Today vs Then

I hope you readers don’t get bored with my looking back on things.

It all started when a local newspaper blog talked about getting an $11 filet in 1975 and thinking today’s prices are outrageous. Maybe, maybe not.

Annual inflation over that period was 3.7%, and that even counts the slower inflationary rates of the past decade caused by the big banks screwing up the world’s economic situation.

So, to the reader who thinks he got such a deal in 1975, the actual $11 then would be $50.13 today. There is no restaurant in Bako getting $49.95 for a filet. What happened?

Obviously we have learned how to herd thousands of cows into a feed-lot, fill them with growth hormones, vaccinate them with needles of antibiotics cause we’ve screwed up their natural digestive system, and fatten them up quickly for market.
Cheaper meat means cheaper steaks.

What about things that haven’t changed since 1975?

What about something I know about? ( a very limited proposition)

How much does it pay to play the same songs from the ‘70s in today’s market?
(One major change, similar to the feedlots, this player has fattened up.)

Yes, in the ‘70s I was playing the same songs I’m playing now. What has changed?

Three things have changed. Venues, People and Money.


Most of the local live music performed in the ‘70s was played in lounges, bars, nightclubs and restaurants with a dance floor. Owners of these establishments understood people would stick around after dining hours and dance and drink. Great profits in the drinking side of that equation. Even little cafes would have a folk-singing guitar player six nights a week.

The better the band, the more people staying later in the night. Last call was 2 AM, so most music groups were playing til 1 AM and then it was time to start closing the joint. In states like Illinois, with 3 AM and 5 AM licensing, the music played on and on. Especially the great blues clubs.

Today there are no people, especially on week nights, demanding dancing and drinking. Those venues do not hire live music during the week. The culture has changed. It’s not so much what people will tell you now…”Oh, I have to get up and go to work in the morning, I can’t party on a weeknight. “  Bullshit, little Eva. People did it back then, so what’s the difference?

People don’t drink and drive. And that’s a good thing. As much as I enjoyed playing music on weeknights for packed crowds, I understand how today is different. In the late ‘70s over 27,000 people were killed in the USA by drunk drivers. Shameful.

In May of 1980 one mother made a difference right here in California (where else, nation?) When her daughter, Cari Lightner, was killed by a drunk driver, she went to the governor. The governor now was the governor then (where else, nation?) This mother lobbied Jerry Brown to set up a task force studying this messy drunken driving situation. She then founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving. There is at least one M.A.D.D. office in every state in the country and at least one office in every providence in Canada. Great Job! (in 2014 there were 9,967 people killed by drunk drivers)

This stopped live music, dancing and drinking on week nights. MADD also changed how litigation for drunk driving was handled. A victim’s family could sue not only the driver, but the waitress, bartender, manager, establishment owner and building owner. OMG!

Yep, I sold my bar in 1980 and said nope. Not me.


So if people today are still hearing a lot of the same songs from 1975 in weekend venues, what’s different? What songs am I talking about?

Mustang Sally (from the ‘60s), Long Train Running (73) Sweet Home Alabama, Come and Get Your Love, I Shot the Sheriff  (all from 74), Boogie Shoes, Shining Star, Get Down Tonight (all from 75).

Let’s talk about dancing. I’m not a dancer and no expert about the art. I just observe dancers while performing the music while they are gyrating. In the late ‘60s the jitterbug thing was over and individual gymnastics started happening on dance floors. There were dozens of weird-ass gyrations and a guy would be doing the “frug” while his date was doing the “swim.” Another couple would be doing the twist, another the “mashed potato” and a mixture of others doing the “frog” “watusi” “shake” and the stupid “hitchhike.”  (BTW: The movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” was released in 1975 and sometimes I thought the dance floor was filled with the same group of actors playing mental patients)
dancing-watusi dancers

In 1975 a new dance craze hit and everybody did it for the next few years to every song played except ballads. This dance allowed couples to touch again, but more violently. It was called the BUMP. I watched dozens of couples crashing their asses into each other and they loved it. Didn’t seem erotic to me. It was so popular that we had a regular Wednesday night Bump contest in the club we were playing.

So now, 2016, my band is playing those same songs and huge groups of people swarm the dance floors in perfectly formed straight lines and do line-dancing. It started as a country thing and now looks like the perfect weight-loss program without the gym clothes. Line dancing is performed to every song, especially rockers, and I’ve even seen die-hard line-dancers doing it while we’re singing Happy Birthday to someone. There are dozens of different line-dances so I’m not sure who’s appointed line-dance captain, but they all do it in sync.


Being a musician throughout this FORTY-YEAR cycle I have to talk about those $11 filets again. How much does playing those same songs pay a local musician in 2016 vs 1975?

Remember, I’m not talking about your Biebers and your Gagas. If a musician wants to be a star, dealing with the record companies, social media, agents, recording and touring, I’m all for him and her. Go for your dreams. However, like the rest of our society, there is no middle-class in the music world. No garage bands can go on the road and survive in their Volkswagen bus like they could in 1975. Hundreds of little garage bands were touring throughout the ‘70s, and while not sleeping in a Hilton, they were doing fine.

My money talk has to do with living in a community, possibly having a family, and making a living as a full time band member.

How I determined the difference in wages was taking my average pay per night in 1975 vs my average pay per night in 2016. As I explained above there are no places to play every night in 2016, however, I imagine if there were it would pay the same as the weekend bands make now in 2016.

Are you ready for this?

What I actually made on my tax return for 1975 by just playing music for a living (and I’ll show my returns to you, (I’m not hiding my Russian loans like the Donald) would be the 2016 equivalent of $227, 866.09. Seriously!  OMG! No wonder we full-time band players all bought nice homes, had lots of kids and paid our bills.

If I played music only for a living in 2016 and received the pay that the average local band-member makes for one night, played six nights for fifty weeks I would make the 1975 equivalent of $3, 291.41. annual income. OMG!
And this is why we don’t quit our day jobs.

The same songs, same beats, only played on weekends, different dance moves, less money, but you know something. We all still love it!

Enjoy music all the time!
(why not learn to play music, too?)

About bakoheat

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8 Responses to Today vs Then

  1. Ofmiceandweeds says:


  2. fiddlrts says:

    The most astonishing thing about this has to be Jerry Brown. Someone would have cleaned up betting on it back in 1980.

    Also interesting, I would not have predicted that Mustang Sally would turn out to be the most played line dancing song – at least in my experience. What would Wilson Pickett think?

  3. Gladys MTysdal says:

    Very Informative!! Mustang Sally is played in my aerobics class and we have some fine singers (not me) who sing along.

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