Friday, May 26, 2017

Social Media will be the death of us all. If not literally, then most definitely the death of our hearts, minds and souls. Before I owned a computer or a cell phone, I was living a life where The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper was a record everyone loved. There was never a doubt about its importance, even if we all loved "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" more.  But now, thanks to the internet, I get to read things like "Sgt. Pepper is baby-boomer wankery." Thanks to social media, I now know someone thinks "Sgt. Pepper has one good song." Of course, that one song is "Within You, Without You." But you knew that, right?

Thanks to the internet, I can read articles in eMags (!) written by misinformed hacks, about how horrible Billy Joel really is. I can also participate in a discussion about Billy Joel, where I do my best to politely agree with the bile being spewed at Mr. Joel, over certain songs, songs that even Joel himself dislikes, but still valiantly try to defend Mr. Joel because of so many other wonderful deep tracks that most Joel detractors have never even heard. None of this is as much fun as actually listening to "Sgt. Pepper" or "Turnstiles."

I've driven down the snark road many times before. Long before Burning Wood existed, my business partner and I composed a weekly newsletter about new releases, good and bad. It was very popular. But looking back at some of those newsletters which have been preserved on a blog, I now realized, we were misinformed hacks. Nothing about our newsletter was helpful in selling product. It was mostly joke after nasty joke about how we disapproved of everything and everyone, all to stir the pot and to get a few yuks. Ten years gone, I'm not finding it very funny. It's mostly sad.

Everyone's a critic, and I won't purport to be better or worse than anyone else. One thing I do strive to be is true. I also like to think I have the trust of my readers. I know many times, I've written a bad review, only to give that record a few more spins at the encouragement of others who were fans of the record, and many times, have turned around. I also know, if I really do hate something or someone, drummer Carter Beauford comes to mind, I will do all I can to give examples why. I don't think I have ever just hit and run.

"Sgt. Pepper is baby-boomer wankery."

Go fuck yourself.


Shriner said...


A great post to start the morning!

snakeboy said...

I agree. That's why I don't read them. Why elevate the blood pressure?
Having said that, have you read some of the reviews at Rate Your Music?
What bothers me the most is that most people can't speak / write in complete sentences anymore.

Mr. Baez said...

Thank you for articulating my thoughts. I couldn't agree more. Rave on.

Ken D said...

At my age I figure life's too short to waste any of it listening to anyone who doesn't like the Beatles or to argue about anything concerning Billy Joel. However, your short and accurate rant-lette was worth the time.
Enjoy the long weekend, all.

daudder said...

we live in the age of contrary, where a 'truth' is countered with a perspective that posits an 'alternate truth'. (this absurdly leads to fake news and foxnews, but that is another story)

All one needs to realize about Sgt Pepper is the list of artists (of its time and of its ancestry) that cite it as an awaking, a challenge and as an achievement that changed everything after it.

a masterpiece does not have to be perfection to be a masterpiece.

Fishguy said...

I'm sure some accomodation can be made here. I'll bet that if you stop worrying about the musical tastes of people who probably think auto-tune is both "normal" and good, they'll stay off your lawn.

Anonymous said...

