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AOR What?

 
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jdw
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2008 6:42 pm    Post subject: AOR What? Reply with quote



I have to ask - was this guy even alive listening to AOR in the 70s and early 80s covered by this list?

The Top 25 AOR Bands Of The 1970s-1980s by Rob O'Connor of Yahoo Music

Looking at the picture, it doesn't seem likely.

Cheetah has a joke about the top song in the AOR Rotation. It pretty well captures it.

The top band in AOR was Led Zep. The Stones were #2. Most of the people he mentioned weren't even a blimp on the radar, at least not a sustained one.

Genesis, for example, were never big in AOR. They became "big" when they started churning out Top 40 singles in the 80s, and it didn't make them big in AOR. None of their stuff prior to that made a dent in the US AOR format compared to say Saturday Night Special, Gimme Three Steps, That Smell, What's Your Name or You Got That Right by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Wait... think about those for a second. Those are Lynyrd Skynyrd's *second tier* AOR tracks. They really weren't that big, but in a week of listening to AOR, you'd hear one or more of them.

They weren't Sweet Home Alabama or Free Bird.

Those were the monster ones.

Then you have other people like Asia who were a one album wonder, contributed perhaps two songs to the AOR rotation, then wandered off into oblivion. A few years after they were gone, Lynyrd Skynyrd was still a king in AOR, and a dozen Zep songs were in the rotation, and two dozen Stones songs.

REO Speedwagon was an AOR failure that got a hot album, cranked out some Top 10 hits, and *that* sold a ton of albums... not AOR.

Just an embarassment. You'd hear Won't Get Fooled Again, Baba O'Reily, Behind Blue Eyes and Who Are You *each* a dozen times rather than shit like Toto. They were a fucking Pop band. Groups like Journey started out as AOR, then when they went big did it through Top 40 and get left behind by AOR. Don’t Stop Believin’ isn't a fucking AOR "hit". It's a Top 40 hit. For christ sake, *Layla* is an AOR hit.

Moron.


John
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tdcheetah



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 487
Location: The Cheetah's Lair (aka Clarendon VA)

PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2008 5:43 pm    Post subject: Re: AOR What? Reply with quote

jdw wrote:


I have to ask - was this guy even alive listening to AOR in the 70s and early 80s covered by this list?

The Top 25 AOR Bands Of The 1970s-1980s by Rob O'Connor of Yahoo Music

Looking at the picture, it doesn't seem likely.

Cheetah has a joke about the top song in the AOR Rotation. It pretty well captures it.


That would be:

"Sweet [Emotion, by Aerosmith]
Stairway [to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin]
to Hotel [California, by The F'n Eagles]
Freebird [by You Know Who]"

Quote:
The top band in AOR was Led Zep. The Stones were #2. Most of the people he mentioned weren't even a blimp on the radar, at least not a sustained one.


I would drop The Stones below [The] Eagles if I were doing AOR Power Rankings (AORPR). Not because Frey, Henley and Co. were "better", but their 2nd and 3rd level junk got played so much more in AOR in spite of themselves. And because of "Hotel California" plus "Life in the Fast Lane".

Quote:
Genesis, for example, were never big in AOR. They became "big" when they started churning out Top 40 singles in the 80s, and it didn't make them big in AOR. None of their stuff prior to that made a dent in the US AOR format compared to say Saturday Night Special, Gimme Three Steps, That Smell, What's Your Name or You Got That Right by Lynyrd Skynyrd.


In an incredible bout of synchronicity, John calls me to tell me about this article and his subsequent rant here. It turns out Jeremy and I are at a Orioles game (free tix from my company) and we have literally just been discussing rock vs. metal, soft vs. hard rock and light vs. heavy metal -- and even referencing Genesis, a band neither of us are very familiar with, during the discussion.

[Aside to Jeremy: ok, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_discography the post-Gabriel albums started with _A Trick of the Tail_ in 1976, followed by _Wind and Wuthering_ (1977). Those "only" went gold, but then the next 6 all went US platinum or even multiple : _...And Then There Were Three [1978], _Duke_ (1980), _Abacab_ (1981), _Genesis_ (1983), _Invisible Touch_ (1986), and _We Can't Dance (1991). So which one were we thinking of, as vs. _Abacab_? :) ]

Early Genesis was more what university radio stations were playing if they were pretending to be really deep and Alternative. College radio tried far too hard to be different with a capital D to be employing the classic AOR technique. You don't throw up random obscure cuts, no matter how much secret inside knowledge you may have about their individual genesis (or their exodus) from talking to the producer's grandmother's chiropractor. What you needed as an AOR DJ was a theme, anything from "Seven Sides at 7" or "songs about California" or "why did the chicken cross the road? because the Eagles told him to!"

