Here’s the thing I love about music: I didn’t know that Peter Frampton fronted the band Humble Pie. I also didn’t know that Iggy Pop fronted The Stooges. Hell, I didn’t even know that The Stooges were as awesome as they are until I downloaded their albums this afternoon after reading that they were one of Lester Bangs’ favorite bands.
That’s why music is music is music. Because there’s always something new to learn.
I could have told you that Buddy Holly died in that plane crash because he won a coin toss with Waylon Jennings for the final seat, but somehow I neglected to recognize the importance of every CBGB band that some people detest, others revere, and most have simply heard of (or never heard of). But much like the New York punk scene of the 1970’s, every city has its Blondies, its Ramones, its Talking Heads, or its Stooges, or even its MC5 in Detroit. But while some of us were listening to Donald Fagen and Steely Dan, others were listening to Rod Stewart and The Faces. While some were listening to the Eagles, others were listening to the Carpenters. While some of us were listening to Nirvana, others were listening to Paula Abdul. Is there a right? Is there a cool? Is there a wrong? Is there a lame? We’d all like to think so. But for each of us, it is what it is.
It is what it is.
It actually is a bit humbling, to be honest. Because I sometimes try to think of myself as a music snob. I collect music. I have over 12,000 songs in my iPod and I somehow feel that this makes me an authority on music. It doesn’t.
That pisses me off.
The fact is, I love music. I once bought a Jane Wiedlin album because it cost 99 cents and she appeared to be half naked on the cover. But I still listened to it. And one way or another, that’s a good thing. That’s all there is to it. My tastes in music don’t make my knowlege any greater than anyone else’s; but I will say that I’ve read an awful lot of music books. My open mindedness towards all sorts of music has led to this pak-rat frame of mind that I seem to have when it comes to albums. I was one of those guys that would buy the cut-out Jane Wiedlin album in the super-bargain bin at mall record stores when everyone else was buying RATT albums. I skipped the “hair metal” stage because I was listening to Elvis Costello.
I’m thankful for that. Because RATT sucks.
Elvis Costello was around before RATT even knew how to tune a guitar.
The thing is, RATT can’t be discounted as significant in the evolution of music. They were a part of the heavy metal scene in the 1980’s. That much is undeniable. Does their significance make them good? No! Are you fucking crazy? They were a band that knew how to put together a bunch of chords. Beyond that they could play the part. They had big hair, tight clothes, and they oozed sex. Guys wanted to be them because guys thought that every member of RATT went to bed with a different Playboy model every night. Who among you reading this can even name a single member of the band?
Let me help. Here’s a list of every musician who’s played with the band: Warren DeMartini, Bobby Blotzer, Stephen Pearcy, Robbie Crane, John Corabi, Juan Croucier, Robbin Crosby, Jizzy Pearl, Keri Kelli, Marq Torien, and Michael Schenker.
Maybe I’m an idiot (and more often than not, I am) but none of those guys are any more significant to me than my mechanic is.
They had one big hit: “Round and Round.” A decent song. But one that had more to do with timing than it did with quality. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing that song after I’ve sucked down 15 keg beers out in the middle of a field out in the middle of nowhere. But is it really a “good” song? Sure. Fine. But should RATT have sold 10-fucking-million albums? No. No they should not.
I just don’t know how to express the importance of music these days to those who care about it. There are so many genres now that it’s hard to really accept a single sound as one’s personal favorite. I mean I love classic rock, but I also love the music produced by artists like Kanye West, Timbaland, Mos Def, and so on. I love the New Wave punk sound that was the Talking Heads and Blondie, but I also love the New Wave electronic sound that gave us Yaz, Depeche Mode, Erasure, and New Order. At the same time there are bands like Squeeze, the Smithereens, XTC, and They Might Be Giants who all fit significantly into the hierarchy of modern day music. But they’re also all but forgotten. You show me a 13-year-old kid who’s familiar with “Making Room For Nigel,” and I’ll show you a parent who I would be proud of.
The question is: how does one successfully reconcile all these various tastes without compromising one’s aesthetic stance on rock ‘n’ roll? Is it possible?
Music isn’t about what’s cool. In fact, it’s the opposite. Music is about what we feel when we hear it. If I hear an uber-twangy, rock-a-billy, drink-a-long acoustic anthem and I love it, I can’t apologize for that. For whatever reason, it moved me. But if you tell me that you love a laranx-laden, thrash metal, symphonic-wanna-be piece of trash, I can’t fault you for it either. I have to accept that you happen to be in-tune with that particular sound at that particular time. But don’t expect me to appreciate it for the same reasons you do when I can’t possibly relate.
At the same time, don’t you dare fault me for my tastes when you have no idea what my taste buds crave. If you’re eating a delicate chicken dinner, are you going to pour a thick, rich port wine down your throat at the same time? Perhaps, if that’s to your taste. But just because protocal dictates that red wine goes with red pasta sauce, doesn’t mean that a person who suffers from tannin alergies should subject themselves to the havoc that their body would have to endure upon consuming such a beverage when they decide to order a meal consisting of ravioli in a thick, red, meat sauce.
If you like disco with your burger, than order it.
Don’t judge others based on their knowlege of music, or lack thereof. But more importantly, don’t judge others based on their tastes. You don’t know what they had as an appetizer. And more often than not, they didn’t know that they could order off the menu.