Unplugged – Dream Artists


Back when MTV was actually all about the music, they made a variety of original programming. One of the most notable of these was MTV Unplugged – a series which ran for 10 years (89-99) before returning sporadically over the next decade for a number of specials. It’s still kind of around today, but no-one cares. At its peak, the series saw artists as diverse as The Corrs, Alice In Chains, Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Oasis, Bjork, Duran Duran, Joe Satriani, Jay-Z, and most famously – Nirvana.

The idea behind my series of posts is simply to suggest a bunch of artists that I wished had performed an Unplugged set along with my picks of songs I think would have worked in the setting. I don’t simply mean to pick acoustic songs – Unplugged always felt more intimate – like a secret gathering of fans coming together to witness a one time event. You can play along too – share your picks in the comments or in your own blog – but rather than allowing all this silly freedom, I’m going to lay down some general rules. The band needs to play at least 70 minutes of music, but not more than 90 – so count your songs carefully. The band would banter with the crowd between tracks, but any show pushing two hours would be excessive. My only other rule is that the artist needs to play at least one song from every album – of course those artists who have upwards of 10 albums may find this difficult or impossible. In those extreme cases, maybe they get to play two shows!

So yeah, that’s kind of it. It’s the sort of silly, pure imagination, pub chat post I love, and it’s always interesting to hear who others would pick. As a side note, before I get into my choices in future posts, I wanted to suggest a similar idea for discussion or thought. I don’t think I’ve written about this before, but I can’t be expected to keep track of all my wheelings and dealings.

Basically, I’ve always wanted to be a radio DJ – not really, but in my daydreaming moods I find my brain wandering back to this again and again. I don’t mean just someone who spins a tune or adheres to a playlist, I mean someone who has a daily/nightly, regular show who is free to play and do whatever they want. One show a week would be focused on movies – with guest critics, fans, stars etc – almost like a podcast where we would look at new releases and discuss classics. Each week would maybe have a theme, like horror, comedy, Western, Coen Brothers, Oscar Winners etc etc, and we would play songs and instrumental music from films. Another night could be sports based, talking about football, wrestling, and… well, those are the only two I pay attention to anymore. There would be a night where we just follow The Human Zoo format (Youtube it) where callers phone in randomly and unscreened to say and do whatever they please.

On the music front, I would have a section each night for new, unsigned acts- basically send me your demos and I’ll play it if I like it. Playlists are entirely anti-music and undemocratic, so those are completely out the window – if we want to play 1930s Blues, followed by 90s Trance, followed by 60s Folk, followed by Black Metal, well shit, we’ll do it. On to the crux of the imagining – the live set. One night a week we would have a live band come in for a chat and to play a few songs. This wouldn’t take on the appearance of a gig, more like questions, banter, and a handful of songs. The rule though, and the fun part is that each act needs to play at least one cover (which they haven’t played before), one non-single album track, and one ‘unreleased’ song (such as a B-Side or rarity). Five song maximum, so that leaves room for a couple of more famous songs. Unfortunately this is all a dream, a personal one, but if I ever become super rich and powerful, it’s something I’d love to do. For all you rich and powerful readers of my blog – get on it – make the world a better place.

Sorry, we got off track for a moment – that’s what happens when I don’t plan or rewrite posts. Feel free to share your thoughts on any of my delusions above – what would you do if you had your own Radio Show, what artists and songs would you love to see performed in the Unplugged setting?