I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Music

May 26, 2006 at 8:23 AM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
Not sure how interesting this is to anyone, but here are my thoughts on music. . .
 
  Someone here in the Blogsphere, someone special, asked once, in passing, about my taste in music.  It will take more than a passing comment to answer that.  Music is very important, very special to me.  Tragically, I have no musical ability of my own.  I have no rhythm.  I am painfully tone deaf.
  Meanwhile, my wife is a singer.  My daughter just won an award as best singer in her little 3rd grade class.  My son is self-taught on the guitar, and pretty good, after only playing for a year and a half. Both of the kids play the Wurlitzer organ I bought at an estate sale.  My son played an instrument in the 8th grade, and although he gave it up, he can read music, which is a good thing, and most self-taught teenage guitar players can’t.
  But back to me. . .
  I discovered an appreciation for music when I was about 11 or twelve–pretty late, I suppose.  I listened to the oldies, and adult contemporary.  This was the mid-seventies.  I stayed with this type of music for many years.  My single foray out of this realm was Billy Joel.  He was my bridge from oldies and soft music into rock.  My first album was 52nd Street, still a great album.  Grammy winner, too.  Remember?  Jeez, when was that, 1978?
  My friend Chaz, a couple of years older than me, tried to ween me from the soft rock into real rock.  He worked patiently, played lots of Rush, and he also liked Loverboy, which I find hilarious now.  But he had a plan.  It was 1981.  He wanted to go to a concert, and didn’t want to go alone.  (We lived in a very rural area, and choice of friends and babes was limited.)
  I made a list of the concerts I’ve been to, and I wanted to write a brief review, or essay, about the concerts and my experiences.  So, I will save that story for a later time.  I have been to roughly–30 concerts, in about 25 years.  A wide range of sounds, from Peter Paul and Mary, to The Who, to the Violent Femmes.  So right now, this is just about music in general.
  I like it, I like it alot.  I really like live music, especially a small band in a bar.  Styles of music that aren’t particularly my thing I can still appreciate live.  Jazz and blues, for instance, are best served live.  I can even handle some country.  I like the older country best.  Much of the new stuff just seems to me to be pop with a country flavor.
  So most pop I avoid as well.  Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson–these are three individuals, I learned recently, not the same person.  Boy bands–Christ in sidecar.  Rap and Hip-hop…
  Well, what about rap and hip hop?  Urban contemporary.  Everyone tries to dance around this subject, but I’m going to lay it flat out.  Most of it I can’t stand.  It’s completely not my thing.  And why should it be?  I’m not the target audience.  I’m not a young, angry black male.  I’m an old, bitter white male.  Completely different music appeals to us.  They don’t market for me, so why should I pretend that I get it?  But I do get it, I just don’t like the shit.  Nothing wrong with that.  Young black males don’t like my music. 
  I won’t go so far as to say it’s not even music, which I have in the past.  But it’s made to be offensive, and so instead of being offended, I dismiss it.  It’s my retaliation.  I like a little bit of Eminem even, and some Beastie Boys.  The white rappers.  Not Vanilla Ice, though, which should be obvious, because I appreciate talent.
  Classical?  Well, how about classic rock?  Seriously, I can take some classical, but by and large it makes my head hurt, because I try to pay attention to it, and it’s very complex.  It’s suppose to be.  I can appreciate the music and the artistry.   It is great, and it has it’s place.  Generally, that place is not near me.
  So is it hypocritical to say I love music, when I don’t love all of it?  Basically, I love rock, and all music associated with.  Classic, oldies, alternative, hard.  I like the music that speaks to me, I guess.  My daughter is into music, and her stuff is what 9-year-olds listen to these days:  Disney stars, Cheetah Girls, Hannah Montana, Lizzie- who is Lizzie McGuire?  Hilary Duff.  And that annoying Lindsay Lohan.  God, the overengineered crap they do to make that girl sound like she is not screeching.  Maybe I’m just used to it, but Hilary Duff sounds okay.  At least she can actually sing, I think.
  But it’s all bubblegum pop and drivel, at it’s best.
  My music?  Mine is deep and soulful, and has meaning, and is made by talented, hard-working, drug-addicted artists.
  I love alot of the old rock, but here is my problem with new rock.  The new rock should be made my the new artists and new groups.  I have a station here I listen to that has alternative and college-rock, that plays shit that is so new no one has heard of them yet.  If they play an oldie it’s from a year ago.  I love the new rock, and I know that they have been influenced by the older artists, and then took it in a new direction.
  The new direction of rock is not being led by Sammy Hagar, or the Rolling Stones, or Areosmith, or any number of dinosaurs who have miraculously survived their own fame.  The most painful thing I’ve heard, musically, is Sammy Hagar trying to recapture his Montrose-era glory days.  Dude, I’m sorry, but you have nothing new to say.  Your well is tapped.
  One of the few that manage it well is David Bowie.  I don’t always get his music, and that’s cool.  He is not rehashing old shit.  He is not rewriting "Space Oddity."  He has moved on, musically, and that is hard to do when you are an AARP member.  Hagar can’t do it.  Mick Jagger can’t. 
  My one concert regret is that I never got to see Led Zeppelin.  I was just a bit young, and not into it.  My wife saw them, and she said they sucked.  I was originally disheartened by this, but now I know how my wife is.  But Zep had a reputation that would make Guns and Roses cringe in fear, and they did it all, and they did it first.  Recommended reading:  "Hammer of the Gods."  The story of Led Zeppelin. 
  Post-Zeppelin, Robert Plant did some likeable stuff, Honeydrippers was cool and different.  The Page/Plant album, NO Quarter, where they reworked some Zeppeling tunes, in addition to doing some Indian music and what-not, was very different and good.  I had a few missed opportunities in recent years to see Robert Plant, and now I don’t think I would if I could.  The golden era is definitely passed.  The myth of old is best left untainted by the sour reality of the now.
  I have a Zeppelin bootleg, called "Destroyer."  I originally heard it back in college, when one of my roommates had it, on four LP’s.  He made me a copy on two long cassettes, one of which I still have somewhere.  I know a guy who runs a record store (Cd store, music store) who had to get out of the bootleg business, but for a friend (me) he was able to find it on CD.  It is from their concert tour in 1977, recorded in Cleveland.  It must have been the last year they toured, because they played stuff from "Presence," their second-to-the-last studio album.  Nothing live exists that I have heard from the last one, "In Through The Out Door."  So this live album runs the gammut of their career.
  Some of the side talking and comments between songs on the album are priceless.  For instance, occassionally, Robert Plant would say cryptically, "The Doctor was played by Larry Badgley."  But the best, and I know it by heart, was at the beginning of their "accoustical set":
  "We now await with baited breath the arrival of John Paul Jones’ upright.. . . bass.  It was purchased in Newcastle-Upon-Thames on a tour in 1969 for about eighteen dollars.  And it serves its purpose.  The Doctor was played by Larry Badgley."
  
