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My understanding of what Shelter calls "air" in the band's music, mentioned in the Steve Ferrone Groove topic led to the following, his comment a launching point:

"I really like the mysterious "air" that seem to loom in those sounds."  
 I was thinking about Zeppelin and their bombast when it struck me how different TPATH are. Wait, hold...you mean there's a big difference between TPATH and Zeppelin? You don't say...!
 But there's something to it, especially the early years, heck, I'd say it was the entirety of the Stan era, perhaps having its final moments in Kings Highway and You and I Will Meet Again and of course, Learning To Fly.
TPATH aren't supposed to be Zeppelin, they have this unique sound, crossover as someone once told me, between rock and pop and psychedelia and country and that's what people want from them; it's probably why the hit singles stopped happening, even from the grassroots, there was no one rushing out to champion Climb That Hill or Swingin' or Can't Stop The Sun.
 It's not just the greatest hits were singles;  they all have this unifying constant, air is a good a way of describing it. 
Maybe they'd have come up with a song akin to the Stan era and it would've been a success, connected with people, somehow become popular but they don't quite ever return to that style of the earlier records. Perhaps Money Becomes King is the closest to that quality but even then, something is different, that missing "chamber music" feel perhaps; yet even if the song has "air" it seems the exception proving the rule.
 And this is from someone who loves Hypnotic Eye, one of their heaviest records, heck, heaviest aside from Mojo.
I liked it when the band went heavier, All or Nothin', CODTMH, Honey Bee, YWM, Mojo, HE. But it was never their forte, never the place they lived as a band, just a brief visit. Despite Stan wanting them to maybe be more like the Zombies or something or heavier, whatever, he still had his own special musical communication with the group. 
TDK version of You Got Lucky...no air. Doesn't make it bad, in fact, I quite enjoy it; great extended song! 
But I think "air" is the quality people are drawn to by the band, it's evident in Mike's tasteful solos and Benmont's perfectly timed flourishes, a lightness to the music even when the subject runs dark like Straight into Darkness or Woman in Love and it's why their later songs never made the same impact. True, they weren't played much on radio, videos were passe but a song can still sometimes take on a life of its own yet none from the band did. 
How much of Stan was a part of this? Unknown. Did Tom's songwriting change on its own, impacted to varying degrees by Lynee and Rubin? For the first time Tom being prominent in a way he never was though his name was in front. I don't know. Could Steve have played like Stan so that chamber music quality would be emphasized?  I don't know. Even if he did, that unique combination of Stan with the rest of the band couldn't be duplicated.
Wouldn't it have been limiting for Tom, a "prison" of sorts to be stuck writing the same kind of music? Definitely.
 He had to keep growing as a songwriter; so perhaps that's another reason the set remained the same; he wanted to please the crowd and they came, unknowingly for the "air" quality of the band's biggest hits even as he kept moving forward creatively. 
With Stan's behind the beat playing, Ron's precise bass notes, Howie's voice and bass, Mike's succinct leads and Benmont's flourishes...air.
What do you think?

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You took all that from my comment there? Not bad.. Always glad to see some reading and reflecting going on around here. Most interesting.

Something In The Air, you say..



Although I know what I myself meant by "air" and in what context I meant it - something about "air" as a sort of "nothing" seeping in, making things seem more alive and real somehow.. it was all very ethereal, I'm sure - I'm not quite sure I understand where you go with it.

So let's see.. 

At first, I was gonna ask, are you sure you just haven't listened too much to compressed 90s CDs.. haha.. They really suck the "air" out of things sometimes.

Then you seem to touch upon that other dimension - what some of us see as two different eras of rhythm section approach. (And I can see how some of that actually does relate to this "air" thing.. possibly.. Since the rhythm section kinda stipulates whatever room and options there is for dynamics in the overall sound, what approach there might be in terms of "air" between the instrument... and maybe this is where your somewhat vague -at least to me, that is- connection to LZ happens? I can feel something here, but I'm not sure what..) 

Then, finally you mention the live shows. (Implying that this "air" thing is still there on stage specifically on all those older songs - no matter how the songs are played, then supposedly, who plays drums and so on - that it may not be about the sound at all?)

So.. I'm a little confused, I must admit. I might need to hear some more thoughts on this, from yourself and others. I'm left with a feeling that you are after something in the songs themselves? As whithin the composition, something written into those early songs but not in the later ones? 

As of right now, just remember to keep at least a few feet of air between yourself and others. :D 

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On May 8, 2020 at 5:25 AM, Shelter said:

making things seem more alive and real somehow.. it was all very ethereal, I'm sure - I'm not quite sure I understand where you go with it.

