Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Genius of Simple


When I was at primary school my headmistress Mrs Walsh told us that a genius who could see and explain things very simply. She gave the example of a guy who went to a match company and said he could save them a great deal of money for actually stopping doing something.

In those days match boxes were sandpapered on two sides. He posited that people always checked for where they were goig to strike the match , so the boxes only needed one strip of sand
paper instead of two. At a stroke halving the company's sandpaper bill. It does sound obvious, but until he came along no one had thought about.

Genius at Work
I am currently reading Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History Of Time" , and there is no down in my mind that the guy is probably in the genius category. The book is less than two hundred pages, but is packed with content and not a word is wasted , which means it is slow going , but his style of writing comes across with a "Go On, You CAN Get This!"  message.

That's a long probably unconnected intro to what this post is actually about . I may have blogged about this or touched on this before but it is really about musical genius. If someone were to ask for an example , Jimi Hendrix , Brian Wilson , Lennon and McCartney are probably goig to come over in responses and there's no doubt that these  were musical Genii . I would add Joni Mitchell , PJ Harvey , Kate Bush and Sandy Denny to that list as well , but it's annoying that music is seen as a boy thing. Girls are good too.

The problem is that most of the music that these artists produced was complex, and taken to extremes by bands like King Crimson , Emerson Lake & Palmer and Yes. One of the main ironies was that of Yes's initially simplest constructs "And You And I" is a lovely melody set to basically three acoustic chords , but by the time it's finihed it hits ten minutes with lots of additional bombast. I still love it though , and it was released , uncut as a seven inch single.


Ok we're here , real genius is to do something musically so simple that anyone can do it. Songs with three chords or less. The Velvet Underground's first album didn't initially sell many copies but everyone who bought it formed a band. The descening G riff from "I'm Waiting For The Man" can be heard in "White Riot " by the clash, "In The City" by The Jam and "Holidays In The Sun" by The Sex Pistols. The inspired Jonathan Richman , who's "Roadrunner" is only two chords  "D" and "A" which any one can learn on a guitar in minutes. Van Morrison's Gloria and The Who's "I Can't Explain" are more examples of easy to play songs , along with The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" a staple of any garage band's repertoire , and The Kinks "You Really Got Me" and  "All Day, and All Of The Night" also fall into this area.

Another example of genius is the one note guitar solo. If you can make one note sound good you are a true genius. To this day I am only aware of two examples of this "I'm A Hog For You Baby" by The Coasters and "Tommy Gun" by The Clash. To do that , is inspired genius.

So I've bookended this post with those two songs , sitting an Amazon MP3 selection in the middle for you to sample. Love to hear your thoughts on this , and sorry this one has gone on a bit


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