Let's Get the Band Back Together!

Dear Santa: I have tried to be a good boy this year. Pease bring me a quarterback that can throw downfield and a kicker who is worth a damn. I could also use a loss by both OSU and Stanford between now and your appointed rounds.

This is an exciting week for C.Rush – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds eponymous debut album is released in the U.S. on Tuesday (if you want to melt your ear-holes with his sheer brilliance before then, go here).  Noel was once the force behind my favorite band, Oasis. Is Oasis as important as the Beatles or as good as say Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin? Probably not. My philosophy, however, is that a person’s favorite band should be their contemporary. Oasis hit the scene in ‘94, during my formative adult years. Songs like Supersonic, Morning Glory, Wonderwall, Acquiesce and D’you Know What I Mean formed the soundtrack of my 20’s. Oasis is essentially two brothers- Liam and Noel Gallagher- and a changing cast of a backup band. The brothers were renowned for their rock star lifestyle and for constantly fighting with one another. They produced nine albums from 1994 through 2010. Last year, the band split up…again…for real this time.

It took D and I three days in the hospital to realize
that this one's name was not Noel.

Beyond the fact that I loved the music, I also related to their sibling dynamic. Noel is the older brother, the lead guitar player, the driving force behind the band and the outspoken creative genius. Liam is the vain, bratty, lead singer with the recognizable voice. Being a creative, driven older brother with a bratty, vain younger brother (that I fought with tooth and nail until I went to college) I feel a strong connection Noel. On two occasions I almost named a child after him. Both of those occasions also happened to be new album release weeks for Oasis.

My brother swears I Photoshopped this image to put him
in a doofy pose and make him appear 2" shorter. As usual,
he is wrong. To his eternal credit, he did not try to fight me
on my wedding day

I’ve done a lot in my lifetime and I like to think of myself as a renaissance man (except for not as much of an ass as someone who actually thinks of himself as a renaissance man). But no one man can do it all. Of the things I probably won’t get around to in this lifetime, the one that I most wish I could have done is to play in a band. Not for the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll aspect (done that), but to be part of that type of creative process. When I listen to my favorite bands* like the Beatles, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, or Oasis I can’t help but think about the how those guys went through process of the melding of their various skills to produce art. I am drawn to collaborating with people who share common creative ground. I dig the creative tension that exists when groups of artists come together. The immediacy of being able to play a song and hear it in real time is something I find fascinating. How different from the months and years it takes to render design in the built environment.

Design as a team sport, however, has always been something of a mystery to me. I am all about cooperation, collaboration and teamwork. I have found, however, that design by committee is often a recipe for disaster. In the past I have typically subscribed to the theory that a single clear concept developed by an individual is stronger than a concept that has to have a common denominator. I’m starting to come around to the concept that designing as part of a group may have the potential to produce better results than a concept developed by a single person. However, the group design process is exponentially more difficult. I’m still working myself through that.

Design aside, it is undeniable that a strong team is the only way to build a healthy city. One of the hallmarks of our civic renaissance was the strong ethic of partnership and collaboration. Building a city is hard work. No one can do it alone. The only way forward is to find common ground, get in the boat and starting rowing. That concept has been utterly lost and abandoned in the past few years. The tenor changed and the band broke up. All of the players (or band members to keep up the analogy) are still here- some of them still jam together (the analogy rolls on). No one stood up to keep us together, so we’ve split up and have been putting out solo albums for the past few years. And as we all know, solo efforts rarely measure up to the band (don’t dispute this or I’ll have to bring up Ram, Unfinished Music #1, and Pictures at Eleven).

Despite being the older brother, this one was
  named Noel for only about 15 minutes.

Anyone involved with city building knows that we have been and will likely continue to face difficult times. The only way we will be able to grow and improve is by finding a way to work together again. There is no way that any one group, person or institution can go it alone. Of course, things are different now, and the same partnerships and coalitions that were successful in the 90’s are likely to be irrelevant now. We need to find a way to tailor new partnerships to address our new challenges. These things are easier said than done, but the starting point is a strong civic dialogue for an honest assessment of where we are and where we want to be. Let’s get the band back together.

*In case you were wondering, in those musical fantasies, I imagine myself in John’s position with the Beatles, taking over Colin Greenwood’s bass for Radiohead (and writing a few algorithms on the side), playing Noel’s lead guitar for Oasis, and rockin’ Bonham’s drums for Zeppelin.

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