One of my favorite television shows is “Live from Daryl’s House” on Palladia. Last week, the musical guest was Joe Walsh of the Eagles. Joe is a wild eccentric and he always has outrageous, and interesting, things to share. His voice is instantly recognizable and his guitar style is slick and articulate.
Joe was singing his old hits and his new songs. Joe didn’t seem to really like having Daryl sing even a single verse of one of his songs, and when it was time to sing a Daryl song, Joe just played his guitar. It was a little disappointing Joe didn’t want to play along a little better, but so be it. Nobody tells Joe Walsh anything — even though Joe is 64-years old and Daryl is 66!
One interesting moment in the show was when Joe, sitting alone with us, started talking about the difference between modern music and his music of the 1970’s:
Taking a cue from the title of his latest album, Analog Man, Walsh criticizes the “digital recipe” of most pop music today, explaining, “It’s all about the magic of a human performance.”
Joe went on to lament how modern music was all pre-recorded and that none of the performers or musicians are in the same room at the same time when the music is recorded. Everything is now layered on top of each other in separate recording sessions. A boring baseline beat is created by a drum box. There is no imagination and never a mistake.
When Joe started recording music, everyone was in the same room, and you played together live to seal that “magic of a human performance” in the song. There were mistakes. There were lots of recording errors but, in the end, it all worked out really well because the performance itself was authentic because of its flaws. Joe misses those “live days” recording sessions because today, you just sit in a room alone and record your little bit to what has already been decided.
What Joe finds wanting in modern music — is the danger of live performers making a mistake — and that is precisely why the living, united, stage is so dear and fathomable in the landscape of human history. You never know what is going to happen in a live performance. There is risk. There is something meaningful wagered with every utterance. A non-live performance is the movies or television or an animatronic debacle — and none of those entertainment venues can ever match the magnitude of live people on a living stage in real time.
Joe Walsh made his money, and likely most his happiness, doing live performance tours. Is it too late to bring back the live element in recording, and releasing, modern mainstream music? Only once we begin to realize, and acknowledge, what has been lost can we regain the human element in the modern sound of live recorded performance.