The following is an edited transcript from an online chat Friday with News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers.
Q: How important was Clive Davis in the music industry?
Miers: Very important. Sometimes a force for good, sometimes less so. But the work he did while at Columbia was very, very important.
Q: Just read where Whitney Houston was $20 million in debt when she died. Do you think these artists get mistreated by the business?
Miers: It definitely happens. Whitney made millions and millions of dollars, though. If she ended up broke, it is at least partly her own fault. Speaking of Clive Davis – he helped break Whitney and made her very rich. It is generally the artists who don’t make such a massive mainstream splash who end up being treated very badly. Signing bad contracts while young and desperate and ill-informed. Giving away their publishing and so forth.
Q: Don’t you think Chicago was a solid band?
Miers: Absolutely. Especially in the beginning. When Terry Kath was in the band, man, that stuff was amazing!!!
Q: I was in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, and came across some people paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Two young kids playing guitar singing Abraham Martin and John. Just beautiful.
Miers: That’s what it’s all about, the right there.
Q: Is Kanye West a major talent?
Miers: That depends who you ask. He is definitely talented. But to define that talent, you have to get a little bit more specific. There is a hierarchy of talent, I believe. That means that an incredibly inventive collage artist like Kanye West is less talented than say Igor Stravinsky or Brian Wilson or Miles Davis.
Q: The Police had a good run . Why were they so popular?
Miers: Stellar musicianship. Great songwriting. Stewart Copeland on drums.
Q: Can we expect new music from ani Di?
Miers: I believe she is at work on an album as we speak!
Q: How would you evaluate The Ramones?
Miers: Took ’60s pop and Motown-style hooks and played them as buzz-saw distorted punk rock. Awesome. Forever.
Q: Did you like the Dave Matthews Band?
Miers: I really like Dave as a songwriter and as a guy. I haven’t loved a DMB album since “Before These Crowded Streets,” though. And I have problems with their interminable jams, because no one solos very well. The bass lines are static and boring. Boyd does nothing for me as a fiddle player.
Q: What old band do you wish you had seen live?
Miers: Led Zeppelin. Mahavishnu Orchestra. Weather Report with Jaco.
Q: Cool choices on old bands. I would pick the original line up of Blood Sweat and Tears, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
Miers: Good picks! I would add the “Roxy”-era lineup of Zappa’s band – with George Duke and Ruth Underwood – to my list as well!
Q: Did you think Ike Turner got a bad rap? Seems like Tina exploited his talent .
Miers: I’m pretty sure it was the other way around. And he was incredibly abusive to her by all accounts. Ike was very talented. But he beat up his wife and forced her to do his bidding and live in fear. That’s never excusable.
Q: Will our CDs become an outdated medium, unsupported by hardware? I shudder to think all that music will one day become inaccessible.
Miers: It’s a serious issue. I hope at the very least it remains a part of the market – that we will be able to buy CD players and stereo amplifiers and good speakers, just as we now can still buy vinyl, turntables and styluses …
Q: I’m surprised you don’t like Andrew Lloyd Webber or Hagood Hardy ? Why is that?
Miers: Lloyd Weber is maudlin and melodramatic to me. Hagood Hardy I have no opinion on.
Q: Can Bills beat Pats?
Jeff Miers: Stranger things have happened.