At the end of the first paragraph of last Wednesday's post-election rant, I made a stale joke about this blog being a "pleasant distraction"...as long as I don't feature a number of artists and genres I happen to love. (You know, the ones that seem to get little or no love from readers.) I guess it really wasn't a joke because I have been thinking about it on and off for a few days and I really want to know why?
Why isn't jazz more popular here? Or reggae? Or heavy metal? Or electronica?
I guess there's no real answer. If you don't dig reggae or jazz, you
don't dig reggae or jazz. Life goes on. But I am sure there are elements
of reggae, jazz and even hard rock and heavy metal in the music you do
love, so the aversion to entire genres seems unreasonable...to me.
I know heavy metal fans who hate The Beatles. I know Beatles fans who don't listen to anything but the Beatles. I know people who claim to love all music yet have no music of color in their rotation at all. No rap. No Latin. No blues. No reggae. No soul. None. I know a Stones fanatic who thinks "all blues sounds the same." ("Respectable," "When The Whip Comes Down," "Let Me Go," "Lies," "Where The Boys Go." You get the point.) There are E Street Band fans who don't care for Thin Lizzy, and vice versa. To my ears, it's six of one. Just a different country.
You could be a fan of Bruce Springsteen, an artist who just happens to be a fan of The Clash, The MC5 and Suicide and yet have no interest in any of those artists, and that is exactly what I am interested in, because as a fan, I want to hear what he hears. Then maybe I can appreciate something that doesn't immediately sound like "Born To Run" or "Darkness On The Edge Of Town."
I had a discussion a few years back with an old friend who is a Grammy Award winning jazz musician. After years of developing a following by playing some of the best hard bop jazz I had ever heard, he began to abandon his bop setlists so that he could incorporate elements of trip hop & rap and crossover to a younger audience. I understood his motives and the need to see his fan base expand. But I also saw a different side. I suggested that younger people would be more apt to show up for the trip hop and stay for the hard bop, whereas the older jazz purists would not tolerate the trip hop or rap and simply stop showing up altogether. A 25 year old will listen to both Miles' "Kind Of Blue" and Public Enemy's "Fear Of A Black Planet." A 65 year old, will listen to "Kind Of Blue," but he won't be having none of that rap shit. He accepted my point of view, but ultimately didn't change a thing.
Even my boy Todd Rundgren has said, "My original audience is already dying! If they're my age, we've reached our life expectancy. So If you want to continue to make music, you have to find what that new audience is listening to. And if you lose a few people in the process, c'est la vie!" My first reaction was "Ah, take it on a hop, Todd!" But I've since cooled off because I get it. I just wish he wasn't always such a dick about things. And I wish he was a better rapper.
The real point here is, why is it a chore for so many to appreciate both "Kind Of Blue" and "Fear Of A Black Planet?" Or, "Born To Run" and "Western Stars?" Or folk and punk?
And why should age come into play? My father hated Led Zeppelin and any "long haired, hippie crap," even though he was almost a year younger than Jimmy Page when we saw LZ together. Why does Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" suddenly seem like racket to people who once loved it 30 years ago? Many of the people making the music that we avoid because it's too loud, too fast or too aggressive are often the same age or older than we are.
Why do Todd Rundgren fans, myself occasionally, or any fans of any artist for that matter, take offense at new direction? Would Elvis Costello's "The Delivery Man" be tolerated if Lucinda Williams put it out? How about "The River In Reverse?" Better if it was just an Allen Toussaint record? Costello's output in the last 30 years has been both daring and diverse, some records better than others, but no record to be ashamed of, and yet, so many fans dropped him like a hot potato after "Imperial Bedroom." Some, earlier than that. Yet, Neil Young churns out crap after crap like he's on a beans and sauerkraut diet, and he's untouchable. Don't misunderstand me. I love Neil. But I'd see right through your defense of "Greendale."
I just don't get it.
I decided I wanted to try your patience once a week---and no, this post doesn't count---by posting an album that I consider as wonderful and necessary as anything else in my collection. I can't make you listen, but since we are here to discuss music, I am hoping for something that resembles serious commentary, as opposed to something snarky like,"Good beat, you can dance to it" while listening to an ambient Eno piece. Or, "This was my wedding song" ~snort~ on a post featuring a hardcore punk act. (Both real comments, by the way.)
Listening to it all shouldn't be considered out of the ordinary. I do think playing it safe and sticking to your tried and true---a guy and a guitar, a verse and a chorus--isn't quite as adventurous, and it certainly doesn't offer as many opportunites to be wowed. But this is a personal feeling. There is no wrong or right. I'm well aware that not everything speaks to everyone. But after so many jazz, reggae, metal, electronica, New Orleans brass band, hardcore, punk and ska posts where the only thing louder than the crickets was the silence, I felt like I wanted to address it. I think it will make great conversation and maybe we can all find some new old music to love.
Any comments of the "We like what we like" or "Who cares" ilk will be deleted, toot sweet. If that's how you feel, why are you still reading Burning Wood?
I do hope you all play along when the first episode of "Trying Your Patience" appears next week.