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It Might Just Be A One - Shot Deal
By Mick Polich - 12/07/2009 - 09:33 AM EST

It might be just a one – shot deal.

Frank Zappa had a song title as such, but it’s an expression that floats around our vernacular to express that the stars, planets, karma, and the whole flippin’ frying pan of energy can line maybe just once for a musical moment, album, concert, or jam session.

O.k., first, I must admit something: I succumbed to the book – producing frenzy surrounding Michael Jackson’s death, and bought what’s probably described as ‘ National Enquirer’ type book that covers Michael’s life from birth to death. Oh yeah, it’s suspiciously dubious at best (like, how was this author around for ALL the quotes inside the Jackson compound, business negotiations, and concerts? Probably the reason that a quarter of the book, it seems, is for material sources and ligation – inducing footnotes. Yep, you can’t fool – a - me – there’s no such thing as a sanity clause….), but like cheap food after a hangover, it sure works in a pinch for some shallow nutrition, IF you can even call it that. But it’s a fast read, and worth a shake of the head, and an exclamation of “What the….???”

So, the igniter from that book for this column was reading the arc of Jackson’s career, and coming to the conclusion that the “Thriller” album might have been the apex. How could the dude top that? From there, all that could happen would be faster, weirder, and stranger things for MJ. At many levels, for many different artists, some peak twice, maybe three times with artistic contributions that society deems meritorious. But for many, at any level, it might just be a one-shot deal – if it’s playing in a local band that has a popularity run for many years, a regional hit song, or just making a living at the thing you love to do. One-shot deals aren’t regulated in my mind to the ‘big dudes’ - I remember some memorable gigs involving myself, and others, at various times (in fact, some memorable ‘one – shot’ gigs happened for me a few times this year at a local coffeehouse).

But if you look at the spectrum of people that have had one hit, one memorable gig, one crazy jam where everything works musically -  it certainly runs from high to low, big bucks to the cats on the street corner playing for busking money.

I can accept the one-shot concept because you never know what will happen when, and how good things will turn out. There’s certainly ebb and flow to a lot of careers and music making.

“Louie, Louie” – definitely a one – shot, but defining for the garage, and the inevitable punk rock movement into the 1960's and latter 1970's…..

“Take Five” – probably Dave Brubecks’ chart – topping hour, although one small part of a wider jazz career (hey, you can tap your foot to five? I didn’t know that? Yeah, and you can tap it to 7, too, chump….).

Stravinsky’s “Rite Of Spring” – there’s a riot goin’ on, and it must be in Paris. Still sounds as radical today as it did back in it’s premiere in 1913.

Since the advent of the 78 record, then 45s, CD singles, and now downloads, we as a society have had an easier time relating “one – hit wonders” thru the recording medium. But the “one-shot deal” could be anything – Doug Flutie had a wonderful CFL and NFL career as a QB, but his “Hail Mary” pass for BostonCollege to beat Miami in 1984 is what he will be remembered for on a wide – term basis.

But is a one-shot at anything, on any level, a bad thing?

Some folks take their shot, recognize it, even embrace it, then move on. That was then, this is now.

When you’re playing locally, you probably hook up with musicians throughout the course of your nightclub/wedding reception/VFW hall playing career that you jell with, laugh, fight, and have tears with. This can lead to great music if you all bring out the best in each other, and the musical chemistry is there. And that time period of personal best can be your ‘one-shot’ deal, in this case.

Hey, enjoy it, wallow around it, but have the SENSE to realize that you have this opportunity, this moment….

Sometimes we don’t realize what we miss until it’s way too late – how many times have you heard that phrase, over and over? The end of an era, the decline of Western civilization, dogs and cats, living together, who you gonna call?

I say smoke if you’ve got ‘em, Shriners, and enjoy the NOW!

Back in the day, ‘one-shot’ wonders could easily be encapsulated into the example of the hit 45 record (that black petroleum disc that spins around in a circle, rugrats). Believe me, there were a ton of ‘em, and it actually got to be an art form in the 1970’s (the resurgence of which I can see today thru various media outlets).

Steam, Edison Lighthouse, Pilot – so many ‘groups’, and man, what a crushing day when I found out that they were all MANUFACTUERED LIKE LOAVES OF WONDER BREAD!!!!! Damn the gods!

Say it ain’t so, Jose Canseco …….. yep, it’s so.

I know I’ve thrown these names out before – several times over several columns (and no, Dave, ‘the best music ever’ wasn’t made in the 1970’s ONLY, bub…..). But they are etched away in my head as my early examples of music here, then away in a flash, scattered to drunken trivia board games of the future like little dust specks.

