Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday's Rant

"Boston---corporate formula rock at its worst. If I wanna hear something from Boston...Ill take the Remains."
 -Friend Of A Friend

So my question is this:

What is this music snob penchant for countering popularity with obscurity?

Aside from the "cuteness" (read: smugness) of the quote, what do these two bands have in common, other than hailing from the same town?

This same phemomenon occurs with all forms of art.

"I just saw 20 Feet From Stardom it was amazing."

"Yeah, but if you want to see a real documentary, there is this short film playing at a cheese shop in Soho all about the boiling point of tin."

I won't waste your time defending Tom Scholz and his career. I'm satisfied just mentioning that I love Boston's 1976 debut. It is a unique record that sounds like nothing before it, with some terrific songs, great vocals and great playing. Simple.

Asia, to my ears, is a better example of what "Friend Of A Friend" is talking about. Boston were a band of unknowns who created, the old-fashioned way, what is arguably one of the most popular records of all time. What's wrong with that?

I like The Remains, too. But it doesn't make me a better person. And I'm pretty sure Barry Tashian would have taken Brad Delp's money if it was offered to him.

I'm coming down from a 10 hour day, dealing with record collectors of all shapes and sizes. There are those who come to the record shows looking for nothing but Beatles LPs, most with no real intention of buying anything, just to talk about what they already own that you hopefully do not.

Then there are the people who love playing their records and could not care less about first or third pressings or original labels. If you've got "Aretha's Greatest Hits" and it's not trashed, they'll take it for a reasonable price. Sold American, because they want to hear "Chain Of Fools" right now!

I enjoy everyone, from soup to "nuts." 

The only ones who make me twitch are those who "just can't listen to Led Zeppelin and Queen" because "it's all cock and balls," then seconds later ask if I have any "U.K. Subs rarities."

Please get over yourself.

Finally, to that poor guy searching frantically for Jerry Vale records...come see me in two weeks.


William Repsher said...

People will often use music as an archetype of "who they are." Who they really are. There's a scene in Velvet Goldmine where the closeted gay kid/future journalist sees the glitter star giving an outrageous interview on TV, and while he can't freak out in front of his parents, there's an imaginary scene of him jumping in front of the TV and shouting, "That's me! That's me he's talking about."

A lot of people into indie music or cult bands see themselves as above the fray. Hell, I do, too, to a certain extent. It's often true: quality music sometimes doesn't sell a truckload of albums ... Big Star went nearly unrecognized in their prime and broke up destitute and almost completely unknown. Decades later, we can acknowledge their greatness. (Even if similar bands like Badfinger and The Raspberries managed to crack the code to a greater extent in their time.)

I sort of play along with the "hipper than thou" vibe because it's so familiar to me, and I know those people don't mean me harm. They just see themselves a certain way which, while not divorced from reality, is their own small reality. And I'm sure they'll share it with like-minded individuals.

I'm sure you deal with people who see themselves as "hip" well into middle-aged and beyond when you work a record fair! It's a sub-culture, for sure.

That said, the first Boston album was phenomenal -- it still sounds good. Many critics at the time broke down and admitted that "More Than a Feeling" was a great single.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I lived in a dorm when "More Than A Feeling" came out and it could not be denied. Great single, and a pretty good record supporting it. Their problem was following it up.

soundsource said...


Gene Oberto said...

I met a lot of people like you describe in my days of retail and with the label. I have to confess, that I fell prey to that condition myself a few times.

My Dad told me the old saw in sports to remember that you may be better than some but there are some a lot better than you.

I have a lot of knowledge about some music from the 40s to now. Guys like Sal and some of his readers know way more than I do. I've been a whole lot happier in life since I put my ding-a-ling back inside and stopped playing who knows more. By keeping my mouth shut, I've been turned on to a whole bunch of music I never knew before.

Chris Schmid said...

I have always loved that first Boston album. I was 14 the year it came out and played the crap out of it that winter. In fact I still take it out on occasion and it still sounds fantastic.

I get what you're saying about the indie acts and their supposed "credibility" vs. the mainstream. Personally I can think of dozens of lesser known bands that I prefer over the Mumford's and Avett's currently selling up a (relative) storm. It's not that they are any better being less well known, I just think they make better records. Good records are good records.

Maybe it's my age (turning 52 this year) but I find myself more nostalgic and less patient. Maybe I never was...

I am pretty sure Boston and Television came out the same year. For me there is no contest...

Now how bad a bashing would I get for admitting my love of the first Meat Loaf album?

A walk in the woods said...

Well said, William Repsher...

I don't play the hip game at all though. I can talk as easily with someone about how finger-snappin' cool Pharrell Williams' "Happy" is and then turn and talk to you about the space between the notes in a Thelonious Monk tune. If it swings - or rocks, as that first Boston LP, and other of their songs most certainly do - I'm there, without the slight tug of worry about being unhip.