You, of course, have the solution in your own posting -- you CAN read those things that disturb you...or you can treat them like the garbage or click-bait that they may very well be and pass 'em by. Personally, I like reading things I know I'm going to disagree with, sometimes so I can try and understand the opposing perspective (I reserve these times for when I think the opinion is sincere), and sometimes just to see how ridiculous someone can be. Sgt Pepper is far from my favorite Beatles album, but it's a great album, and it contains my favorite Beatles song and one of my all-time two favorite songs ("A Day In The Life" and "Working Class Hero" trade first place intermittently). Liberal tree-hugging Californian that I am, I can imagine that someone with a dearth of imagination or perspective could see Sgt. Pepper as overly indulgent, but I'd chalk that up to the adjectives I used earlier in this sentence, or intentional (read: false) 'edginess' to get attention; none of these possible reasons for professing such hooey warrant me getting my dander up. The stupidity exhibited is on the person stating such hooey, and it'll live forever on the internet for everyone to see the stupidity.
I'd add this: People who have goofy ideas have been there forever, of course, so social media just brings 'em out, and of course gives them a way to amplify their views. You know this, I know, so I'm just making the point in response to the increasing drumbeat of derision and lamentation I hear about how social media is breaking down things. This from a guy with a flip phone (who bought his first phone EVER as a 53-year-old in 2014, no joke!) and no social media accounts. I think it's the addiction to the devices as much as social media that is hurting everything.
Your readers DO trust your voice, and even tho I have vast differences with you on some of your likes/dislikes, I value your opinion. So I'm having a little trouble with you noting that you've written 'bad' reviews; were they bad, or just different from what you subsequently came to believe after further consideration? The first time I heard Nick Cave, I thought it so laughably pretentious that I played it the second time only because I told my best bud that he HAD to hear this lame junk I'd listened to the day before. And on that second listen, I had an epiphany of sorts and that Nick Cave album is one of my top-20 favorites to this day. I have no rational explanation. My first 'review' wasn't 'bad', it's just that it (obviously) hit me different than it did the second time I played it. My reasons for dismissing Dylan as a youngster were valid for me at the time, but I came to have an epiphany about him, too, a year or so after my Nick Cave epiphany; clearly, my mind was expanding at that time. Ultimately, it seems best to me when someone can articulate why something doesn't work for them -- so you as the respondent can decide the merits of their reasoning -- but I'm also OK with someone merely declaring that something doesn't work for them and they can't quite say why that is.
Finally -- you got me going here! -- I had to look up Carter Beauford to see who he was, as I'm not up on DMB beyond having heard of them. I plugged the name into BurningWood to see what you'd said about him previously, and found the 9.3.14 post (which I'd forgotten about, but thoroughly enjoyed reading again; amen to finding Axl Rose's voice a supreme irritant!). I know we agree on Ringo's greatness as a drummer, and Dylan's greatness as a vocalist, so I'm always curious to read your take on musicians/bands/music that we differ on (see the start of this loooong response!).
C in California

Sal Nunziato said...

C In Cali,

Looking back at old reviews of McCartney's solo output since the 90's, I was more than unkind. I've written about that, too. I don't know what I was expecting to hear, but I trashed the hell out of all of them. Just lazy, poorly written toss-offs, and if you had asked me at the time, to cite specifics, I couldn't. I know this, because when I revisited all of these Macca records--"Driving Rain," "Memory Almost Full," and especially "Chaos & Creation," I recognized nothing. I went back after the encouragement of people I respected and I found a whole new appreciation for solo Paul. So, maybe this is why lazy/smug journalism is such a sore spot. It's real easy to make fun of "Just The Way You Are." But dismissing an entire career over a few lemons is unfair. Anyone see any of Robert De Niro's movies in the last 20 years? How about listening to the last 15 Neil Young records?

"none of these possible reasons for professing such hooey warrant me getting my dander up."

I can't control my dander. I wish I could.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Sal. I would argue, tho, that you explain yourself quite clearly even in your befuddlement at your previous thinking. As you said, McCartney wasn't hitting the spots you expected of him -- and he hit the highest in his younger days, so it's valid for you to hope for more of those! -- so you weren't satisfied. But with time and perspective, you came to accept that what he was doing was valid, on its own terms (I'm presuming here, of course). To me, both perspectives are valid, even if you believe your earlier dismissal was facile rather than thought-out.
The dander thing...well, one can't reason away dander. I can't/won't judge it cuz I've got my dander demons, too. I don't like it when it betters me, but...I can't help it, goddamnit!
C in California

Anonymous said...

The Quietus had an article recently in which the staff picked artists' late career albums that they preferred to the artists' more iconic releases. I was surprised to see one writer picked Neil Young's "Le Noise." still not convinced, but it got me to listen to it again.

David Federman said...

