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Forums => Oscillations => Topic started by: willbo on July 21, 2021, 10:51:05 AM

Title: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: willbo on July 21, 2021, 10:51:05 AM
It occured to me here that I pretty much expect slightly more obscure music to be better than very wide appeal, top selling music (Deerhoof as opposed to Foo Fighters for example). I feel more reassured by a new artist I'm getting into having a strong, dedicated but cult fanbase. But then...when did it begin? Because I imagine the Beatles and Bob Dylan (for example) were the sound of cool youth while being very well known. Were there 60s kids who felt superior for liking lesser known bands at the time...? I imagine it started with punk, post punk or art music. But I'm not sure.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: DrGreggles on July 21, 2021, 11:01:25 AM
Not sure you can generalise.
Sometimes the best* song at a given moment is an obscure album track and at other times it's number 1 in the charts.

*and even then it's completely subjective
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: sutin on July 21, 2021, 11:15:21 AM
It wouldn't have been until towards the late '60s (when you had those garage 'Nuggets' type bands etc.) that there was 'underground' music, I think?
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: the science eel on July 21, 2021, 11:18:31 AM
It wouldn't have been until towards the late '60s (when you had those garage 'Nuggets' type bands etc.) that there was 'underground' music, I think?

Yeah, I suppose around the same time 'rock journalism' (especially in the US) became a thing, that would have contributed quite a bit to the idea.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: LORD BAD VIBE on July 21, 2021, 11:35:04 AM
In this country at least, I'd say it started when all those war babies who would go on to form the Stones, Manfred Mann, Fleetwood Mac, The Yardbirds, and so on started hunting down old Blues records in the late 50's/early 60s. They couldn't be arsed with the likes of Fabian or Cliff. Some of them (like Brian Jones) even looked down on Rock N' Roll to an extent. Jones had to be persuaded to put Chuck Berry numbers in the Stones set.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: chveik on July 21, 2021, 11:50:38 AM
never?
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: sevendaughters on July 21, 2021, 12:02:45 PM
I'd say that John Lomax and other ethnomusicologists who took advantange of portable recording facilities articulated the idea that music that was not being commercially pushed toward a listener was equally culturally valid.

I've never heard of 'obscure music being better'.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Endicott on July 21, 2021, 12:10:35 PM
OP, you're asking when did music snobbery begin, right? It's not particular to this or the last century, I can easily imagine it happening for 100s of years. It's likely been there since music began.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: studpuppet on July 21, 2021, 12:45:27 PM
OP, you're asking when did music snobbery begin, right? It's not particular to this or the last century, I can easily imagine it happening for 100s of years. It's likely been there since music began.

The Rock Snob's Dictionary (https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/126261.The_Rock_Snob_s_Dictionary) claims it came of age in the 1980s, with the advent of 'classic rock' radio stations in the US and the CD format, which meant a lot of previously unreleased or difficult-to-obtain material suddenly appeared in the public domain.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: JesusAndYourBush on July 21, 2021, 12:46:08 PM
Isn't it more about people being bored with what's mainstream and going looking for something else.  So when you find something you like, by definition it's more obscure because you had to go looking for it.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Astronaut Omens on July 21, 2021, 01:06:08 PM
The development of bebop jazz in the 1940s in the New York was rooted in a sort of difficultness, outsiderness and exclusivity- more difficult to play than swing jazz, harder to dance to, harder for mainstream audiences to enjoy, played in smaller venues. The cult of heroin use around that scene heightened that underground, outsider status.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on July 21, 2021, 01:21:07 PM
The Velvet Underground being Proper Art with really edgy themes. For years they were primarily known for influences other musicians and critics until Reed's comeback.

Part of this was deliberate cultivation of the sense they were different from all other bands, real art with real darkness. A lot of art rock in the mid-70s was deliberately obscure because the people who made it wanted to be like the mythical image of their heroes, hated by audiences and loved by musicians.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: willbo on July 21, 2021, 01:26:44 PM
OP, you're asking when did music snobbery begin, right? It's not particular to this or the last century, I can easily imagine it happening for 100s of years. It's likely been there since music began.

Sorry but I think this reply is Ill thought. The concept of cult music - stuff that isn't just under appreciated or failed to sell but valued FOR being cult - is different to snobbery. In fact it goes both ways (punk/primitive snobbery Vs virtuoso/prog snobbery).
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Astronaut Omens on July 21, 2021, 01:32:02 PM
The Velvet Underground being Proper Art with really edgy themes.
When you put it like though, I suppose it brings up the idea that edgy pop music like the Velvets just brings back the serious element that was always there in folk and high-art music, and that it's pure commercial pop that's the relatively new thing. Similarly, preferring to see relatively unknown bands in small venues is not necessarily the action of a snob, but is basically how most people throughout history have enjoyed music- it's seeing an internationally famous artist in a stadium that's the more recent invention. 
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on July 21, 2021, 01:43:09 PM
I love the Velvet Underground but I hate the phoniness of their rep as the first/only serious art band. It's as manufactured as the Monkees.