Last night I saw Todd Rundgren in concert, and it was a fun show partly because of the lack of pretention... I mean, he even covered Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," for heck's sake. Why not? It's a pretty groovy song.

Sal Nunziato said...

First things first...Chris, "Bat Out Of Hell" is fantastic, through and through. Big, theatrical, full of hooks, huge's the E-Street Band, Spector's Wall Of Sound, and Andrew Lloyd Webber all in one.

This is a common theme of mine, the hopelessness of trying to understand why people like or dislike stuff. I've given up, mostly because, who cares as long as we keep listening.

I'm more rattled by what seems more like a bitter dismissal of records solely based on their hip factor. It's a tired practice.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Every once in a while something really good becomes hugely popular.
We're overdue.

Anonymous said...

Once I made a list of all my favorite songs, and prefaced it with, "I like what I like, no reasons, no explanations, no apologies, no excuses, I like what I like." It covered everything, and all styles.

The first Boston album is an important album. It sounds like nothing before it, and influenced everything after it. Having acknowledged that, please don't make me listen to it.

Chris Schmid said...

I think part of the problem today is how little fun music is. Again, it may be the age talking, but Boston was a fun record (as was Meat Loaf) and so many others...especially towards the end of the 70's.

A common thread that ran through any of these records was how good it sounded (and still does) blasting in the car. They do bring you back.

Anonymous said...


Well, if you just look at the range of albums on the charts in and around 1977, you can see why people argue about things such as "musical taste" versus "popular crap".

1977 Albums Released and/or remaining on Charts:

Television: Marque Moon/Elvis Costello: My Aim is True
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours/Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks
Pat Metheny: Watercolors/Pink Floyd: Animals
David Bowie: Low/David Bowie: Heroes
Steely Dan: Aja/Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
James Taylor: JT/Boz Scaggs: Silk Degrees
Ramones: Rocket to Russia/Talking Heads: Talking Heads 77
Clash: The Clash/Jackson Browne: The Pretender
Meatloaf: Bat out of Hell/Peter Frampton: I'm in You
Crosby, Stills, Nash: CSN/Lynyrd Skynyrd: Street Survivors
Electric Light Orchestra: Out of the Blue/Genesis: Seconds Out
Boston: Boston/Foreigner: Foreigner
Kansas: Point of No Return/Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life
Bruce Cockburn: Circles in the Stream/Steve Miller: Book of Dreams
Rick Danko: Rick Danko/Eric Clapton: Slowhand

One man's classic is another's no class but I would argue we had a much wider range of choices and artistic merit back then.

Now get off my musical lawn and take your digital files too.

Michael D.

Sal Nunziato said...

Michael D,

With the exception of Pat Metheny who just wasn't my go-to guy when I wanted to hear jazz guitar, there is not a single record you listed that I don't own or still enjoy. And yes, that includes Frampton's "I'm In You," which gets a bad rap because of its horrible title tune but is quite good otherwise.

In other news, I recently checked out some up and coming local bands on a website called The Deli and two of the bands cited The Strokes and Vampire Weekend as their influences. While I underdstand it, it certainly doesn't make me feel better.

Anything Should Happen said...

I'm not that fussed on AOR and Boston's debut doesn't do much for me away from More Than A Feeling.

But Side 1 of the follow up, Don't Look Back is as good as anything that any melodic rock band come up with.

Anything Should Happen said...

As for Bat Out Of Hell.... People react in that snooty way because of what a pompous prick Meatloaf became.

As an album, Steinman, with Todd Rungren's input, produced an album that no one had got near before or since.

Like Broadway brought to a rock audience, it stills sell now, it's still highly infectious. It may not be cool, but what the hell does that matter?

mauijim said...

Michael D.,

I dont understand some of your pairings. Can you explain how you matched them up? Some are brilliant ying/yang like Rumours/ Never Mind... 1977 is a brilliant year to look at to see the vast difference in rock music as punk/new wave made commercial inroads while corporate rock(Boston, Foreigner,Journey) was embraced by fm stations to compete against disco.
I was one of those snobs who promoted the Clash while dissing Boston to my unaware midwestern college roommates but have to admit today in 2014 I listen to more Foreigner than the Clash these days to due the brilliant hooks of Mick Jones.
Get it you can't lose on picking a Mick Jones out of those 2 bands

Anonymous said...

And to be clear, The Clash were as manufactured as 'The Monkees' with a ready made message for the masses.

peabody nobis said...

Your post reminds me of the time I was in a record store in 1980-81 and overheard a conversation between two employees, with one vigorously stating how "They had to crank up the reverb on Plant's voice..." to compensate for his spent vocals.
Being a devout Zep fan at the time, I convinced myself that a half-nelson would be inappropriate. Instead, I just accepted the fact that some folks just don't "get" music.

