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Once Upon A Time In Our Heads

It certainly looks like 2022 is going to be another strange year for the world when, like that Jimmy Cliff song, we seem destined to be sitting in limbo and having Groundhog Days.

This leads to one of the major problems facing the world today: that other pandemic known as boredom- a malaise afflicting many and where nothing really matters other than going through the motions because there’s nothing to look forward to. That Get Up And Go has got up and gone.

Once upon a Time Machine, there was so much of everything new and exciting that came from within swirling around us that made us breathless with excitement. We were on a rollercoaster ride of discovery. We had no time to be bored. Life was for living. There wasn’t a moment to lose.

Some things we didn’t need, but it was ok to have around. Maybe they somehow taught us lessons for a rainy day. Maybe this rainy day is now...

What mattered was that then, here was a world exploding with Crackling Rosie creativity led by, no, not Neil Diamond, but by music- every genre of music.

Whether Magical Mystery Tours with Sgt Pepper, Pet Sounds, Motown, Wonderlove, or the wild freedom and detachment and attachment of Blue which was like an anti Me/Too movement that hashtagged the world decades later, it all more than worked to get things moving.

This wasn’t Chubby Checker time anymore and we weren’t going to do the Twist again. Sky rockets in flight had taken off. Life was better than good and we were feeling very groovy.

Soon, we were there with the rogues on Rue Morgue Avenue, with Sly, Mr Jimi, Kinks, Stones, Marvin, Marley, flying Eight Miles High, journeying to the Dark Side Of The Moon with the Wizard Of Oz, hanging by The Joshua Tree, that great musical Tapestry of life and so much more.

The music was in you, me and everyone else. It was inspiring, exhilarating and its magic caused a ripple effect.

There was suddenly a new wave of filmmakers making the ideas that were feeding their heads become real- Spielberg, Coppola, DePalma, Lucas, Lynch, Polanski, Scorsese...

There was all the creative talent changing the television landscape and no longer content to leave it to Beaver. They were making television more than another half hour episode where father always knew best when he didn’t.

Westerns like “Laramie” and “Wagon Train” were gone. Like Paula Cole sang years later, Where have all the cowboys gone? Everything changed, especially minds.

We started to travel with our kids down Sesame Street with Big Bird and learned the power of imagination from them and their new friends of many colours.

We were learning about that Rainbow Connection, and the world Jim Henson had created for us all whereas Steven Spielberg and George Lucas took us out of this world and to somewhere new where we had to reboot our imaginations.

Whatever was happening in our orbit, we made it our job to discover- by and for ourselves. We weren’t following leaders and we weren’t busy watching our parking meters.

We didn’t need algorithms and analytics and “influencers” to be our guides and apps and what others were serving up. We followed our god given instincts. In ourselves, we trusted.

In school, some of us made slam books to meet our Winnie Cooper. There was no Facebook.

We managed to get our parents to buy us musical instruments to see if these might lead us somewhere.

For many, our fountain of music knowledge was Rolling Stone magazine. Writers like Dave Marsh, Kurt Loder, Timothy White and Greil Marcus knew so much and shared their information with us. It wasn’t Wikipedia. It was something that seemed much more personal- and honest, wise and knowledgeable.

We were cut adrift with P.M. Dawn in a memory bliss and took off on different journeys. Through these journeys we discovered much about ourselves and how we could maybe make use of these “teachings” to move forward. If we got stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, we unstuck ourselves.

All this was our pool of wellness and goodness with the gurus being new friends like the Goonies and E.T., the heroes and villains of Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.

Maybe we saw them coming when television had captured our imaginations because of “The Fugitive” and the one armed man.

There was something called “mini series” like “Rich Man, Poor Man”. Audiences were introduced to “The Rockford Files”, “Columbo”, “Hill Street Blues” and everything produced by David E Kelly.

Like some of us bought music because of session players like Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne etc, television was introducing us to a whole new cast of game changers like Kelly, Steven Bochco, and all the great theme music written by Mike Post.

With all these different worlds in our bags, we could walk unafraid down those darker roads of Eraserhead, Goodfellas, Blue Velvet, Reservoir Dogs, the Family Corleone and even into The Heart Of Darkness.

It was okay to like the smell of napalm in the morning and allow in the candy coloured clown they called the sandman.

These days? I can only speak for myself as we’re all different with different priorities and very different people and situations quickly fading in and out of our lives.

That One World once sung about has been allowed to become lost in a murky mix with an imbalance allowed to take over. Thankfully, there still are the dreamers and the dream makers. Didn’t Kermit sing about them?

Perhaps due to the various pandemics that are ailing the world- and perhaps there were warning signs before The Big One struck- these have brought about fear, a sudden dissipation of the smarts and a derelict Blade Runner/Mad Max world where the creatives- the real creatives and not those play-acting at being what they’re not- have been driven underground.