Oddly enough, Phil Collins by himself is a very AOR-sounding artist, except that he has zero strong or uptempo songs: they're all overly accessible schmaltz but with extra production values. As if Sir Paul McCartney had gotten a musical makeover by a Pink Floyd producer.

Quote:
Wait... think about those for a second. Those are Lynyrd Skynyrd's *second tier* AOR tracks. They really weren't that big, but in a week of listening to AOR, you'd hear one or more of them.

They weren't Sweet Home Alabama or Free Bird: those were the monster ones.


Well, I had to cut down the list and stick it below, and I gotta think this guys's been listening to one of those "Best of the 60s, 70s and 80s" stations doing an "All 80s Weekend!" -- only as programmed by someone who was born in 1981. How in the blue hell can you have any AOR list without Skynyrd?!

Quote:
Then you have other people like Asia who were a one album wonder, contributed perhaps two songs to the AOR rotation, then wandered off into oblivion. A few years after they were gone, Lynyrd Skynyrd was still a king in AOR, and a dozen Zep songs were in the rotation, and two dozen Stones songs.

REO Speedwagon was an AOR failure that got a hot album, cranked out some Top 10 hits, and *that* sold a ton of albums... not AOR.

Just an embarassment. You'd hear Won't Get Fooled Again, Baba O'Reily, Behind Blue Eyes and Who Are You *each* a dozen times rather than shit like Toto. They were a fucking Pop band. Groups like Journey started out as AOR, then when they went big did it through Top 40 and get left behind by AOR. Don’t Stop Believin’ isn't a fucking AOR "hit". It's a Top 40 hit. For christ sake, *Layla* is an AOR hit.


Yep, Eric Clapton is some supreme AOR maudlin.

While discussing Clapton, John and I started arguing heatedly as he wanted to separate AOR bands vs. AOR artists. Now on my own shelves, I actually do separate out those who were only male solo artists (of just about all weights, from Matthew Sweet to Joe Satriani) from my large "Hard & Heavy Rock & Metal [HHRM]" section... which is in turn separated from my much small "70s AOR and Prog Rock" group.

However, this is because I had to physically file people somewhere, and tend to pull them out by mental association; it doesn't mean they are just the one thing, or have no overlap. And Zep, Page solo, Plant solo, and Page/Plant all end up safely together in my HHRM stack even if Zep's albums were shanghaied to be the very foundation of the AOR radio concept.

Basically, for lists like this about a particular genre, I won't differentiate between "bands" and "artists". If one or more people put out an "album" with "songs" on it, they're fair game.

Quote:
Moron.


Even Snr. O'Connor isn't quite sure what his criteria for evaluation are...

Quote:
AOR seems to be a euphemism for some vague idea of “corporate rock,” but while something like Jimmy Page’s the Firm (just look at the name) or Starship (sans their Jeffersonian roots) certainly seems influenced by the concept of corporate synergy, I wouldn’t think the kids in Loverboy or the weird hippies in Supertramp saw themselves as part of a shareholder revolution...


So: he's either issuing a disclaimer so vague that he can't possibly be held responsible, or he's partly misunderstanding what could make something end up on AOR in the first place.

It's not necessarily the intention of the *band* (though some bands like Asia obviously set out to be AOR-style and hit or missed accordingly), but it clearly requires some intention on the part of the people developing the marketing strategy, programming the radio station, etc. I think that's what he's seeing as some kind of "corporate" influence. The fundamental point of radio stations is to sell advertising, after all, just as the point of the music industry is to sell product.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, the music industry product shifted a bit from "hit single" to "hit albums". Radio stations shifted accordingly... and AOR reached higher than Top 40, reaching for the "intelligent music audience."

Enter the desires and mindset on the part of the target listeners/audience, who were generally looking for (somewhat) obscure meaning, really good production values and the occasionally hummable/strummable musical phrase, aka "hook".

Now if you multiply all of those by a factor of 3 and you get truly obscure lyrics, superlative production values, and utterly unhummable music: i.e., you have just exited AOR and are now in the true progressive rock zone. (Seriously, I enjoy a lot prog rock -- I own way too much live Hawkwind to be truly considered human -- but if you can freely hum or sing any part of a supposed prog rock song without it playing in the background, then something is wrong, either with the song or with you. :P)

Whereas if you subtract 10 from each qualification, you realize that AOR is essentially the anti-punk. Yes, I know that's different than the way punk sees it, but I'm trying here to get you into the mindset of your educated, affluent baby boomer male who wants his music "just challenging enough". ;)

Anyway, I've finally gotten to the point where I realize that people who make up these lists for commercial purposes, be it a magazine or a web site, aren't really invested in them intellectually or emotionally; it's just a device to trick other people into playing "Let's You And Him Fight" on the magazine's letters page or the commercial site's comments page (and incidentally, viewing a whole lot more ads in the process :P).

