In his eloquently rollicking and viscerally entertaining autobiography (the man makes 5-string open tuning as riveting as the “Jackal” designing his assassin’s rifle) Keith Richards spends much of the early chapters detailing the sheer dedication and hard work that went into becoming the Rolling Stones. Years of it in fact. Living in shitholes, eschewing all the usual distractions of adolescence (like chicks and food) in favour of endless hours studying, practicing, understanding. Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Jimmy Reed – any of the great bluesmen whose records they could lay their hands on. Because the blues was where it all began.
They did what every artist whose work has stood the test of time has done down through the ages. They soaked up all they could from the greats that came before them. And then they did their thing.
Taking a break from Keef I started watching Bob Hoffman’s interview with Jason Falls. It seemed like a natural segue at the time. And it struck me, as I was nodding along with Bob, that I’ve never heard of a digital nouvelle vague prattler whose (what many might think should be intuitive) first instinct was to learn everything there is to be learned from the past 100 years of communicating with consumers and building brands. It would seem a self-evident foundation upon which to layer their technological geekery and wizardry. And, hey digi-pal, seriously, “it’s a 2-way conversation” is simply not a plausible obviation of every piece of learning from the past century.
David Abbott said that he loved to observe young creative teams breaking all the “rules” out of sheer youthful cussedness. After all it’s the natural order of things, it’s how we progress and get better. But as he cautioned, “you can’t break the rules until you know the rules.”
Richards waxes ecstatic about epiphanic moments when he finally figured out how say, a Chuck Berry lick defied every musical convention but worked a whole new kind of musical magic. Berry couldn’t have reinvented and Keith wouldn’t have recognised the reinvention, if they hadn’t done the hard work up front.
I’ll assume that the digital demagogues are either supremely arrogant or operate under the insane misconception that technology has fundamentally altered human cognition. Otherwise it’s just rank stupidity.
Perhaps it’s time for clients to realise that sometimes they’re paying far too much attention to the roadies rabbitting on about how the lightshow works, and missing the reason the roadies and the light show are there in the first place.