First Take: Little Steven Van Zandt Page 6

Surround Sound... and Broadway!

So what do you think of surround sound? It's fun when you're watching a movie, but it's not the way to enjoy music. You just don't want to hear the cello behind you to the left and the drums behind you to the right. It's absurd. Maybe you should put the same things in all of the surrounds to create a bigger version of mono.

One thing that's always worked for me is live music in surround, where I really get immersed in feeling like I'm a part of the audience. Oh yeah, that's fine. But what doesn't work is the separation of instruments into different channels. It's like, "Oh, I can now hear every single instrument." That's scientifically interesting, but it's not emotionally interesting. I'm sorry, but we're in the business of emotional communication. That's our job. This is diametrically opposed to what we're supposed to be doing. Unless it's serving the higher purpose of making a great record, it shouldn't be done.

Sometimes the advancements in technology get people to think, "Let's try and do this because we can do this." That's the classic human dilemma. We shouldn't always do something just because we can.

Know what? Movies have almost always destroyed music. You get these movie mixers who inevitably put the vocals too high, separate the instruments, and do all these silly things that just don't make sense in terms of the emotional communication. It's similar to Broadway. Broadway makes these forays into rock and roll to "showbiz" the thing up, and they're just not as effective. Even in something as terrific as Jersey Boys [the Tony Award-winning musical about the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons], they still play the four or five songs too fast. They feel they have to do that on Broadway, and I wish they'd just throw those songs down to be twice as effective. There's a reason those songs were done the way they were.

Would you ever consider doing a Broadway show? I wrote half of a Broadway show about 10 or 12 years ago. I never quite finished it. It was really fun. It was sort of a rock musical, but different. I should get back to it one of these days. Actually, it's some of the best stuff I've ever done. Rock versions of Broadway musicals are not going away anytime soon.

Did you see Tommy? Oh yes. Tommy will probably always be the benchmark for a linear rock opera, probably always will. Nobody will ever touch that one.