I've been planning a major piece about the New York Times, but it will take a while to research and write, and my head just isn't in the game at the moment. So let's look at something light-hearted this Monday afternoon.
As many of you know, I'm a classical music enthusiast. No pop for me, thanks. So I really have little idea as to what to make of author Simon Trinculo's allegation about Lady Gaga, contained in a 2012 volume titled The New Conspiracy Handbook
(Yes, even I
have heard of Lady Gaga. I caught a few minutes of her on daytime teevee, singing old-school jazz. Quite good!)
The Trinculo book devotes a brief chapter to the argument that Gaga's live shows feature a multiplicity of Gagas. He describes what he saw during a 2010 show called "The Monster's Ball."
But the most amazing thing about the show was the constant non-stop intensity of the dance routines and the numerous quick costume changes. Gaga would perform a number wearing one of her trademark outlandish costumes and then duck backstage only to reappear again just minutes later in a completely different outfit. And these were not simple costume changes; anybody familiar with Lady Gaga knows that a huge part of her act involves elaborate and over-the-top costumes designed to keep the audience enraptured. But I was witnessing with my own eyes Lady Gaga finishing a song on stage, ducking behind the curtain and within a scant few minutes reappearing in a totally different outfit. Most of the costumes were complex and it was hard to believe that she was able to change into them so quickly, especially between high-energy dance numbers that would leave even the most physically fit people exhausted.
From the audience, it was difficult to discern if Gaga was singing all the songs live, although on several occasions during the show she insisted that she was and that no pre-recorded vocal tracks were in use. Some of the tunes, especially slower numbers that didn’t feature a lot of choreography, were clearly being sung live by Gaga. On other songs, it was not so clear as the vocals sounded a little too perfect considering the vigorous dancing that Gaga was engaged in while supposedly singing. The crowd, nearly 20,000 strong, didn’t seem to mind either way, standing and cheering the entire two hour show.
Savages. In the civilized world, the audience keeps quiet until a few seconds after the performance is complete.
My questions are simple: Is there anything to
this? Have Trinculo's concerns been echoed by other writers? And is it true that there was one show in which a stunt was done by an obviously male Gaga?
Whenever I catch glimpses of elaborate pop acts on television, I always presume that the singing is pre-recorded. It simply is not possible for a performer to sing and
dance optimally -- especially if the performer is a smoker, as is often the case.
I can't be the only person to so conclude. Does the audience even care about such things these days? If you are paying for a live show, don't you want it to be truly live
Some time ago, I read an outlandish-but-fascinating book by Dave McGowan, titled Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart Of The Hippie Dream
. Even though his conclusions are bizarre and lacking in credibility (even by my
generous standards), I still recommend his work, if only because it contains so much entertaining local lore. Besides, McGowan writes about ten times better than does your average paranoia-pusher.
McGowan repeatedly states that many famous L.A.-based groups of the 1960s and '70s featured musicians who simply had no clue as to how to play their instruments. Real
musicians, uncredited, would do the actual playing on the albums. As McGowen wryly notes, the ten best drummers of the 1960s turned out to be the same guy.
Now, I happen to know that there is much truth in McGowan's charge. I used to know someone who made a decent living teaching well-recompensed no-talents how to play just well enough to fake their way through live shows. I could never understand why so much money was going to ninnies who didn't even know the right way to hold their instruments.
Why were those drugged-up, inarticulate, lazy no-talents routinely given big, fat contracts -- the kind of deals that thousands of actual players would have died
for? What was the deciding factor? The gods would point to one obscure face in a very large crowd, and they would say: "Him. He shall be famous. He shall be rich. Skill does not matter. We have chosen whom we have chosen, for reasons of our own."
Years later, I was surprised by the Milli Vanilli "scandal" of the 1980s. Why them?
I mean, wouldn't it have been easier to find a couple of guys who could actually sing?
At any rate, there may well have been more than one Lady Gaga doing those concerts, the way Criss Angel used his brother to help out with some tricks. Guess it doesn't matter. In the end, she really can
One last point:
Let me get something off my chest. When people learn that someone is a classical music enthusiast, they often presume that only an individual from an upper-class background would develop such a bizarre preference.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I've been poor most of my life. As a youth, I encountered the great composers by way of Fantasia
and the films of Stanley Kubrick. You know what I discovered? Listening to classical FM stations was just as cost-free as listening to the pop stations. The library circulated classical records for free. Back in the 1970s, each classical label had a budget line which allowed one to build a library of terrific performances for $1.98 a disc. The cheapest seats at the Hollywood Bowl went for a buck. I soon learned how and when to sneak into the perpetually unused box seats near the front, which is how I got to hear an amazing
performance of the Mahler 8th on my 18th birthday.
Meanwhile, my acquaintances of the rock persuasion would brag about spending upwards of a hundred bucks
for scalped tickets to see whatever was the big draw back then.
Today, whenever people learn that I prefer Anton Bruckner to Katy Perry (or whomever), they think that I must come from a swankpot background. Why? Why do people jump to that conclusion?