Oh the fickleness of time and taste. Remember 8 years ago when Beatles' purists argued against remixes, citing the sacred need to preserve the authenticity of the original masters. I admit to some trepidation about remixes myself. But hearing the 50th anniversary CD, I realize Sgt. Pepper (not just Mr. Kite) has benefitted enormously from the makeover. Indeed, now we'll probably clamor for remixes of "Revolver" and "Magical Mystery Tour." And they, too, will be as superior to the originals as this new 'Pepper' refurbishment is. As far as I am concerned, "Sgt. Pepper" retains its position as rock and roll's pinnacle. And hearing it brings a flood of memories that will always be welcome. But there is something new to the experience. The remix has made this album as much a product of the present as it is the past. It is a triumph of restoration.

Anything Should Happen said...

A great read as always Sal and you are right and I've been as guilty as anyone of dissing what is in front of me. You know one artist that I can see no good in, no matter what they do. Take Billy Joel, I'm not a fan, but I see a lot of criticism of him because he doesn't record new songs. Why should he, if it doesn't float his boat or he feels they'd be substandard, fair enough. People will still want to see him because he has a canon of songs that stand up.

A further point about this internet moaning. We've all loved our little secret bands and moved away when they were popular as though that's a crime, but what I dislike most is people comparing everything unfavourably to the past.

I started I Don't Hear A Single simply because the large circle of people around me kept banging on about how all new artists are crap. They clearly aren't. It's easy to record stuff now and so there is a lot of tosh around, but there are some fine young bands around, it's just that Mojo or Rolling Stone are not gonna tell you about them.

Sgt Pepper was never my favourite Beatles album, but it is better than most around. I've heard it too much maybe, my dad played it to death and the hype was always going to be considerable this year. But no one could ever consider it bad, bad compared to what?

Robin said...

I get it, and agree. I listened to the the remix just now and it's far from wankery for sure, it's the same beautiful piece I remember it to be from my vinyl but perhaps with more toughness. They were rockers, even here. For all the snark about it (snarker's loss), it reminded me once again that I and many others are not wrong about this record or more importantly this band. For every jerk who is trying to be hip on Twitter, there's a Questlove (whom I adore) waxing philosophic and rhapsodic about Sgt. Pepper. Who am I going to listen to? Questlove or Joe know it all? Sgt Pepper is not so much psychedelic curio, but a visit to a land, a multi colored visit to somewhere (White Album always felt like a cool camp somewhere, but it's earthy) where everything is slightly subverted. I always feel like I ran away with the circus (a circus kind to elephants of course!) when I listen. I know not everyone liked "Love" compilation and remixes, I for one agreed with a review I saw in Entertainment Weekly, that it made me hear this oversaturated band, over familiar voices for almost the first time, and I felt that way today a bit listening to "Lovely Rita" (bass! harmonies!) and "A Day in the Life".

Do I still love "Rubber Soul" more? You betcha! I even love "A Hard Day's Night" better (my heart!), but I recognize the achievement "Pepper" is, and it's more fun than most think. I think it's just "cool" to knock it. Well, it's not, aren't we past "cool"? It's music!!! I have noticed that my friends born in 70s and 80s, love "Sgt Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour"! They don't seem to have the baggage about it that those a bit older than them may have. Mileage here among readers may vary, but that's been my experience.

I have noticed something on social media, which I love, but I try to sift whose comments I read and make sure it's the journey I want to be on. I follow a lot of TV critics in this time of Peak TV, and though we can sometimes disagree, they are wonderful and insightful, but what I have noticed is if they criticize something even slightly- even big guns like "The Sopranos" "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad" even "All in the Family" for lord's sake, it brings out everyone agreeing with the statement the critic made, as if they are trying to impress a person they don't know. The old, "The Godfather s**cked" crap. No, it didn't. You just didn't like it. It's an odd trip back to high school in some ways. I've just noticed that I have to take a virtual weed whacker and be very careful and also sift what I read, and read mainly those who I respect, they rarely lead me wrong, and if we disagree, it's an informed disagreement. The false equality that social media has wrought is something I struggle with but I still think it's worth it. It bothers me more on FB than Twitter.

