When is not enough, not enough? When is too much, too much? And is just right, just right?

Finally, when is it time to get off the stage?

As I contemplate the to-the-point immediate communication demands of our 2012 attention-driven society (particularly via social media), I keep on pondering the lessons of four legendary English rock n’ roll bands of the 1970s.

After standing in the rain for nearly eight hours outside some sterile Southern California department store in 1975 (amazed the call of nature didn’t intercede…ah to be young again), I finally reached the front of the line and bought two precious tickets to see Led Zeppelin.

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In my mind’s eye, I could envision Jimmy Page laying on the first riffs of “Rock n’ Roll” with his Gibson Les Paul, Robert Plant hitting the high notes, workmanlike John Paul Jones on the bass/organ and John Henry Bonham pounding away on the drums.

A friend, who saw the show a few nights earlier, implored me to sell the tickets. I should have listened to him. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Led Zeppelin fan owning the band’s entire catalogue on both vinyl and CD. Listening to the band’s recordings is one thing; sitting through four hours of guitar, organ and drum solos comprising only 15 songs (do the math) was exhausting. When it was over, no one was demanding an encore.faces

During that same year, I saw the last tour of Rod Stewart and the Faces (Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagen and Kenney Jones). All-in-all, I have checked out four Rod Stewart shows, including the aforementioned Faces concert. Each one was over in approximately 90 minutes. And each time the audience wanted more but there was no more. The crowd felt jipped and there was a smattering of boos. We were not even close to being exhausted and we were far from satisfied.TheWho2

 

 

The Who was a different story. I saw the band for the first time at Anaheim Stadium in 1976 with the original lineup of Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle (The Ox) and Keith Moon. The second time was in Los Angeles with the Faces’ Kenney Jones replacing the deceased Moon on the drums. The band played for more than two hours and ended its regular set with “See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Alas, the encore was an anti-climatic throw-away.

Early this month, the Rolling Stones announced the availability of a bootleg recording of its July 13, 1975 concert at The Forum in Los Angeles. I was 20-years old at the time and vividly remember Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” dramatically introducing the band at that very same concert to thunderous applause. And then there was Mick Jagger and Keith Richards singing the chorus to “Honky Tonk Woman” with Charlie Watts on drums, Bill Wyman on bass and Woods just joining the Stones from the Faces.

Since the 1969 “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” tour, the Stones have always been masters of choreography and pacing, starting their concerts at a kinetic pace (i.e., Honky Tonk, All Down the Line, You Can’t Rock Me) and then slowing down (e.g., You Can’t Always Get What You Want). The 1975 concert concluded with a series of Stones classic rockers including: Brown Sugar, Midnight Rambler, Street Fighting Man, Jumpin Jack Flash and the encore, Sympathy for the Devil.

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The show was 22 songs and ran about two hours or so with the audience coming away satisfied (Who says you can’t get no satisfaction?), but wanting more. The Stones knew when it was time to get off the stage. Led Zep played a four-hour concert; The Stones gave us a show. All together, I have seen the Stones six times live, and if they tour as rumored next year to celebrate their 50th anniversary as a band, my attendance will be a pilgrimage as it will for literally thousands and thousands of people.

The purpose of this epistle is not to simply recount how fortunate I have been to see some of the greatest rock n’ rollers of all time, but to deduce the lessons of these bands and project them to our 21st Century world of communication.

Recently, I was imploring a very bright colleague to drop her plans to market a 4.5-hour AUDIO ONLY tape. I borrowed the famous line from the late Texas Governor Ann Richards (no relation to Keith) stating: “That dog won’t hunt.”

A NFL game takes an average of 3.5 hours obviously accompanied by video and audio. The Led Zep show ran four hours with amplified sound, lasers and lighting. My entrepreneur acquaintance wants to market a 4.5-hour audio tape, broken into nine chapters, but still 4.5 hours. I urged a series of two-to-three minute YouTube videos as an alternative. No go…so I had to go.

My failure to convince someone (not the first) about the merits of quick messaging social media reminds me of The Diffusion of Innovations Theory by professor Everett Rogers. The theory is represented by a curve with innovators on the extreme left and laggards on the extreme right of the page (not implying any political connection). I am afraid that 4.5 hour audio tapes are heading in the laggard direction akin to the buggy whip. We live in a world of 140-character Tweets/20-second sound bites/quick Facebook posts.

We can either embrace this new world or coming into it kicking and screaming. We are not going back to Johannes Gutenberg and his 15th Century printing press or the modern-day equivalent in the form 4.5-hour audio tapes. The Stones and The Who proved four decades ago that less is more in rock ‘n roll. This same wisdom applies to 2012 communications choreography as well.

http://www.rollingstones.com/news/rolling-stones-release-la-friday-live-1975

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Copland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faces_(band)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations

http://www.biography.com/people/ann-richards-9457298

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg

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