Monday, September 9, 2013
"Excuse me, young people. May I ask you to remove yourselves from my front yard? Thank you so much. Have a good day."
When I was still not yet a teenager, I had The Beatles and the Stones down cold. I knew every Ringo fill, Lennon harmony, Keith riff and Mick shimmy. I knew it and respected it as I made my way toward Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music, Yes, King Crimson and David Bowie, all while savoring the joys of AM radio staples like Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now," Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly," The Doobies' "Long Train Running" and of course, my own great collection of 45s that included The Turtles, The 4 Seasons and the Herman's Hermits, The Supremes, The Rascals and Marvin Gaye.
During that time, I went through a big band phase, as well. My cousin and I would listen to Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnett, Stan Kenton and Glenn Miller, and just get lost in the arrangements. Then, we'd take a break and listen to Genesis and T. Rex and "Hot Rats."
Of course, there were hours and hours of just Frank, Dean and Sammy, with essence of Bobby Darin for flavor.
What about Bob? Yep. Dylan had his place, too.
All of this took place before I reached high school.
I should point out that I had some of the greatest music lovers around me. Aunts & uncles, friends of uncles, cousins, friends of cousins, neighbors and grandparents, who at the time ranged in age from 25-60. These are people who also listened to The Beatles and the Stones and Top 40 radio while telling me, "Listen to "Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys. You'll dig it." Or, "Listen to Dion in between those two Yes albums." We didn't scoff at the Tijuana Brass. People who were then, the age I am now, enjoying the music that youngsters were listening to, as well as the music they embraced from their past.
Sure, not everyone was that open to the sounds of rock and roll. I had one Aunt who listened to Slim Whitman, Strauss waltzes and Bobby Vinton and believed the Beatles were the catalysts behind the Vietnam War. But for the most part, I was surrounded by people who understood good music. Age didn't matter.
That said, I am starting to really tire of the phrase "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!" when referencing any adult who voices disdain at today's popular music.
In the wake of the Robin Thicke/Miley Cyrus debacle, I've heard too many say, "Our parents were just as appalled at Elvis Presley." That may be true, but not mine. Not my grandparents either. Am I the exception? Well, yes, if you compare my life to the Cleavers. But after 20 years in music retail, not to mention all those hours prior as a consumer, everyone I knew, music lovers, were more like me. They had stories of growing up in households where their 50 year old parents had music playing all the time, and not just Andy Williams or Mantovani. My grandfather loved his music LOUD! At 70, he was listening to his favorites, The Drifters and Dionne Warwick, country music especially. But he also truly dug "The White Album" and T. Rex's "The Slider." (That's right! He loved "Metal Guru.")
Miley and Thicke are an extreme, so let me take this into potentially dangerous waters for a moment.
Recently someone suggested a band called The Lone Bellow. Actually, a number of people I respect suggested this band. So I listened. And I liked it a bit. But not enough to finish the entire record. I found myself growing more impatient as the music played, and finally stopped it by track 6. I was bored. This is not about The Lone Bellow. Remove "The Lone Bellow" and insert any of a hundred bands or artists and the feeling remains the same. Good stuff. Not great. Good songs. Not great.
The bar gets lower and lower and lower.
Forget Top 40 and autotune and the lack of imagination and the completely offensive mechanics of the music business. The Mileys and Thickes and Ke$has are zits on the ass of the big picture. Even the bands and singer-songwriters we should pay attention to, the successful ones, just miss it most of the time. Yes, I'm getting older. Everyone is, except for the people running the show. The people responsible are getting younger and that is the problem. Ahmet Ertegun was almost 50 when he signed Led Zeppelin. Forget about targetting the audience. More work needs to be done on the target.
I may be cranky, but mostly about everything else in life. Music has always been the constant source of joy. There was never any skepticism when I listened to music growing up. Even on through the early 80's, I'd purchase a record with the highest of hopes, and if let down, I'd pick myself up, brush myself off and start all over again. Enter MTV, and suddenly...well...here we are. Now, I'm nothing but skeptical and in my defense, I listen all the time. I'm not one of those genuine "Get off my lawn" guys who thinks the last good Stones record was "Exile On Main Street" or has never listened to a hip hop record. I'm just convinced after 40 years of listening, today's 4-star records are yesterday's 2-star records.
It was better then.
Don't even get me started on yesterday's R&B versus today's R&B.
You don't have to get off my lawn. But while you're here, stop playing me.