. That is not an opinion that is unique to me. I recall Patrick the Lama Lundborg expressing a similar view back in the 2000s, but it does comport with my experience. Old timers who do Acid are doing it for the effects/party aspect, not inner exploration, from what I've been able to observe.
    "If you want to see the true nature of humanity, just look at the internet."

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    Rush lasted longer than most, they pretty much avoided the drink & drugs, I'd say they had a really good 25 years until they lost their mojo in the 90's. Some still like the 90's stuff though so even more power to them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Success, more than time, is the enemy of creativity.

    Some artists remain creative their whole lives, despite the trappings of success. But it's rare.
    I agree with this. When an artist doesn't have to worry about a legacy or about delivering another "hit" it's easier to just do as they please. It's after your benefactors or fans or promoter or studio come back and say, "That was great. Give us another one just like it", that creativity dies a little. Woody Allen may be a detestable criminal little troll but he's pretty much only done what he wants to do ever.
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    some musicians credited their best work to drug use.
    Aerosmith fits this to a T. Sobersmith just plain sucks, as far as I'm concerned.

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    I think it's the 900 percent obsession early in the creative days that explains how a The Yes Album and a Fragile begat Close To The Edge - before separate lives from success turned that dizzying height into "Parallels" and Tomato. Or. Karn Evil 9 becomes Fanfare.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JKL2000 View Post
    It depends what you like, of course. I and a lot of other Marillion fans think their most recent album (I forget what it is - the fifteenth or sixteenth or something) is one of their best, but some fans think their best days are long behind them.
    I think Marillion is a great example of a band still creating great relevant music. I would not say that their latest album is their best, but it is a very good album that can hold it's own against their back history. I think it will be interesting to see with the new IQ album due this fall. I think they are another band who has kept the quality up over the years and actually gotten better as they have gotten older.

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    Money and Fame.
    Prog's Not Dead

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Success, more than time, is the enemy of creativity.

    Some artists remain creative their whole lives, despite the trappings of success. But it's rare.
    yeah I think this is basically true. the classic 70's bands had a lot of success, and therefore a lot of money behind them. as musical mores shifted, they tried to shift as well. Genesis did it quite well, Yes arguably did too, but most of 'em didn't. I wonder how many options there really were then for a prog band that didn't have any commercial potential - for example, Gentle Giant. how long was a label going to stick with them?

    of course we're now in an era where prog is more of a niche thing and artists can self-release whenever they please. as a result I don't think you really have the "7 good years" phenomenon anymore. I think many prog bands that started in the 90's and beyond have gotten better with age. Mainly because they stick to what they're good at.
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    Member bill g's Avatar
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    Then on occasion someone does something that surpasses their 70s output, such as Sebastian Hardie's 'Blueprint', to me better than anything they or Mario did in the 70s. Probably say the same for Mario Millo's 'Oceans of the Mind'. But I can't say that about too many others...

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bill g View Post
    Then on occasion someone does something that surpasses their 70s output, ... But I can't say that about too many others...
    Dr. Strangely Strange's "Alternative Medicine" (1997), 27 years after "Heavy Petting," probably qualifies.

    Slapp Happy's "Ca Va" (1997), 22 years after "Desperate Straights," probably qualifies.

    Penguin Cafe's "A Matter Of Life" (2011) and "The Imperfect Sea" (2017) may qualify -- mostly a new band though.

    Gryphon's aptly-titled "Reinvention" (2018) may qualify.

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    Member progholio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    Are there any other examples of where time didn't take its terrible toll?
    Richard Thompson is a great example, 13 Rivers is a a damn fine album.

    Another one i can always point to is Adrian Belew. His Pop Sided album is as good as anything he's released as a solo artist and his current tour is the most fun i've had seeing him yet.

  24. #24
    Less successful bands, commercially at least, seem to be able to sustain high levels of creativity. Glass Hammer and IQ come to mind. I liked the first 10 genesis albums, then they just went to top 40 for my liking.

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    Member jarmsuh's Avatar
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    Music is like movies, it is more difficult to be creative when your work is compared to everything that has been done before. How many more notes in music can play an artist. Today it's all about how you can match up your past influences with your personal touches. The differences between creatives artists are less obvious today than in the '70s where you have an explosion of creativity in prog rock music. The bands that have still have creativity in their work after a long time are those who play a style of music that is more on the experimental side, and like someone said those are rare.

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