  I received an email, with a list to fill out about myself, basically four things in each category.  There was no category for music, so I edited the list and added it.  Basically this:  Stranded on a deserted island, walkman, lots of batteries.  Four CD’s.  Four.  Pick four that you would bring with you.
  So it took me a couple of days, but I got my list down to four.  It was, in a word, heartbreaking.  Makes me want an iPod so I can have more music than that with me, just in case.
  Here they are:
1.  Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin.  My roommates in college turned me on to Zeppelin, and I was saddened to learn that the band was alread gone, John Bonham, the greatest drummer that ever lived, had died a few years previous.  This album I had on tape in the 80’s, and wore it out several times.  Once I had to replace the stereo as well as the tape, because the tape would not come out.  The header for my tombstone is on this album, on the song "In My Time of Dying," the greatest song ever.
2.  Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads.  A live best of, this album is way too short.  Another ill-fated CD, this one burned up when my car caught on fire.  I guess I need to tell that story someday.
3.  Violent Femmes self titled first album.  This album epitomized my college days.  The emotions these songs evoked, this was my life, from ages 18-23.  When I got to see them in concert, it was over 20 years after the fact.  It was still a great show.  In fact, it was simoultaneously one of the best and one of the worst concerts I had ever been to.  This will be explained in the future.
4.  The mix disc of Paul Westerberg I have in my truck right now.  This might be cheating, but I made the rule.  I had a musical revelation recently, which I owe to my friend Karl.  He turned me on to Morrissey, and Paul Westerberg.  I don’t want to sit on a deserted island and listen to Morrissey and weep because I would eventually slit my wrists.  I would rather be a little happy.  Based on one song–one song, called "Attitude"–which was, by the way, recorded poorly on the disc that Karl gave me, I agreed to ride with him over 100 miles and see him in concert.  It was pretty amazing, and I’ll talk about the concert separately.  But I did not know a single song, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Now I am a big Westerberg fan, and I encourage you all to pick up a disc, any disc, and give it a spin.  If you haven’t heard of him, perhaps you have heard of his band, the Replacements?  I never thought I would say that I can’t live without a song, but that was before I heard "Portland."  I was surprised to hear myself say that.
 
