Monday, October 19, 2015
It's Not About The Beatles
I spent most of the weekend working, but did manage to listen to a dozen or so records, because I always have time for music. I gave Bruce's "The River" a spin, all four sides. With the news of an expanded multi-disc box on the horizon, I was inspired. About 20 seconds into "Sherry Darling," the second song on Side One, I was immediately transported to Madison Square Garden, the night of November 8th, 2009, when the E Street Band performed the record in its entirety. 30 years after the fact and yet that performance still stands out as one of the greatest evenings of my life.
I listened to "Rubber Soul." I sang along, occasionally miming a Ringo fill, but mostly just listened and wondered how a 25 year old kid could write "Girl."
I listened to Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits, the Peter Green years. I was inspired by a chapter in Elvis Costello's new memoir, where he mentions slow dancing to "Albatross" and goes on a bit about the joys of "Man Of The World." The blues bores many. To those people I say, I can understand that, but then you must not have listened to Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. There is quite simply, no band like them.
The Costello memoir made me pull out "Imperial Bedroom," a record I have not listened to in years. I recall thinking at the time, that this was Costello's masterpiece. I am happy to say, I loved every minute of it as much as I did then.
I listened to the new record from a favorite New Orleans artist, Jon Cleary. The record is called "GoGo Juice," and it truly is a perfect New Orleans record. It doesn't pander to the casual Crescent City listener, with songs about gumbo. It never mentions Bourbon Street or the phrase "Le Bon Temps Roulez." It's a collection of nine real songs by real musicians that hit all the right marks, evoking second line beats, southern funk and heartfelt rhythm and blues.
I also listened to Todd Rundgren's "A Wizard/A True Star," Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is," the Rolling Stones "Live At The Marquee," Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," Blondie's "Eat To The Beat," Dion's "Runaround Sue," "The Zombies' Odessey & Oracle" and "The Who By Numbers."
I mention all this because I woke up this morning staring at a blank page completely uninspired. I went to Rolling Stone dot com, hoping for something to catch my eye and ear. Three of the first four headlines were devoted to Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. The fourth was about Phil Lesh's bladder cancer. And if anyone cares, Gwen Stefani has a new depressing single out, all about her divorce from Gavin MacLeod. (Or whoever that guy from Bush is.)
Years ago, when I stood behind the counter at my retail outlet, and watched people stop buying CDs because there was "no good music anymore," my reply was always the same.
"What do you like?"
One person said she loved Tom Waits, so I asked if she had a favorite and she said "The only one I have is Rain Dogs." She was surprised when I told her the news about his dozen or so more releases and I said "There are thousands of records out there that you haven't heard and they are all worth buying. There is always something good to buy."
I was trying to avoid at all costs another rant about how much I dislike the music being made these days. Partly to spare you from another "been there/done that" Monday and partly because I didn't want to hear a few of the inevitable accusations having to do with my lawn or attitude. I took this approach because the music I did listen to this weekend, some of it over 50 years old, not only still holds up, but still sounds fresh and still inspires me. The depth of the songwriting, the quality of the musicianship and the lost art of creating albums versus songs is long gone and I just cannot smile and mean it when I listen to records that are supposed to be amazing. I need them to actually be amazing. Or at the very least better than "not bad," which as you know, is the new "great." I don't feel a need to stay current, or pretend to like some young mediocre band just so people don't think I am stuck in a time warp. I listen to it all with great enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm is usually murdered three songs into most new releases.
This is not about hype. Not this time. This is about quality. It's disappeared almost completely. The bar has not been lowered. It has been buried.
(And no, I was not working at Nunziato Florists.)