There is so much I don’t understand. I have come across the word “influencer” twice today – once on a Beatles podcast where it was said ironically that Billy Preston was an influencer on “Get Back” and also in the latest publication of “Private Eye” where the fictitious Glenda Slagg asks “Aren’tcha sick of all these influencers?” I had no idea what an influencer was apart from someone who influences other people. I was familiar with the verb but not the noun. I wondered if there was some extra deep hidden meaning so I’ve
wasted spent some time trawling through the internet.
There’s a very well produced page called “Top 23 UK based female influencers” in which it states that “Influencer marketing has taken the world of social media by storm. Almost every brand now has a dedicated section within their marketing strategy for influencers and it’s not surprising why. Influencers can be a really powerful way to convey your brands key messages, showcase products and services you offer and gain brand awareness to a wider audience that you otherwise may not be able to reach.” The really terrible thing is that the rest of the page shows pictures of 23 beautiful women in exotic locations with descriptions of them that could be lifted straight from my Mum’s “Woman’s Weekly” in the Sixties. For example, “A well- established fashion influencer, Maria has created her social presence by sharing outfit inspiration and ideas for petite girls. She’s only 5ft2 and her style is one to be envied as she showcases a mixture of high street, classic and stylish photos. Known for her stable red lip – she always look catwalk ready.” I thought this way of promoting beautiful women in the hope that others will try to emulate their looks and lifestyle was a thing of the past. It seems to me to be inherently harmful. What causes eating disorders or depression if not a perceived lack of ability to live up to expectations? There’s so much I don’t understand.
Recently I saw that Moeen Ali, the undervalued and wonderful England cricketer, has posted a message saying that he is going to get a vaccine and encouraging us all to do the same. I like that – it seems like a good thing to me so I guess he is an “influencer”.
Van Morrison is an influencer. His pronouncements about how the pandemic is simply scaremongering by the Government and how audiences should be allowed to pay £150 to watch him perform has undoubtedly influenced others. Hopefully, just a few idiots but who knows? In that way, Van Morrison is a bad influencer. Can influencers be good or bad? Or should I say positive or negative? Anyway, Van Morrison has been a good (or positive) influence on many artists. Elvis Costello, Kevin Rowland, Bono, Bob Geldof, Shane MacGowan, Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran and many others have all talked about how their music has been shaped by listening to Van Morrison’s magical and powerful singing. That’s how I prefer to think of him.
I guess the difference between an influencer and someone who influences is that the former gets paid and the latter is inspirational.
Counting Crows’ guitarist David Bryson has said “The easiest way to criticize bands is just to describe them as being like other bands. Certainly Adam Duritz grew up listening to Van Morrison—I mean, we all still listen to Van Morrison—but, my god, every band today has grown up with rock ’n’ roll, and all those influences show themselves at one point or another.” The first single from Counting Crows’ first album was “Mr. Jones” which has a dominant vocal performance from Adam Duritz and he sings “sha la la la la” at some point. This is certainly a point of overlap with Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” but I don’t think that singing “sha la la la” is copyrighted to Van Morrison (although nothing about Van Morrison would surprise me).
Van Morrison has made over 40 studio albums in a variety of styles but some of the early albums (“Blowin’ Your Mind”, “Moondance”, “Street Choir”) have a sensibility rooted in 50’s R’n’B which Counting Crows have listened to and turned it into their own unique sound. They have been influenced by Van Morrison in the same way that they have been influenced by Ray Charles, The Beatles and David Bowie. Who can truly say that they have arrived on the music scene with a fully formed sound, devoid of influences? (Or influencers?).
On the other hand, how many first albums are as good as “August And Everything After”? There are 11 songs and I can honestly say that every one of them is brilliant. There’s not one song that I grow tired of listening to. The genre is alternative rock – it’s not especially loud or hard rocking but songs like “Mr. Jones” or “Rain King” have a great pop feeling. Other songs like “Anna Begins” or “Raining In Baltimore” are languidly, slowly beautiful.
“Mr Jones” is an excellent song and recounts a conversation that Adam Duritz had with a friend (Mr. Jones) about living a life of obscurity and fantasising what it would be like to be famous. “When I look at the television I want to see me staring right back at me”. It’s not dissimilar to Neil Young writing about the effects of fame in “Mr. Soul”. Although he sings about Bob Dylan in this song and although Bob Dylan sings about “Mr. Jones” in “Ballad Of A Thin Man”, Adam Duritz has denied a link between the two songs.
The opening song on the album is “Round Here”. The song concerns someone who is living an anonymous life with no future and he decides to seek a better life elsewhere. However, as he leaves his friends and home behind, he feels he is also leaving his own identity behind. In the chorus, he remembers what he used to do as a child. “Round here we used to carve out our names.” In the end, everything that he thought was important seems a bit meaningless.
My favourite song on the album is “Raining In Baltimore”. It’s a slow, sad, regretful love song about being unable to maintain a relationship across 3500 miles. He is in Baltimore, and it’s raining. She is far away (in San Francisco?) and their ability to communicate has disintegrated. “I need a phone call. I need a plane ride. I need a sunburn. I need a raincoat”. At the end of an episode of “Homicide: Life On The Street”, there’s a great scene where one of the characters is driving back to Baltimore after a weekend away with her family and “Raining In Baltimore” plays over aerial shots of her car driving at speed along a deserted road. It’s a perfect scene.
“Homicide: Life On The Street”. What a brilliant programme. It was a big influence on “The Wire” which was an important influencer for all subsequent TV cop shows.