Quote
the serious element that was always there in folk and high-art music

This is the thing that has always got me. The Velvet Underground were apparently the first group to have serious or literary content. Did people not know folk music existed?

The claim that they were unique in singing about gender and sexuality, drugs etc. in the 1960s is also ridiculous considering pop music phenomena like Motown, Tamla, etc. Look at the contents of the first two Beatles records. It says something very unsavory about intention when it comes to musical content - all those performers mentioning drugs and kink before 1966 didn't really know they were doing, they had to wait for a serious art project from New York that was sanctioned by a famous great artist for a band to do it intentionally.

The Velvets "said the quiet part loud" as they say, and it they made it part of their image. The fact that their music was out-of-this-world fantastic meant the myth of them being an ultra obscure band that changed the world was inevitable, and this is the template that people have emulated. Factory Records, early industrial, all those Ohio/Cleveland punk bands, no wave, all followed the Velvet Underground influence where obscurity was a sign of seriousness.

Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Endicott on July 21, 2021, 02:20:26 PM
Sorry but I think this reply is Ill thought. The concept of cult music - stuff that isn't just under appreciated or failed to sell but valued FOR being cult - is different to snobbery. In fact it goes both ways (punk/primitive snobbery Vs virtuoso/prog snobbery).

Hmmm. If something is valued not for its musical content, but for its audience, ie for BEING CULT, that is by definition snobbery.  Maybe we are at cross purposes? I'm not saying this is bad, I'm a terrible music snob. I think everybody is.

Anyway the thread has brought forth some interesting discussion.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Key on July 21, 2021, 02:29:16 PM
I only listen to partially reconstructed Gregorian chants from the 12th century.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: willbo on July 21, 2021, 03:05:55 PM
Hmmm. If something is valued not for its musical content, but for its audience, ie for BEING CULT, that is by definition snobbery.  Maybe we are at cross purposes? I'm not saying this is bad, I'm a terrible music snob. I think everybody is.

Anyway the thread has brought forth some interesting discussion.

yeah fair points, I just read this new book about Nietzsche which said there was tension at the time between pompous heavy operas like Wagner's and light fun comedy ones like Bizet's "Carmen", and apparently it was a big deal when Nietzsche disdained Wagner for Bizet and went on to write about how the public obsession with Wagner was unhealthy. It almost sounded like punk vs prog.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: chveik on July 21, 2021, 04:20:16 PM
yeah fair points, I just read this new book about Nietzsche which said there was tension at the time between pompous heavy operas like Wagner's and light fun comedy ones like Bizet's "Carmen", and apparently it was a big deal when Nietzsche disdained Wagner for Bizet and went on to write about how the public obsession with Wagner was unhealthy. It almost sounded like punk vs prog.

i think this conflict mostly happened in Nietzsche's mind after he fell out with Wagner
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Goldentony on July 21, 2021, 04:25:57 PM
I've beenwatching the TOTP repeats since they started on the 1977 episodes a few years ago and music has yet to be good except for maybe 8 singles total over the 1976 - 1991 period so far
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Satchmo Distel on July 21, 2021, 08:46:12 PM
John Peel seemed to make a living off this concept. I think it's based on the view that as soon as act becomes commercial, it sells out whatever made it good. In his personal case, this view perhaps formed because Marc Bolan dumped him when he started to have No. 1 singles, whereas he could be sure The Fall, Ivor Cutler and Captain Beefheart would never have big hit singles.

The other thing is "authenticity" being somehow based on making all your music in a rural backwater, using primitive instruments, which has been debunked by Elijah Ward in the case of the blues (which was usually urban, performed for entertainment and dancing, and often cheerful rather than about being so lonesome you could die).
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: PlanktonSideburns on July 21, 2021, 09:04:05 PM
Jesus, and the other prophets
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Shoulders?-Stomach! on July 21, 2021, 09:07:49 PM
hated by audiences and loved by musicians.