Jeff in Denton TX said...

The first Boston album is one of the few I can think of where every track still garners airplay on my local classic rock station. Sure, I get a bit burned out on it, but that doesn't make me think any less of it as a hook-laden, sonically innovative rock album.

I'm also going out on a limb here to defend Asia. I don't think too many people thought in 1982 that a band comprised of prog-rock veterans (has-beens?) was a surefire hit. Prog was virtually dead at the time and the album wasn't prog enough for many devotees, anyway. So they had hooks and riffs (and even some noodling on the deeper album cuts)and somehow wound up with that year's best-selling album. Was it commercial? Sure. Not sure it qualifies as corporate rock, since it's commercial success came as a surprise to nearly everyone. Plus, I still like it (and even the second album, too).
I think liking Asia pretty much eliminates me from being a rock snob.

Ken D said...

Damn. I just read this morning that one of my top three albums from last year—"Same Trailer, Different Park" by Kacey Musgraves—won the CMA award for album of the year. Now I have to revise my opinion or lose any music snob cred I may have had.
How does this sound?—
"At first listen, Musgraves's ST,DP has a surface sheen that can be mistaken for authenticity. But soon you realize it's another piece of Music Row corporate product designed to cash in on the Swift phenomenon."
Well, hey, it's just my first try...

Charlie Messing said...

Well, some truly classic records came out 1977 through 83...and I was in NYC to see or miss a lot of them. Boston's first album, fine. I just can't listen to Styx, Journey, Asia, Toto, Reo, you get the general idea. Also bands with 3 guitars. And Heaven protect me from unison vocals where they should be harmonies. There's my rant. Burn on!

Anonymous said...

William Repsher said...

"They just see themselves a certain way which, while not divorced from reality, is their own small reality."

I take issue with those trapped in their own reality as they the believe the shadows dancing across the cave wall area all there is or will be. Mind you, in the narrative alluded to, even the mere suggestion of averting ones gaze to gain a different perspective could invite a threat of violence.

Then again, being knee-jerk dismissive of others tastes {(or lack thereof) I'll qualify the previous} can be equally non-constructive.

One of the people that works with us -- Eastern European, 44 years -- loves her music. On a recent lunch break, she decided to enjoy the spate of beautiful weather we've been enjoying by dining outside. She lowered the windows and cranked the stereo. What I heard emanating from her car stereo was ghastly. I mean really horrid attempts at covering pop tunes by the likes of Anita Baker, Beatles, ABBA... by some hack on a saxophone with backed by cheesy programmed keyboard and drum tracks. She claimed to like saxophone. While I consider Smooth Jazz to be the lowest form of the whole jazz genre (and I'm hardly a jazz aficionado), instead of deriding her taste in music, I made her a CD of the only five Grover Washington Jr. albums I own (if you're going to go with smooth jazz, IMHO, that's at least some credible talent). And if that doesn't work, I'll suggest that her son could pirate some Kenny G. for her.

expat Ed

steve simels said...

As somebody said about the Fabs-- if you don't like that Boston album, you're just being difficult.

stivseed said...

Steve S. hit the nail on the head. Ironically, this topic was a discussion in a Facebook group called "No Hipsters Allowed". The irony is that some in the group displayed the same attitude you`re decrying here. It`s a fucking great record. Period.

big bad wolf said...


you are right about the boston album.

i am not sure that i am ready to give up trying to explain why i think some music is better than other music, which is, of course, a different question from why people like or dislike some music more than others. i really like some things i can mount no aesthetic or intellectual defense of. that this is true doesn't mean that i don't think it is not useful to try to identify the things that make bing or monk or the stones or (or ooh my big point) vampire weekend better and more important than their contemporaries. now, you very much don't like VW, which baffles me, but i don't think you should like them, just, maybe, in your tolerant mood of the last year or so reconsider your vocal dislike of them.

Sal Nunziato said...

@ Big Bad Wolf--

My reference to Vampire Weekend a few comments back didn't have so much to do with how I feel about their music. I was trying to point out how far we have come.

We are all pretty much in agreement that, while there is still good new music out there, none of it can truly compare to what was...Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy, Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Aretha, etc. These artists were influenced by Mahalia, Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, etc..

As time moved on, we now have bands influenced by The Strokes and Vampire Weekend. It's no different than making a color copy from an original, or making a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. The former is going to be 5 times better than the latter.

As for VW, I am willing to give them another shot. As usual, my lack of tolerance probably had less to do with what the band was saying and more to do with what everyone was saying about them.

DawgVegas said...

Got here late, so I'm sure no one is still reading adding comments -- but -- I thought your original question "what do these two bands have in common, other than hailing from the same town?" merited an answer.

They both had a 'hit' with a song called "Don't Look Back."

There, that's my smart ass .02

Also, thanks for the Neil Finn love (in a separate post).