A couple weeks ago I was intent on learning Harry Connick Jr.’s “Never Young” from his critically denounced Star Turtle (we love it, though), but I had to do without the usual online helps I make use of. On the Internet you can find chord charts for just about any song out there, although they’re submitted Wiki-style and thus full of mistakes. I had to go old-school on this one: listen and transcribe myself.
For some reason you can’t find charts for any of HCj’s songs—none of his originals, at least. I combed the Web looking for them. Well, sort of. I went about a dozen pages deep into a Google search. No charts whatsoever. And no sheet music either.
As a teenager I would spend hours in the local music store studying the endless supply of sheet music folios. I even remember being in my car the first time I heard Dave Matthew’s Band’s Before These Crowded Streets and couldn’t figure out the time signature of the second track, “Rapunzel.” So I pulled into Birdland Music, flipped open the book, and saw the whacked meter changes—5/4 with some 6/4 and 4/4.
A few months ago we were driving through Cincinnati, following some misguided Google Maps directions to Great American Ballpark, and I spotted an abandoned sheet music store. I pointed out to Cindy: “See, there’s a store that was put out of business by the Internet.” She was, of course and as usual, awed by my astute observation.
See, it used to be that publishers would produce music books to accompany their artists’ CDs. Now, instead of books for $12 or individual sheets for $3.50, you can purchase a song online for $5, download it, and print it instantly. No waiting to learn to play Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” or the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.” But few people buy sheet music online, and even fewer in physical stores.
Back to HCj—most of his songs are unavailable to purchase as sheet music. A music store clerk, who was probably laid off years ago, told me one time that HCj doesn’t allow his music to be published. But it’s strange that you can’t find user-uploaded chord charts anywhere. I’m wondering if he has someone on staff who scours the Internet looking for illegal publishing. Maybe a trombonist in his big band. Or perhaps his former-Victoria’s-Secret-model wife is the spy. I’ll let you know if I’m found out, because I did eventually figure out “Never Young” (see below).
The Real Book (which is really a fake book)
I remember as a college student playing in a jazz combo, where the leader (who will remain nameless so as to protect him from prosecution) handed out copies of jazz standards from a mysterious collection called “The Real Book,” whose origin and dissemination is shrouded in secrecy. I’m thinking the Knights Templar are responsible for this illegal set of must-have music for any jazz cat. About it a Manhattan jazz guitarist said,
“Everyone has one, but no one knows where they come from.”
(See this interesting New York Times article.)
Even before the Internet, illegal sheet music has always been available for those who wanted it. And it will remain that way as long as musicians write music we all want to play.
On Monday I’ll write about my civil disobedience regarding copyright—I mean, copyWRONG!! (I wanted to call this post “Copyright or CopyWRONG,” but Cindy said it was too cheesy.)
What do you think? Do the artists care about how we get their sheet music? Or is it just the publishers?