In their place are The Imposters and The Poseurs. What do they bring to the party? Nothing much except for affectations, muchos bluffing and push-button “creativity”.

Perhaps, more dangerously, there’s been a lowering of standards- standards to do with morals and the human condition, all of which are relevant to inhaling and exhaling true originality.

If morally bankrupt, the odds are that what is created is not only missing a beat somewhere, it’s not coming from the “right” place.

The evil genie has escaped and has caused and is continuing to cause young minds to be manipulated.

Have we been good enough parents? Have the tech companies simply not cared enough to see what they are giving the world for free- but which always comes with a price tag?

It’s not unlike how most music today and everything else music helps make happen is pretty much like the Kardashians. They were savvy enough to sell a sex tape and packaged their personal lives as reality television at the right time and which was gobbled up by The Gullibles.

This is when we should have seen it coming- that plastic fantastic world of E! where everything was made available for free- music, softcore porn, merchandise etc, all of which made millions believe that everyone can do anything from the comfort of the internet and make it onto the red carpet with Ryan Seacrest.

Back in those days, a guy who had crashed at my apartment and overstayed his welcome would be in the living room lying down on the sofa and completely sucked into this E! World.

“E”, he would scream out to me. “We should be there banging all those hotties. This is where we belong, E!” No thanks.

People like him are why we hit those bumps and created the myth that getting somewhere was so easy and gave birth to that Being Famous For Being Famous mantra.

This is why there’s this addiction to scrolling and swiping on Instagram and with more and more platforms coming onstream and dedicated to promoting narcissism and vapidity on a mass scale.

Looking at the work environment, we’re back with the Peter Principle where mediocrity is accepted and incompetence rewarded and promoted.

In music, every wannabe Pit Bull businessman is now a “producer”.

In every industry there are armies with “marketing” in their titles. Why? How?

Some might remember when we had to work to prove our worth. Only then were titles earned and worn with pride. Only then were they worth anything. But like buying what’s pitched as “fame” in the online world, any title is available. What this does is devalue everything.

How have we come to this point- this point where so much have lost their edge, especially music?

Friends blame streaming, and Spotify, in particular. Hmmmm. Maybe. Being in music, it’s expected they would say that.

Others mention how there’s now so much of everything that thoughts are scattered.

Personally, I often see widespread panic and anxiety and breakdowns as many don’t know where to start.

Others feel that everything worth creating has already been created, so why bother? Why not just chill, they say, take it easy and enjoy life on someone else’s dime?

Perhaps this and all the talk about a DIY world is why there’s nothing of much substance happening. Maybe it’s why many disappear into apps and games and small talk. Small talk is what leads to monosyllabic babble, Squid Game, NFTs and Tik-Tok worlds.

If one were to go to back to the future with Marty McFly, there really wasn’t much of anything around- yet there was so much of everything new to discover. Even Calvin Kleins and skateboards.

There certainly wasn’t “social media” nor was technology the major source for creativity.

Creativity comes from within. Creativity comes from influences who inspire and having mentors who see something special in you. They give your career a direction.

They also know what’s needed to give their businesses a direction. Whether he made mistakes or not, or wasn’t a very nice person, Steve Jobs made Apple what the Beatles weren’t able to do with the same name. The Beatles inspired him to reshape Apple.

As my mentor in advertising Keith Reinhard always reminded us young copywriters, The Technique Is Not The Idea. No amount of frills can hide the lack of an idea. Thanks, Keith.

Speaking to pretty much everyone I have to work with today, the “generation gap” is a yawning chasm of frilly bits.

The end result is either another Me, Too product or something else binned because it’s rubbish.

Will things change? Maybe if we get our priorities right again, and find honest to goodness mentors.

It might not be too late to help many realise the importance of going back to Sesame Street or to be interested enough to go back and look at the career paths taken by truly creative talent.

Like who? Like Fred Astaire, Chaplin, Steven Spielberg, the Beatles, the Marx Brothers, Hitchcock, Carl Reiner, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Joni Mitchell and Stan Lee.

There are many many more, but the legacy of these talents make for great sources of inspiration and influence.

Everything old really could reshape a better New. Pushing buttons has its time and place, but this rarely produces ideas with lasting power or worth anything.

Over the recent holidays, there was a simple visual posted on Facebook by Stasch Radwanski, my dear old friend from advertising. It was a very rare appearance on the online channel by the dear boy.

This photograph said much by saying so little. It was up to us to interpret what it said to each of us.

Here was a photograph that made me think about many things. We don’t do enough of this today: Think, especially past the obvious.

Let’s not be stuck on Repeat and with nothing new to say except for Emoji Speak.

Then again, maybe most have nothing new to say...whereas others like Billie Eilish are finally addressing issues that should have been addressed years ago.

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