  It was hard to make this list and leave Billy Joel off of it.  But I can hear his music in my head anytime I want.  If I could add more, I would add either "Songs in the Attic" or "52nd Street."  I may like "Glass Houses" more, but for nostalgia and clarity of thought, it would have to be 52nd Street.  In fact, all of it I could play in my head, as well as a vast catalogue of all the other music I have ever heard.  There is alot of music in my head.  I have seven fillings, so I get pretty good FM reception.
  Funny, we have a board game called "SongBurst."  Heard of it?  You get the name of the song, year and artist, and a single line of lyric.  you have to complete a stanza of the lyrics.  We have a 50’s and 60’s version, and a 70’s and 80’s version.  My older daughter has a country version.  We would play as a family, in teams.  The teams eventually became everyone else versus me.  We would have my wife’s family over, her older brothers and sisters who grew up on the 50’s and 60’s music.  Seven people on one side, versus me.  
  I would beat them.  They accused me of cheating, of reading all the cards.  We played the country version.  My daughter listens to country, and I don’t.  I beat her.
  I know all the lyrics to all the songs from all the artists which were ever recorded?  Maybe.  I had to put a question mark there, instead of a period.  You may know your particular favorite artist better, but unless you know the tracks and in what order on what albums by your favorite artist, you can’t really be considered a fan.  I know this about Zeppelin, and of course Billy Joel. 
  When I was growing up in a rural community, I was a bit of a homebody.  There was not a lot to do.  I stayed in a lot, most of my teen years, and drew, and wrote, and listened to music.  Music fills my head, it  plays constantly, like an infinite jukebox.  Chances are really good that if you mention a song, I will know the words.  I won’t know them all, case in point, re: the pop drivel I mentioned earlier.  But anything rock, and anything before 1980, and much of what came after, is on my internal hard drive (this me, tapping on my skull).
  It drowns out all the voices in my head, so I am grateful.
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2 Comments »

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  1. shall we play a game of strip music trivia? I get to start with at least five layers of clothes tho \’cause I think you might possibly be a wee tad better than me… but just a little! oh.. and you get to start in only sweats and a t-shirt  : )
    okay… I\’m gonna download "Portland" and give it a listen since I\’ve never heard of this Westerberg guy before, lol..  see if your taste in music sucks or not *wink*  ty
    hugs and all that
    Kim
     
     

  2. I\’m close to your age, but while you were leaning/being pulled  towards the harder rock like Led Zeppelin in the 80\’s, I was more into the Depeche Mode, Smiths, Erasure…and if you\’ve never heard of Yaz (Yazoo in UK), I would encourage you to find their cd Upstairs at Eric\’s.  I\’m not sure how so many people blossoming in the 80\’s missed it, but they did.
     
    My sister and I play the "choose 5" game…which are, of course, subject to change on any given day.  Because you didn\’t ask, but I happen to have them:
     
    1. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
    2. Yaz, Upstairs at Erics
    3. Depeche Mode, 101
    4. Sarach McLachlan, Freedom Sessions
    5. Van Morrison, Best of


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