John Moe’s Pop Song Correspondences
John Moe writes and collects letters to and about some of his favorite musical performers regarding some of their more notable songs.
A Memo to the
Sultans of Swing,
From Their Booking Agent.
BY JOHN MOE
As you know, I am very proud to have been working with the group these past few years and have enjoyed getting to know each of you as clients and friends. Some issues within the band, however, have made my job difficult and need to be addressed.
First thing: I’m all for expanding the band’s musical horizons and learning to play various styles, but it’s really hard for me to know where best to book you when I don’t even know what kind of music you’ll be performing on a given night. The management at the Starlight specifically requested a swing band and, given that your name is (was?) the Sultans of Swing, it seemed like a good fit. But when you actually played the gig, you performed an up-tempo Dixieland set (straw hats, banjos, and all) that emptied the room of swing fans and generated numerous complaints that I had to hear about. So, I figured, fine, let’s go with Dixie music, and I booked you into a bluegrass venue, only to have you take the stage and play an entire evening of Creole. Creole! Then last month you announce that you were suddenly a rock band (the Sultanz, I think you decided), so I book an all-ages show at the Teen Rec Center. And when the lights come up, you have a horn section on stage. To say the kids didn’t give a damn about the trumpets would be to put it mildly. This continued variation of style, while artistically brave, is making repeat bookings nearly impossible and is causing me trouble in my long-cultivated relationship with the clubs.
But what’s really distressing to me is that I doubt any of you even care. Frankly, I’ve detected a lot of apathy from you guys, and I wonder about your level of commitment. For instance, Harry, it’s great that you have a regular job that you find rewarding, but it has an impact on the band when you simply don’t show up for performances. Call me old-fashioned but I think being in a band means you make the scene, but you don’t seem to care about that. And, if I may add a thought on the music here, there’s nothing like a big guitar solo to get a crowd on its feet. But you, Guitar George, don’t seem to be interested in playing anything but the basic chord progressions on every number. You know your chords, Guitar George, no one can question that, but if you put on a bit more of a show, go a little outside your comfort zone, that could lead to better venues and bigger opportunities.
So, in short, fellows, it would really help me out if you would pick a style and stick with it, decide once and for all on a name, and just generally buckle down a bit more. Please take these thoughts in the spirit of helpful concern in which they’re intended. Also, we might have a chance to play way on down south in London town next month on the 16th. Harry, please advise me on whether this is OK with your work schedule.
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