That having been said, here's my opinions ;) on his list:

25) The Firm:
24) Zebra:
23) Player:

WTF? Come on, these bands are 110% invisible to the AOR world. Heck, they're almost entirely invisible in mainstream rock history. And no, just because one of your members was from Led Zep does not automatically give you any AOR cred.

22) Loverboy: no no no! New Wave-ish artists did not generally put out albums with the multiple layers needed for truly effective AOR mining. They put out "albums" with 2 possible singles and an awful lot of filler.

21) Triumph: another invisible. Almost more a heavy-metal wannabe.

20) Billy Squier: sorta close but not quite there. More like overplayed. And squeaky. And annoying. One would include the Steve Miller Band
long before Squier ever makes it on this list.

19) Pat Benatar: no way, Jose. No female solo artist could possibly be an AOR staple. This is a fundamental definition of the genre.

18) Kansas: YES. Finally, there's one of the 25 AOR wonders of the world.

17) Chicago: maybe the first or second album had enough depth, but long before Peter Cetera took full official control of their musical direction, they were pop.

16) Jefferson Starship: YES, in all its incarnations.

15) Styx: ooh yeah, this is AOR to the extreme.

14) Heart: Er, maybe... or maybe not. Early Heart is too folky and pretty; certain crossovers like "Barracuda" are massive aberrations on dainty little albums like _Little Queen_. Later on, Heart mostly wants to be Yes but their voices are too low. However, they do probably sneak in the back door of AOR as the token girl group, and because they love (and cover) Zep. :P

13) Toto: Defines AOR-wannabe. No staying power, but the classic sound.

12) Genesis: see my comments above about "college radio".

11) Asia: See Toto.

10) REO Speedwagon: okay, this one, I'm really on the fence about. John argues that they had hits and pop. I'd counter that their monster album hit all 3 qualifications above.

9) Journey: See Asia.

8) Queen: Frankly, Queen could do too many musical genres to fall solely within AOR, but I agree that stuff like _Night at the Opera_ etc. dominated AOR thinking. Like Zep, they more got co-opted by AOR rather than trying to be on the playlist.

7) Supertramp: See Journey.

6) Boston: See Supertramp.

5) Rush: very much AOR in sound, production, and crafted musical phrases choices. However, so musically difficult (almost to impenetrable) and well produced sometimes DJs would be afraid to play them. I imagine mentoring conversations that went something like this:

"I need to play 'The Trees'? But... but.. but... it'll make that upcoming Boston/Asia/Journey song sound awful!"
"Don't panic, rookie, it's just something we have to do here at WSHF in order to maintain our AOR Power Rating of 746. Just play Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love" next. It's like the ultimate AOR songstream reset button. Then be sure to follow that up with 3 minutes of locally-produced commercials, so that when the Boston/Asia/Journey comes on it's as a welcome relief from Pete's Pasta and Poodles Parlor."

4) Foreigner: Yes of course, but not nearly this high up on the list.

3) Blue Oyster Cult: look, I have a shelf+ full of studio and like BOC, but it's filed in my HHRM section. Basically, their albums tend to fail one of the 3 audience qualifications above: the lyrics are far *too* mysterious, their production sounds like 4 3rd graders operating a two track tape player, or you can sing multiple lines from a given song without help.

2) Cheap Trick: my uncertainty about the AOR legitimacy of a band like Reo Speedwagon? does not apply here. Pop pop pop! (Not quite the Bay City Rollers, but then who wants to be?)

1) Steely Dan: very subversively AOR, I agree, but #1? Too quirky. They are more like the They Might Be Giants of AOR. :P


Lee, who would have to come up with some wacky variation of Chuck Klosterman's "Jack Factor" in order to convey fully the levels of AOR: there's AOR Sound, AOR Rotation, AOR Heavy Rotation, AOR Staple, and the Sweet Stairway to Hotel Freebird Zone...
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Jeremy Billones



Joined: 07 Aug 2006
Posts: 523
Location: Alexandria, VA

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:26 am    Post subject: Re: AOR What? Reply with quote

tdcheetah wrote:
In an incredible bout of synchronicity, John calls me to tell me about this article and his subsequent rant here. It turns out Jeremy and I are at a Orioles game (free tix from my company) and we have literally just been discussing rock vs. metal, soft vs. hard rock and light vs. heavy metal -- and even referencing Genesis, a band neither of us are very familiar with, during the discussion.