For many of the bands of that scene that didn't quite reach the mainstream those were one and the same group, the musicians were the ones that would go to see them
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Brundle-Fly on July 21, 2021, 09:36:22 PM
I've beenwatching the TOTP repeats since they started on the 1977 episodes a few years ago and music has yet to be good except for maybe 8 singles total over the 1976 - 1991 period so far

I dare you to name them.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: sweeper on July 21, 2021, 09:45:22 PM
I would have said end of the 60s, with the solidification of a serious counter culture, which believed it was undermining a corrupt mainstream that was unable to address its own problems and hypocrisies. It’s like a sense memory of a time when briefly it was understood that music and the culture that sprang up around was effectively going to change the world for the better. So anything not mainstream was on the side of truth and beauty, and inherently superior.

I think the belief still exists but the context has been chiselled off. I’m not sure that music has attained quite the same force in the last fifty years.

I think art and literature movements from the early twentieth century held much the same beliefs. You can probably trace a line going back to the Luddites or the Peasant Revolts of 1381 if you want, it all seems to be part of the same spirit, it’s just the medium which acts as the centre of gravity changes.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: kngen on July 21, 2021, 10:21:29 PM
I'd imagine Dylan getting booed for going electric falls under this category. 1965, then.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: DrGreggles on July 21, 2021, 11:18:18 PM
John Peel seemed to make a living off this concept. I think it's based on the view that as soon as act becomes commercial, it sells out whatever made it good. In his personal case, this view perhaps formed because Marc Bolan dumped him when he started to have No. 1 singles, whereas he could be sure The Fall, Ivor Cutler and Captain Beefheart would never have big hit singles.

Peel loved The Beatles and Abba though, so it's not as if he was only interested in 'obscure' music.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: chveik on July 21, 2021, 11:19:37 PM
can't really see the point of peel's show if he had only booked famous pop bands
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: DrGreggles on July 21, 2021, 11:33:47 PM
can't really see the point of peel's show if he had only booked famous pop bands

He obviously didn't, but there were plenty of chart acts who he'd play and had do sessions.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: idunnosomename on July 21, 2021, 11:35:41 PM
Peel's commissioning of Radio 1 sessions from Carcass, Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower is still fucking extraordinary. I think he genuinely recognised they were avant-garde and clever though.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on July 22, 2021, 12:17:28 AM
Isn't Peel in the category of trying to make things more popular than they are? Beefheart and the Fall would have done anything to get a wider audience.

I think the "I liked the earlier stuff" paradigm specifically has to do with the fact that so many indie bands ate shit when they signed to a major, either out of pressure to sell or just naturally running out of steam when its the third or fourth record. For every Jawbox or Nirvana there are dozens of useless, formulaic records of fart guitars and bom diddy bom rhythms. So naturally more obscure stuff got a mystique if it sounded like Zen Arcade not Wonderwall.

In the case of indie, the more obscure stuff is often poppier too because the pressure for maturity was away from pop. If you think stodgy 90s REM is catchy then Harbourcoat is going to wreck you.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on July 22, 2021, 12:26:34 AM
The internet seems to have only given obscurity more mystique, with the popular of iceberg memes and all.

(https://external-preview.redd.it/4BIlzXkScjkY-7Z9obe34b2UiFPt5ILdLdcpERk7z_E.jpg?auto=webp&s=296d6308b25dec12a8044de6ea584f1687213ef0)
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: idunnosomename on July 22, 2021, 12:31:21 AM
death n' roll should only be six feet under the water level
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on July 22, 2021, 12:42:16 AM
The real obscure music genres are Barrymore Cringe, Nicky Nacky Noo and Page 3 Crossovers.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: willbo on July 22, 2021, 05:16:26 AM
death n' roll should only be six feet under the water level

even i know death n roll is like Entombed, later Carcass. And I knew that as a teen... who wasn't that into extreme metal...
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: monkfromhavana on July 22, 2021, 08:11:23 AM
Where is Chip Shop, Fungle, Turbo Folk and Tartan Techno on that meme instead of all that bloody pop music?
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Brundle-Fly on July 22, 2021, 10:12:39 AM
I think it's fair enough to be a bit elitist and be discerning about your own personal taste in music, but if you use the term 'sell out' after you hit forty, then it gets slightly pathetic.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: thecuriousorange on July 22, 2021, 12:21:34 PM
Jesus, and the other prophets

Yeah the New Testament was a real "year zero" moment for many. Changed everything for discerning theologians and there was no going back once that line had been drawn in the sand.
Title: Re: When did the concept of obscure music being better start?
Post by: Goldentony on July 22, 2021, 04:14:01 PM
I dare you to name them.

Live It Up by Mental as Anything, Do The Hucklebuck by Coast To Coast and Midnight Dynamos by Matchbox