This was probably my first exposure to delta blues and I remember being transfixed by the sound of the slide. Strangely enough, the father of the girl whom I’d lose my virginity to burned me the BBC sessions the summer prior to the big event.
My brother sent me an article last week about Robert Plant saying he’d be open to to doing something with his former band, the mightiest rock quartet ever, Led Zeppelin. I am sure it’s obvious from my love of 70’s rock that they are in fact one of my favorite bands. In fact, along with the Beatles, I think Zep is a band that almost everyone likes to some degree. They did so much for popular music that I don’t think it can be written about enough. I’ve read at least three books on the band and I learn more every time. The question is, should they re-unite?
While driving to work during a run of recent rainy days–which is a rarity in my state where it is sunny 90% of the time–I was contemplating some weather-appropriate emotions of weariness, worry and frustration. I know that a great deal of this came from the weather, but it seemed to be bubbling from within and spilling over without.
As usual, I was listening to the radio. This day was a jazz day because I just couldn’t handle commercials or, I thought, anything with words in it. The children were strapped in their car seats. The traffic was beginning to clear. The rain stopped and the sky seemed to lighten. And then this song came on the radio:
What a sick song! As I shared last week, I did in fact give up alcohol for lent. I am listening to a lot of drinking songs as of late as a means to cope I think, although it is not really that bad. I actually don’t even drink as I did in my college years and its more of a social thing now, but I couldn’t remember the last time I went more than a few days without a single beer so I thought it was probably the best thing for me to give up for Lent.
So, last week I accidentally posted the bit below about Lil’ Wayne and then deleted it in favor of something else. Lil’ Wayne’s appearance in the gossip mags as the lover of Chris Bosh’s wife made me remember it. My first thought was, screw the Heat. My second thought was, why? I compared pictures of Bosh and Wayne, then considered the height differential and examined all the angles.
Some things are just meant to stay mysterious. But, the current events do give me a good excuse to go back to Lil’ Wayne, the big talent in a not so small package.
My brother wrote the other day about his “issues” the Grammys and how he doesn’t like award shows yet still pays attention. I agree with each one of his points. It is all about money and who sells records, but why wouldn’t it be if it was created by record executives? I don’t say this as a point of contention with my brother, just that it has always seemed to me like it was all about money. Same with his next two points in that its meant to sell more records and it is a rich person party thrown by rich people.
About four years ago I was renovating a house myself—doing tile-work, demolition, painting, you name it—and commuting a lot. In my car, I listened to the radio; in the house, headphones. When I was actually in my office to talk to students I was, for better or worse, usually exhausted, a bit over-caffeinated and still vibrating with whatever music I found compelling that week. During one of the meetings, a quiet girl told me she was going to a major music festival in our region. I said I was going too. She asked which band I was most excited to see. I turned into a teenaged girl from New Jersey.
A few weeks ago I ruminated on the difficulty of learning about music (in a dependable way) in an age when we are overwhelmed by both the number of bands available and the media outlets discussing them. It isn’t so much that there are more acts out there (though, there may be) but that we hear about them all. One of our frequent commenters, londongigger, who has a very nice blog where he reviews live shows, noted that in London there are literally thousands of performances a week.
From experience, I know that the scene is similar in places like New York City and Austin, Texas. Learning about new music by seeing the bands becomes a full job, a needle-in-the-haystack obsession. Who has the time (or money and stamina) to keep up with this?
At the same time, another thing I failed to mention is that the digital age has sapped the power of critics and tastemakers. While this is good (freeing up both artists and audiences from certain hegemonies) it has the unintended effect of splintering music experience and reducing the framework provided by a common canon of music. I don’t know if I am lamenting or just observing.
Anyway, writing this blog has both forced me to engage with newer music more fully and to seek out new artists at a faster pace than previous years. Recently, I have been aided in this by a younger friend, The Only D. After I reacted (with some speed) to his last list of suggestions, he hit me up with another.
In honor of the fake holiday upon us tomorrow, I will add another love song and re-post this one from last year.
I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s day. I think it’s a fake holiday. But this is my favorite love song. What’s yours?
Not that much has changed romantically for me this year. I repeated some mistakes and made some new ones, hung out with some old girlfriends and tried to make new ones and generally continued on as I normally have. But things feel different. This winter has been a tough one with some glimmers of luck and hope. I just got a long term substitution job teaching in my general field and in the second interview I was asked if I wanted to play with the teacher’s band. The bassist can’t play for the school assembly on Friday and it appears I will fill that spot. It’s good to meet everyone, put me in their minds and hopefully get a real job in the near future. It looks brighter than it has professionally in some time.
Songs of the Year: “The Only Answer,” Mike Doughty; “Get off,” The Dandy Warhols Runners Up: “Don’t Know Why”, Norah Jones; “Goodbye to You,” Michelle Branch Honorable Mentions: “Clocks,” Coldplay; “Fell in Love With a Girl,” The White Stripes
After the doldrums of 2001, I actually tried to like some new music in 2002. My Elliott Smith obsession got serious; I tried to like Badly Drawn Boy. Some albums were released that I would learn to love much later (by Spoon and Tegan and Sara especially). I never did get very deeply into Badly Drawn Boy. I remember standing on an elevated platform, waiting to change subway lines, listening to a track for the second time and then just unplugging my headphones. I couldn’t connect.
While some of the top music of the year wasn’t terrible (Coldplay’s Rush of Blood to the Head wasn’t bad) the horrors of 2001 lingered (John Mayer; J. Lo; Britney spears). There were too many bad albums by good bands (Maladroit by Weezer, among others) while others released compilation albums (They Might Be Giants) or live albums (Ben Folds) to occupy my time.
So, the Grammys are coming up soon and they promise to offer the typical menu of pageantry, performers, promotion and implicit prior authorization of music purchases. (Like that? Cynicism and alliteration at once?)
I mentioned not liking awards shows earlier this week, but I didn’t really state my objections rather clearly. For sake of clarity, then, here are my issues (and, yes, my brother, I am saying ‘issues’ the way our father would).
The Grammys are about making money: The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (which gives out the award) was created by Recording executives. The process of nomination and the doling out of awards is really just one orgy of promotion for the recordings peddled by the sponsoring companies.
The awards in every category are really about selling the most or being the best-known: It is obvious that to win an award, people need to know about you, but it isn’t true that just because something is well-known it is necessarily good or that it is better than something that isn’t as well-known. Further, just because a larger number of people buy something doesn’t mean that it is aesthetically superior. If anything, ‘products’ in wide circulation are often rather non-descript and mediocre.
Awards shows are solipsistic and self-congratulatory parties thrown by rich people for other rich people. I think that says enough.
The Grammys are historically bad at gauging important contributions to music: Pearl Jam won a grammy in 1996 for “Hard Rock Performance”, four years after Jeremy. Grammy voters are older and part of the record industry or institutionalized enough that they are universally conservative. Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991; Nirvana) is often cited as one of the most important albums of the 1990s. The year it was eligible for a Grammy The album of the year was Unforgettable …With Love (Natalie Cole). The Alternative album of the year was Out of Time (R.E.M). The next year? Album of the Year was Eric Clapton’s Unplugged. Alternative Album? Tom Waits’ Bone Machine. (Nine Inch Nails and Red Hot Chili Peppers got some love in the Rock Category but SIR MIX -A-LOT won the best Rap Solo Performance Grammy!).
The Academy authorized THIS? Perhaps I should rethink my criticisms….