I said I wasn't familiar with *early* Genesis. If it's bad 80s pop, I'm
all over it, and Phil Collins is right in my wheelhouse :)

Quote:

[Aside to Jeremy: ok, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_discography the post-Gabriel albums started with _A Trick of the Tail_ in 1976, followed by _Wind and Wuthering_ (1977). Those "only" went gold, but then the next 6 all went US platinum or even multiple : _...And Then There Were Three [1978], _Duke_ (1980), _Abacab_ (1981), _Genesis_ (1983), _Invisible Touch_ (1986), and _We Can't Dance (1991). So which one were we thinking of, as vs. _Abacab_? :) ]


It was _Genesis_. "That's All" was the first Genesis song I heard, and it
was by seeing the video on Friday Night Videos on NBC. I thought their
singles were OK, so I remembered the band name. When Invisible Touch
came out, the song and the video were on my BEST EVAH list. Album
was OK, and The Brazillian was the first time I ever heard an instrumental
track on an album :)

Quote:

Throughout the 70s and 80s, the music industry product shifted a bit from "hit single" to "hit albums". Radio stations shifted accordingly... and AOR reached higher than Top 40, reaching for the "intelligent music audience."


So what swung things back to singles?

Quote:

Enter the desires and mindset on the part of the target listeners/audience, who were generally looking for (somewhat) obscure meaning, really good production values and the occasionally hummable/strummable musical phrase, aka "hook".


Or, in modern terms, "can be converted into a Guitar Hero track" :)

Quote:

16) Jefferson Starship: YES, in all its incarnations.


Even the one with "We Built This City" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now?"

(I didn't think that era even qualified as mediocre pop. I was told they
were better back when, and I take their word for it.)

Quote:

15) Styx: ooh yeah, this is AOR to the extreme.


I think I have one of their albums...

I do. _Edge of the Century_. Not sure how I ended up with it. I do like it, though.

Quote:

5) Rush: very much AOR in sound, production, and crafted musical phrases choices. However, so musically difficult (almost to impenetrable) and well produced sometimes DJs would be afraid to play them.


I'm still trying to figure out how Rush and the rapper Nas both
appeared on The Colbert Report within a week of each other.
(OK, Nas is feuding with Bill O'Reilly, I get that, but I guess Colbert
is just a big Rush fan?)
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tdcheetah



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 487
Location: The Cheetah's Lair (aka Clarendon VA)

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:31 pm    Post subject: Re: AOR What? Reply with quote

(I still hate the "new" boards quoting functionality :P)

tdcheetah wrote:
In an incredible bout of synchronicity, John calls me to tell me about this article and his subsequent rant here. It turns out Jeremy and I are at a Orioles game (free tix from my company) and we have literally just been discussing rock vs. metal, soft vs. hard rock and light vs. heavy metal -- and even referencing Genesis, a band neither of us are very familiar with, during the discussion.

Jeremy Billones wrote:
I said I wasn't familiar with *early* Genesis. If it's bad 80s pop, I'm all over it, and Phil Collins is right in my wheelhouse :)


It's hard to avoid Phil Collins, though goodness knows I try. :)

tdcheetah wrote:

[Aside to Jeremy: ok, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_discography the post-Gabriel albums started with _A Trick of the Tail_ in 1976, followed by _Wind and Wuthering_ (1977). Those "only" went gold, but then the next 6 all went US platinum or even multiple : _...And Then There Were Three [1978], _Duke_ (1980), _Abacab_ (1981), _Genesis_ (1983), _Invisible Touch_ (1986), and _We Can't Dance (1991). So which one were we thinking of, as vs. _Abacab_? :) ]


Jeremy Billones wrote:
It was _Genesis_. "That's All" was the first Genesis song I heard, and it
was by seeing the video on Friday Night Videos on NBC. I thought their
singles were OK, so I remembered the band name. When Invisible Touch
came out, the song and the video were on my BEST EVAH list. Album
was OK, and The Brazillian was the first time I ever heard an instrumental
track on an album :)


Oh dear. Now I remember "That's All". Not fondly, however. :)


tdcheetah wrote:

Throughout the 70s and 80s, the music industry product shifted a bit from "hit single" to "hit albums". Radio stations shifted accordingly... and AOR reached higher than Top 40, reaching for the "intelligent music audience."

