As I watched the 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of fame Induction Ceremony on HBO, I couldn’t help but admire how tight many of the bands inducted were despite their long absences from the stage. Most notably were The Cars. Whom had not performed together since 2011. The group burned through some of their most iconic hits including Moving In Stereo, Just What I Needed, and My Best Friend’s Girl nailing the tiny progressions, hooks, harmonies, and changes in each that are forever etched in our minds.
And it got me thinking.
Thinking about how our foray into the modern “home studio” has killed a very important derivative benefit that blest many bands such as The Cars, Lauryn Hill, The Moody Blues, and Bon Jovi during their upbringing in the “offline” world of music consumption. The benefit of being forced to craft a song into a hit by playing through its pieces over and over again.
We all know the primary responsibility of the recording studio – to record. However, pre-Pro Tools. The studio was a place where you and your bandmates went to develop your songs with the help of a producer. Unlike today, where you can kind of get the right notes down and then let the engineers copy, paste, and autotune them into perfection. The studio of yesterday required you to play your parts over and over again until you got the perfect take. Sure, there were crutches, but they were costly and generally took more time than the musician just working his or her instrument until they got it right.
This process surely helped make great hits – just ask The Cars. However, it also forced the musicians to commit these hooks, riffs, rhythms, and notes to their subconscious must like Danielson did under Mr. Miyagi’s tutelage with his “wax-on/ wax-off technique.” Then, when the recording was done. These bands hit the road for 200 plus dates a year playing those same riffs over and over, further committing them to a part of the brain that few people will ever tap into.
The end result is seventy plus year-old rockers who can still hit the stage after nearly a decade of not playing together and give me Just What I Needed – a collection of iconic tunes that sound just like I first heard them in a Pontiac Trans Am.