I shall clarify. Maybe, we'll see when I'm done if any of this is any clearer!

 Ethereal is a good word for the direction of this thread, well, my direction of it anyway, it's up to others to take it higher or bring it back to Earth.

Air struck me as the perfect word, encapsulating the unique feel of TPATH, particularly during the Stan era. A lightness of touch among the band, knowing just how much to play that somehow combined into that sound that isn't a facscimile of 50s rock, nor country, but something that incorporates those influences and turns them to something different.

Benmont called it their "chamber music" approach which fits of course; and is a good summation, but then to me, the chamber music resulted in Air, in this feel they had. The music breathes with Stan.

On May 8, 2020 at 5:25 AM, Shelter said:

terms of "air" between the instrument... and maybe this is where your somewhat vague -at least to me, that is- connection to LZ happens? I can feel something here, but I'm not sure what..

Ha ha, I'm not quite sure either but that's half the fun, right?

I enjoy the heaviness of Zeppelin, not that that's all they did, and I enjoy the heaviness of TPATH, whenever they went there. While listening to some live Zep I was thinking about TPATH and whatever unique elements they have different from that band and while I enjoy when TPATH played CODTMH that wasn't really their focus as a band. So it's not so much whether "Air" is a fitting attribute to Zep as rather more fitting with TPATH. 

Listening to Zep came the obvious realization that TPATH never tried to be Zep, which led (no pun intended) to what they actually did and had me thinking what people wanted from them and what set them apart and as you said, "Air"...it made sense to me, one syllable somehow summing it all up.

Another way of putting it, is that while I enjoy All or Nothin' that was a bit of an outlier for the band, regardless of how much Zep might have influenced Mike, it wasn't the direction of TPATH, just as Zep forged their own sound, so too did TPATH.

And it's part of the intangible element, per my speculation, that draws people to TPATH's songs. It's what makes them sing giddily along in concert. Oh yeah, live performance, let's get to that.

On May 8, 2020 at 5:25 AM, Shelter said:

Then, finally you mention the live shows. (Implying that this "air" thing is still there on stage specifically on all those older songs - no matter how the songs are played, then supposedly, who plays drums and so on - that it may not be about the sound at all?

   People go to see TPATH because of their love for the songs, no kidding ,right? Boy, what a brilliant observation..! Close down the forum, turn off the lights, it's all been cleared up...

  People go because they love the songs, and they love the songs because of "Air", that intangible quality. Whether or not the drummer plays the songs exactly the way they were in the studio doesn't matter...for them, if I may be so bold as to presume, it's about having a good time, smoking a big fat joint, buying overpriced beers and singing along to the songs they love, being wowed by the musicianship and feeling a communal joy in American Girl at night's end. 

  Finer details on drumming aren't being paid attention to, save maybe for the hardcore fan in the crowd.

But they wouldn't be there without "Air", without some unique feeling that emerges from Tom's creativity and the way the band performed the songs. Like I said above with the "breathe" sentence, the way the instruments mesh together isn't just in the big hits but on nearly every track. 

On May 8, 2020 at 5:25 AM, Shelter said:

So.. I'm a little confused, I must admit.

Me too...!

On May 8, 2020 at 5:25 AM, Shelter said:

you are after something in the songs themselves?

Yes. Definitely that. I've realized before there's something different about TPATH. Now, I'm no fan of Bruce Springsteen nor of John Mellencamp or Bob Seger but those are names that come up when I think of them, as peers but their music never connected with me. A lot of the 70s era bands didn't whereas Tom's music did, something set them apart, my friend's friend once said they were some combo of rock, pscyhdelia, country, etc. and I agreed on the spot, they're some weird combination but not quite any of them.

Those hits, those songs from the early career have that unique quality and "air" just seemed to fit, since there is always mention made of Mike (and Stan's etc.) restraint. 

Maybe they never wouldv'e had a bit hit record again regardless of songwriting but definitely, in my opinion, most people didn't want to hear how Tom's songwriting went, aside from WF.

I guess that's teh big exception to the rule here, to my little theorem. Maybe YDKHIF has that ensemble feeling or enough of a remnant (or it's deceptive just cause the song has such a sparse feel instrumentally, while the drums sort of plod on, maybe it's not air at all...maybe someone else will chime in on that one...!) maybe Tom just wrote something that really resonated with people, drawing on deeper emotions and more somber arrangements; but that's it.