Jeremy Billones wrote:
So what swung things back to singles?


Frankly, I blame iTunes. But then I blame iTunes for everything. ;)

One thing I can point to is the 74 minute standard for CD capacity, which was actually based on the length of Beethoven's 9th Symphony (i.e., so that one could fit it on a single disc). That destroyed the classic 2 act structure of the pop/rock/etc. album, which tended to have 2 sides of 15-20 minutes each for pop -- maybe 25-30 if the band really extended themselves like in AOR -- and probably 4-6 songs per side.

So bands then faced an ugly choice -- either put 30-40 minutes of the best stuff on a single CD (whereupon the buyer felt ripped off) or stretch their output to fill 50-60 minutes, which for 3 minute pop could mean 20 songs. The amount of "good music" created by an average band within a given time period tended to remain the same; the rest of the output...

The CD and other digital players also provided listeners with the capability to skip, shuffle, and/or replay a single song(s) at will, further destroying the idea of playing a disc as a whole thematic unit.

tdcheetah wrote:

Enter the desires and mindset on the part of the target listeners/audience, who were generally looking for (somewhat) obscure meaning, really good production values and the occasionally hummable/strummable musical phrase, aka "hook".

Jeremy Billones wrote:
Or, in modern terms, "can be converted into a Guitar Hero track" :)


Don't you mean "Rock Band"? :P :)

tdcheetah wrote:

16) Jefferson Starship: YES, in all its incarnations.

Jeremy Billones wrote:
Even the one with "We Built This City" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now?"

(I didn't think that era even qualified as mediocre pop. I was told they
were better back when, and I take their word for it.)



I'm not claiming any Starship song was *good* AOR, or good *anything*. (As far as I'm concerned, they stopped being good before they even stopped being Jefferson _Airplane_.) But having grandfathered themselves in somehow via "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love", , AOR inherited later 'Ship crap like "We Built This City" and *shudder* "Sara" and "Jane".

tdcheetah wrote:

15) Styx: ooh yeah, this is AOR to the extreme.

Jeremy Billones wrote:
I think I have one of their albums...

I do. _Edge of the Century_. Not sure how I ended up with it. I do like it, though.


Oh, so you don't own any Classic Styx. ;) Well, besides being the best ever _VH1 Behind The Music_ subject :) , in 1981 the classic Styx lineup, coming off a rising wave of gold albums leading into 3 multi-platinum albums from 1977-79, put out this little concept item called [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_Theatre"]_Paradise Theatre_[/url].

I can't really describe the longing and anticipation that AOR stations had for this particular album at the time. DJs speculated endlessly about just how great it was going to be. As did listeners. It was as if Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen had announced they were going to take off two years to do a musical about the Great Depression and then go on tour together.

I own PT. I even like it. But the buildup was all that and a bag of chips too.

That's what AOR albums, esp AOR concept albums, could generate.

tdcheetah wrote:

5) Rush: very much AOR in sound, production, and crafted musical phrases choices. However, so musically difficult (almost to impenetrable) and well produced sometimes DJs would be afraid to play them.

Jeremy Billones wrote:
I'm still trying to figure out how Rush and the rapper Nas both
appeared on The Colbert Report within a week of each other.
(OK, Nas is feuding with Bill O'Reilly, I get that, but I guess Colbert
is just a big Rush fan?)


Colbert is appealing to semi-independent neo-progressive intellectualistas. Rush is right in their wheelhouse. ;)


Lee
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eron



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 412

PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm quite lost on this.

Can anyone explain AOR in laymen terms? Does it mean mean rock music that doesn't make Top 40? Or does it mean songs longer than usual Top 40 single format that get popular? Or does it mean corporate rock? Or does it mean songs that don't follow regular verse/chorus/verse? Or what?

I'm seriously lost. Tomer agrees.
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Scott



Joined: 31 Jul 2006
Posts: 1310

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know I'm late replying to this, but vacation + dialup = ehhhwhatcanyado? A more detailed reply from me will have to wait until I get back, but I just wanted to comment...

Dark Cheetah wrote:
That would be:

"Sweet [Emotion, by Aerosmith]
Stairway [to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin]
to Hotel [California, by The F'n Eagles]
Freebird [by You Know Who]"


That nicely sums up an AOR playlist, as well as most modern classic rock playlists. Especially Q106 in Macon, where, no lie, I once heard the four songs in the above quote a total of six times (Freebird and Sweet Emotion had reruns) in a 24-hour period. Being Macon, I also get more than my fair share of Allman Brothers, of course. I can hardly go a week without hearing Jessica...


Scott
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