Episode 5: Dick Wingate on Music
In this episode, digital music guru Dick Wingate talks with New Robot Overlords host Myk Willis about how technology has changed the way we experience music. The conversation covers a long time frame, from a time when home entertainment was “a piano and a daughter to play it” to today’s world of auto tune and electronic dance music.
The introduction of the phonograph in the late 19th century fundamentally changed the landscape, allowing people to listen to music without having live musicians present. Singing voices had to adapt to this new, imperfect, technology. With the introduction of multi-track tape recording, musicians were free to take as may tries as necessary to g something “just right”. Dick tells the story of how Bruce Springsteen took 60 or more takes when recording vocals on the album Darkness on the Edge of Town; and, ironically, the result ended up being less powerful than virtually any of his live performances on that tour. In Dick’s opinion, the worst of the 110 shows is more exciting than the album.
Dick points at the introduction of the CD, which allowed easy random access to songs for the first time, as a significant event in the changing consumption of music. As we have moved into the Internet age, where virtually every track is available all the time, this easy access has consequences. Dick argues that in this world of media saturation, “something has been lost, and it won’t come back.”
It’s a really fun conversation with lots of interesting anecdotes – enjoy!
Links to Things Referenced in the podcast
- Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town album and tour. Dick was heavily involved with Bruce at this time, then being product manager at Columbia Records.
- The book E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band by Clinton Heylin
- The 2012 version of Les Misérables featured vocals recorded live on the set, as opposed to having the vocals recorded separately and then dubbed in. Some people criticize the results, but it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t provide a much more organic feel to the film.
Here’s a great photo of Dick Wingate with Bruce himself at Madison Square Garden in 1978:
Notable Quotes from the Podcast:
On the saturation of media: “something has been lost, and it won’t come back”
something that’s been lost: “I pledge allegiance to these artists.” (There doesn’t seem to be the same kind of attachment as there once was to individual artists…though…try telling that to “the little monsters.”)
something that’s been lost: “there’s no pride of ownership in music”
“The merch business is still so big because t-shirts are a way of expressing yourself. ”
“The Ringtone was an audio t-shirt.” (This is much better than we used to say at Myxer…we said it was an audio bumper sticker. But t-shirt is much better)
“[tower records] was a social experience. You would go for both discovery as well as to be part of the scene.”
“financial barriers are quite low. It used to be that most artists couldn’t afford to record themselves. Today, anybody can make a record.” (even people that really shouldn’t…)
“The more perfect we make the music, the less natural it feels”
“Bob Dylan was a horrible singer.”
“Prerecorded music is a commodity – but every live event is a unique thing.”
“It’s one thing to all be in the same room, it’s another thing to all be on the same page.” (On the modern home and its entertainment options)