Zoot Suit Riot: The Death of the Swing Revival (Part 3 of 5)
By Wolfgang Parker
Our negotiations with Slim-style Records (the largest indie Swing label at the time) broke down but we did manage to appear on the final “Swing This, Baby” compilation, just minutes before the collapse. We were viewed as poisonous. We were too hard, too loud, too fast.
We didn’t play for dancers, why should we? I’ve honed my craft for years, written good songs, and we had a stage show. Why should I play as background music for a bunch of dance-crazed kids? And why on Earth would we create an original sound—pioneer a new sub-genre of American music—just to trade it in to sound like everyone else? Needless to say, the Swing Revival and I got along as well as a wolverine and a cobra trapped in a shoebox.
This is when I learned that you gain massive credibility by sticking to your guns, but you miss out on the paycheck.
But I learned something even more valuable from that whole experience. I saw the fatal flaw, and then I saw the death knell. A lot of people made some quick cash on the Swing craze, but they failed to do any more than that. You see, the Swing Revival killed itself within a year. Cabbage Patch Kids dolls had more staying power.
Style over substance. It was that simple. Even in pop music, artists may first enthrall an audience with something snappy and fun, but if they fail to provide any substance to go with their flash, they die. It is also dependent upon to whom the artist is playing. For female pop singers that break-in with a hit song about shaking her ass, she has to give her audience something of substance or lose them.
For such an artist, the song could be an anthem about love lost, or a song that has a timeless message of truth in love. That is mindless drivel in my book, but I don’t buy albums by popular singers. But you get my drift, yes?
You can’t keep serving sweets at the dinner table. Eventually you have to provide a steak for sustenance or the guests will leave the table.
Wolfgang Parker lives in Columbus, Ohio. His albums “Room Nineteen,” and “Petty Standards” are available for download through iTunes, AmazonMP3, eMusic, ShockHound, and most major online music distributors. He is currently working on a new album due out this winter, and his first original graphic novel due out in 2011.