Tag: John Covach
If pop songs can so easily be written and then distributed into an unbreakable cycle of hits, can’t they also be reverse engineered and reproduced? Not if you want the song to find an audience, says John Covach, the director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester.
It’s been 50 years since The Rolling Stones released “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The song’s iconic guitar riff—those three irresistibly fuzzy notes—came to Keith Richards in a dream. “On the road, he would use the little cassette machines with the batteries to put his song ideas on the cassette,” the music historian John Covach told me.
We live in a world where big data is big news. It may come as no surprise, then, that scholars of data science have turned their attention to music.
“There’s a very strong historical thing” that goes along with country music, says John Covach, a pop music historian and director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester in New York.
It may shock plenty of people to learn that one of the best examples of how marketing can make or break a career is the Rolling Stones, who wouldn’t be where they are today without the look and antics, despite how great the music is.
At around the same time, the Rolling Stones were enjoying a number-three hit in the UK with “Not Fade Away,” as well as a number-one British EP. The Stones tried – but couldn’t immediately replicate – the Beatles’ stateside success, lagging behind by more than a year.
For the past five decades the Rolling Stones have enjoyed tremendous success as the original bad boys of rock for their image based on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. But what many people don’t realize is that this hasn’t always been the case for the group, according to John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music.
The mainstream shift toward “I” and “me” in American pop music dates back at least half a century. The Beatles actually cut back on their use of first-person pronouns after earlier songs like “Ask Me Why,” “Love Me Do,” and “Please Please Me” in the early 1960s.
Professional opportunities for classical and jazz musicians have declined precipitously in the past 20 years, but we still teach a curriculum focusing primarily on those traditions. I teach performance workshops for high-school rock musicians, many talented and accomplished, every summer. But they needn’t bother applying to America’s leading music programs.
The University of Rochester’s Institute for Popular Music is getting ready to mark 50 years since The Rolling Stones released “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” We speak with director John Covach about the upcoming celebrations.