I'd say WF is the admittedly rather large exception to this concept; but beyond that record people didn't want to hear things like Echo or Last Dj, not just because of the subject matter but that the sound itself was so radically different from the earlier stuff, Mojo perhaps going furthest from this whole concept, though again, one could say Pirates Cove and SGC bring this theory crashing to earth but again, I'd say rare exceptions to the rule.

The Waiting/Room at the Top. There's quite a difference.

For most people on here it's fine; expected even for Tom to advance in his art form but I think it's an additional reason other albums/songs just didn't connect. Free Girl Now, whatever you may think of it as a riff, chord progression, melody, whether it rocks or not, the song has quite a different feel to maybe something in the same vein like I Need To Know. 

I think it's "Air".

The way the instruments combined to support Tom (and Mike's) songwriting and perhaps only possible with Stan on drums. And it's those hit songs, written during Stan's era that people were drawn to; so in the live setting it didn't matter how Steve played them, as long as the feeling came across, the gist of the song so to speak; and to be fair, I do think he tried his best to recreate Stan's parts and Phil Jones great drumrolls on Free Fallin that Drew pointed out in another thread.

For better or worse, people expected a certain thing from Tom and the band and that's all they wanted or needed.

If Full Grown Boy has a bit of that air feeling, again, I'd say it was an exception but it seemed like going forward, either through WF or definitely after, the songwriting, the songs, instruments all seemed a bit more like other bands play, staying out of the way of the singer, supporting rhythm, an interesting solo, but not with the same deft vibe of the Stan era that made things like Refugee stand out. Or maybe it was all the salt shaker. Or maybe someone needs to bury this thread and salt the post!

Self-deprecation aside, Shelter using the word "air" just clicked with me, and it fit, at least for me, as a good descriptor of their music, whether or not I got that across I'll guess I'll know or not in a little while but thanks for reading!


On May 8, 2020 at 5:25 AM, Shelter said:

As of right now, just remember to keep at least a few feet of air between yourself and others. :D 

I'm keeping six feet distance from the screen as I type this...!


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Haven't checked out the Farm in a while (it still makes me sad to listen to TPHB or think about them since Tom's gone), but the release of the YDKHIF demo made me want to pay a visit to see if someone has something interesting to say about it. So I also saw that thread about politics and left and right and it had become all those things I was always happy the Farm never was.... hate posts and whatnot. What a depressing read.

So I was glad to discover this interesting topic - and it's the two of you, of course.

"Air" is a good word, indeed; although each of us will maybe understand something different by it; and maybe that's part of what makes it a good word to describe the Heartbreakers' music. I can relate to the term because I like the jangle, the breeziness, if you will, of some of the earlier stuff (up to She's The One, by my own definition); something that happens in the arrangements and the songwriting, not so much the mix or mastering, so I would not necessarily attribute it to a producer. Not even the drums. It's like you said, MJ2LD, it has something to do with ensemble playing. The spaces between the notes. But also the notes and sounds themselves. It's hard to put your finger on it, which is why it's so precious.

That somehow stopped with She's The One, imo. That's how I remembered it. I was almost shocked back then. There was Walls and California even, they had a bit of that air... but none of it could be found on Echo, that was when I was not only shocked but scared. Can be no conincidence that this was the period of Tom's divorce. Things got dark that moment, and I think once you went through this kind of darknes - like Tom did - you're never the same afterward. You can't go back.

Maybe the "air" in Tom's earlier work was youth and all that came with it. A sensation that life was still (wide) open somewhere down the road, that all things could get better, that every fight could be won, that the sky is actually the limit. But there were hard realizations to come. Maybe it started with Stan's departure (or firing). At first, that was what Tom wanted and how he could still move his music in a direction he desired. But then Howie died. And Tom got divorced, went through depression... life happened. I think all of those things took a bit of the sparkle (sorry) out of him.

It started on Wildflowers, but there was still a glow... I felt a lot of air back then, in that record. Afterward, not so much. And I was still in my teens, so it was not my growing older; not yet; it was in the music.

So maybe air was youth. Not only was it something we can hear in the music, it was also something that went into its creation. But Tom couldn't be young all the time, he had to find a way to turn his life experiences into music. That was a difficult task for a lot of songwriters of (roughly) his generation. So things got darker, more tense, less airy. Older.

Thus losing the air, or some of it, was inevitable. And as an artist, Tom learned how to deal with it, how to turn it into music.

I love the "air" period, which for me includes Wildflowers (and parts of STO). There was great stuff afterward, too, but it had a different quality. It's hard to not let life suck the air out of you, so to speak. Tom's music is a great reminder how that "air" used to feel, how it ought to feel, and how it still can feel.

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