30 January 2013

Is It Good To Be Loud?

Many rock bands are legendary for their sound quality and I don’t mean the clarity! There is certainly a culture of loudness in rock music where excessive volume is worshipped but is this really a good thing? After all there is a point beyond which any instrument or tune becomes indistinguishable from another and the sound just becomes noise and then there are the health implications to think about. It is true, however that there is nothing to compare to the feeling you get watching and listening to a band rock the house! So who are the loudest band ever and does it matter?

Loudest Bands
There is nothing to quite compare with Disaster Area on planet earth but there are some epically loud performers. In 1972 Deep Purple entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest act on the planet after the volume at their London gig was measured at 117 decibels. They were overtaken in 1976, unsurprisingly by The Who, after they managed to achieve 126 decibels at The Valley (home of Charlton Athletic). This record was then superseded by Manowar in 1984 with the same band claiming a new record of 129.5 decibels in 1994 but this has not been officially recognised as Guinness removed the category not wishing to encourage hearing damage!

When you think about it, the concept of loudness being great for its own sake is rather an amusing one. The notion was successfully satirised in “This Is Spinal Tap” where the band are publicised as one of the nation’s loudest bands as if that was the most important recommendation one could make. Never mind the quality of the songs just listen to that volume! The film makes a joke of the band’s amplifiers which are turned up to 11 rather than 10 so the band can go “one louder”. This joke started a trend with bands wanting equipment with knobs that went up to 11 and beyond and eventually Marshall who provided the amplifiers for the film started selling equipment with knobs marked up to 20! You may also recall the opening scene of “Back To The Future” where Michael J Fox can be seen plugging his guitar into the most enormous amp/speaker which then blows him off his feet when he strikes the first chord. That is nothing next to the fictional band Disaster Area in “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” who were so loud that they could cause devastation to entire planets!

Other Claims
There have been other claims to fame in the volume hit parade but none have been ratified. Motorhead were reported to have achieved 130 decibels at a concert in Cleveland in 1986 which apparently damaged the theatre! English band Leftfield caused dust and plaster to fall from the roof of Brixton Acedemy in 1996 when the volume allegedly reached 137 decibels. Damaging a theatre is one thing but making the earth move is quite another. In 2011 a Foo Fighters concert in New Zealand registered on the Richter scale and was recorded on the GeoNet Seismograph!

On a serious note there is no doubt that exposure to loud noise has a detrimental effect on health. In addition to the damage that can be done to one’s hearing, exposure to excessive volume can also cause tinnitus and non-hearing related issues such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. Loud music is also known to promote aggressive behaviour and rapid alcohol consumption. There is no definitive level of volume at which issues may arise as it depends on the individual’s general state of health but problems can be caused by noise exceeding 85 decibels. Perhaps loud gigs are not so funny after all!

Featured image:

 License: Creative Commons image source 

About today's Guest Writer:
Sally Stacey is a music lover and blogger who has spent many hours in concert venues. Read more about Sally on her Google+  page.

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