Right now I'm reading Rob Sheffield's glorious, heartfelt "Dreaming the Beatles" so nothing can get me down, armed with this book. I refuse to read anything negative about it. Take that internet trolls! Have a good, long weekend Sal and everyone!

Robin said...

I also wanted to say after rereading comments here, all of which I concur with, it got me thinking- that I've always had a problem with 'overrated' a term a lot of internet trolls use. If someone says they don't like something, that's cool, the vibration isn't for them (although I never believe anyone doesn't like the Beatles, they don't like John or Paul or the sound but they don't hate all those amazing songs, any more than they hate Steve Wonder's actual amazing songs it's like saying you hate Hoagy Carmichael or Burt Bacharach or all of Smokey's songwriting, or saying that Louis Armstrong couldn't play the cornet, um, yeah he *could*). Anyway, when someone says something is 'overrated' it implies that one can defend the stance. Not liking it is an emotional reaction but stating something is 'overrated' means you can defend your position, debate it and defend it again, and do it well (musically, in musical terms). I have found that none of these naysayers can usually. That is telling. (There's a difference between 'overrated' and 'overpraised' or more relevant to The Beatles, 'overplayed'). Okay, back to Pepperland. ;)

Charlie Messing said...

That was the album even people who did not like the Beatles listened to. It was the one to top, the one to dig, the one to make ya think, the one that won album of the year, etc. People who had never heard anything that wasn't three minutes (or four) actually sat through "Day in the Life". They thought about being 64, and all those folks on the front was an eye-opener and you heard it everywhere. Meanwhile, all those other great records were coming out (and Whiter Shade of Pale was single of the year). It's the snapshot people have of 1967 (people who aren't Really into music). I guess "baby-boomer wankery" must be part of some discussion - why it's Not a good album? You mentioned Billy Joel in there too...people listening to him who don't like him? I think music kind of belongs to the people who love it. It doesn't belong to the people who hate it. [and I would like to hear Pepper mono someday.]

Michael Giltz said...

Great post! I have to say I have always found you and NYCD back in the day a place where taste and artists and certainly customers were never mocked. You had and have passionate opinions but always first and foremost you're interested in championing the stuff you love. If someone likes something bad, you guys weren't inclined to mock, you'd simply suggest they also check out the music and artists that inspired that pale rip-off in the politest terms and hopefully blow them away with Moby Grape or Joni Mitchell or whatever. Your comment on A Hard Day's Night did push me to go back and listen to it (yet) again with an open ear and your thoughts in mind. The amazing thing about the Beatles is how great they were from the start and yet how they kept growing by leaps and bounds. To me, a case can be made for many of them (Hard Day's Night on) but the case gets stronger with Beatles For Sale and then stronger again leaps astronomically ahead with Rubber Soul. As much as I can admire Hard Day's Night, I do think Rubber Soul and Revolver and Sgt Pepper are leagues ahead for countless reasons you could list even if you disagree. So not sold on that (or the other Beach Boys albums over Pet Sounds) but it's always fun to debate and listen and shake up our preconceived ideas of the pantheon. But only an idiot would say Pepper (or The Godfather) sucks. Thanks for venting!

rick said...

When I hear or read the word 'overrated', all that comes to mind is Trump using it to describe Meryl Streep's talents as an actress.

Robin said...

One of the members of the The Grateful Dead, I can't remember whom, supposedly said after a "Pepper" listening party that it was fantastic/extraordinary- or some other superlative- but that he missed the "tight quartet that they were" (paraphrasing), and I don't think he was even talking about faves Rubber Soul and the untouchable Revolver, I think it was "A Hard Day's Night" or "Beatles For Sale". I could be wrong, but not sure I am because every time I listen to later Beatles or even mid Beatles sometimes- (gulp!) "Revolver", I get it and love it, but then I want to put on "Please, Please Me". Maybe it's just me. There's this idea that what sounds simpler (lyrically, musically) is simpler and not as good, that's not true (and of course doesn't matter, the melody to "Ode to Joy" is simple). This happens with Stevie Wonder. I adore "Talking Book", "Innervisions" "Songs in the Key of Life" with all my heart, but are they 'better' than "My Cherie Amour" or "I Was Born to Love Her"? 'Deeper' isn't better, it's just more introspective and personal but often heavy lyrics sacrifice melody and rhythm (in general). Jackson Browne (I'm a fan) could write a thousand "Late for the Sky" songs and they would never say lyrically or especially musically what Paul said in the much shorter, 'simpler', "For No One" (which is of course mid-Beatles but supports my point, it's perfection) or even "And I Love Her", the latter doesn't need more words, Paul knew that, even then, just like Stevie W always did. I think the boys matured, and their chops got more refined but I don't think "Pepper" is necessarily more evolved or better just different, technically it's a great achievement of course. That this band created "Things We Said Today" and "She Said, She Said" and "A Day in the Life" and "Helter Skelter" boggles my mind. Peace out all, have a great weekend.