So anyway, what about YOUR one-shot deal? Think about it - was it a local band you played in back in your twenties, or a CD you may have played on for another artist? Your own CD? T.V., or radio show your group or music was featured on? How about a memorable gig opening for a ‘big name’? I’ve experienced all that on a wee, small level. You can find tons of brushes with the big boys on this website – pretty amazing to be in such heady company. But granted, we’ve all had at least ‘one-shot’ to enjoy, or be bitter about, later……

I do hope it’s the ‘enjoy’ part, really!

Because we have got so little time on this mudball, you need to soak it ALL in.

Your song didn’t make the Billboard Top 100? Who gives a rat’s rip? So many artists don’t CARE about the Billboard Top 100 at this point, because it ain’t the ultimate measuring stick anyway, and hey, we’ve got the Internet to de-structure the entire ball of wax here. Who you are, what your music is, what you get out of your experience at any level if you choose to enter the ‘music business’, well, I think that’s the way right there, lads and lassies!

Talk about ‘crumbs of a crust of bread’ in our industry, here’s a story: over the past half year, there’s been a slight buzz about a documentary on the heavy metal band Anvil. Now, I remember Anvil, and you metal archivists probably do also – grasping at a bit of metal fame in the 1980’s, out of Canada, usually ending up as the ‘metal band’s metal band’ for influence (check the DVD release – some pretty heavy names drop Anvil as an influence on their music). Frankly, I put them in the Spinal Tap “Where Are They Now?” file when I moved on from that scene years ago. But, you need to watch this doc on the current trials, and triumphs of Anvil.

I mean, I’m not kidding – you really do, because from a human condition standpoint, you’ll go thru almost every human emotion watching these guys go thru what they do to get back to playing and recording the music that they love.

I couldn’t believe myself after a few reviews that I read – ‘naw, no doc about a metal band can tug at the heart this much’, I thought.

Well, believe the hype, and watch, because this is a great example of some older metal dudes, basically a thought of as a parity of themselves more so now than ever, who are getting a second shot from their on-shot status.

There are some ’Spinal Tap’ moments that are truly too unbelievable to believe ( gigging in Europe, trying to get to the gigs, no people, stiffed on pay, stupid people everywhere throwing the band under the bus at every opportunity). No matter if you like this style of music or not, you’ll want to root for these guys in the end (plot spoiler: they do get their CD released).

Redemption, chill’en, redemption.

I think things get sussed out on any level that we try to accomplish goals at – only problem is, we don’t know until later that we were only suppose to get that far.

Some people just sense that they might be headed for some lofty stuff. I think it’s a ‘quite confidence’ at times, but others could be loud and boisterous about the matter.

I have heard from customers and fellow musicians during my formative years, ”Yep, we’ll be coming in on the helicopter, or driving the limo in to pick you up!” The 45 single that they make hits the local market in the old school days, but barely draws a pebble ripple in the ‘big pond’.

Are you a failure? No – I just think that’s where it was suppose to end up.

I get the season DVDs of “This American Life” from Showtime – I’ve been listening to that show, and now watching it, since it’s inception on NPR. I might have mentioned this before, but there was a sad, yet hopeful feature on the bass player who played on the one-shot wonder OXO back in the 1980’s. One hit –“Whirly Girl” – kind of the typical synth – driven snappy, poppy stuff that happened back then. Anyway, this guy is really in the strips now – drunk, overweight, living on whatever little royalties trickle in from the hit, a basement full of recording gear, doing nothing except drink, smoke, try to record the ‘hit’ that’s going to elevate them out of this pit. Dysfunctional co-dependency from the wife, and this is while the stepson shoots video and narrates how miserable things are in their life(which I could pretty much agree with). It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, I tell ya. Not a happy groove, no way……

I just got depressed watching it, and thought, how many one-shot deals are there now in the history of the recorded music market like this – crash, burn, wallow? I will say there is a glimmer of hope towards the end of the segment – the guy is on the road to rehab, and things are looking up. But sakes alive, it was an endless bummer for awhile….

One-shot deals still abide in the music and arts industry – just is what it is.

We have our own one - shots – time periods spent playing in a hot local band, a regional hit song, music business success – it comes, it goes, then we wake up and say, “Wow what just happened?” It would be like an Ali punch in the 3rd round – fast and over before you realize it.

I think the rare key to the one – shots in our lives are realizing what’s happening before you know it’s over, and accepting the good graces along the way. Speaking from experience, it’s not a new thing, but I wish I was more fully aware about 15, 20 years ago when an ‘era’ for me was closing.

But new eras are always beginning – you just need to see when it’s starting the ride, then hop on, and drive it thru. Don’t wait for the next hill – your ‘one-shots’ are ending, and beginning again constantly!


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