Bombshelter Slim said...

Actually, Pepper has 1 1/2 good songs: the aforementioned "Within You..." and the bridge in "Getting Better" (which was actually written by Billy Joel). The truth can now be told!!

Chris Collins said...


rick said...

A worthwhile read in case you (all) haven't already seen this:

David Federman said...

Charlie Messing is right. I remember composer Aaron Copland being interviewed about "what's happening now" in 1967 and paying specific tribute to Sgt. Pepper. Leonard Bernstein praised the album. I don't know what to tell anybody who wasn't there when this album was released and everyone swore their lives would never be the same again. Pepper isn't a collection of songs; it's a song cycle. The Beatles reached an unrepeatable pinnacle. I feel sorry for those who remain impervious to the music. Only the likes of Karlheinz Stockhausen explored and exploited the use of the recording studio to the extent this record does. The Beatles lived at Abbey Road during the making of this album. It was almost a monastic undertaking. That synergy and devotion are what Sgt Pepper is really all about. After "Magical Mystery Tour," the Beatles left the monastery of their music and slowly drifted apart. Who knew that "I Am The Walrus" would be the last masterpiece of its kind?

Gene Oberto said...


My beef with these reviews is that the reviewers point of reference is, at most, less than a decade old. These "I like/ I hate" reviews have no substance or offer no support for their critiques. In this aspect I do raise the specter of these reviews are not as thoughtful or well written as they once were. We live in a world where people choose sides and refuse to consider that there may be some value or knowledge in listening to other opinions.

We all are probably guilty of reading those writers we agree with. But it is such an experience to hear an opposing view that changes the way you look at something.

As to SPLHCB, I just heard the new re-mix and thought it wonderful. Totally familiar but showing the band much warmer and of one mind. I found the outtakes interesting as four tight musicians work out the process of making an album that made the world, at least for a little while, mesmerized with their talent.

Anonymous said...

Shhh. I'm spending the weekend listening to Monkee's "Headquarters". Who made the quote about two kinds of music, the kind I listen to and the kind I don't listen to?

Also, I'm still mining Sal's and all the commenters' Other 100 Albums suggestions. So much music I don't know about.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous,

As Duke Ellington said originally,

"There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind . . ."

Anonymous said...

As usual, I agree with you, Sal.

I'm partial to Rubber Soul over Revolver (but it's a neck and neck race with a burst of speed at the finish line by Rubber Soul).

Sgt. Peppers is sacrosanct. And people who've never listened to it in it's entirety on headphones don't get to weigh in.

(I'm) Stinky
(But my taste is music smells like a rose!)

dogbreath said...

I'm looking forward to listening (and I mean, listening) to the newly revamped Sgt Pepper. Loved the album when I first heard it decades ago & still do. Am I swayed by all the baggage attached to it by critics, reviewers, fans, the man across the road? To misquote and mangle your man Twain, I may not know art but I know what I like. Or, perhaps more succinctly put by a certain M.Jagger: I'm no schoolboy but I know what I like. An honest opinion is just that. But sometimes driving "down the snark road" as you put it, to get a rise out of someone and/or get their honest opinion in return, ain't necessarily a bad thing either. Isn't that why Lewis Carroll wrote "The Hunting of The Snark"? (Er,no, I don't think so - Ed).