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June 11, 2010

A Rant Against the Music of the 80’s

MTV and drum machines ruined music. My wife is at a party tonight with all her high school friends dancing to music from the 1980’s. I’m home pouting.

MTV and drum machines, indeed, and CDs, colder than a witch’s teat.

Whatever your tastes let me reel off a few names from the 60’s and 70’s: Janis, Jimi, The Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Morrison, CSNY, Beach Boys, Creedence, The Dead, Simon & Garfunkel, The Who, Joni, Elvis, Aretha, Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, Bee Gees, Bob Marley, Queen.

Now a few from the 80’s: The Knack, Kiss, Madonna, Prince, Spandau Ballet, The Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, The B-52’s, Aerosmith, Blondie, Boy George, Simple Minds, The Bangles, New Kids on the Block, Adam Ant, Wham.

Point made or not? Young people in the 80’s, not only girls, rightly just wanna have fun, but most of their songs turned out as jokes. So what? What’s wrong with a decade of comedic music? Oh, did I forget Devo? How could I forget?

The best album of the decade, Paul Simon’s Graceland, was a serious opening to world music, but look at the texts. They’re bizarre and funny, weird and coy. Still some sort of joke.

I can imagine the early years of music videos filled with directors yelling, “Dance around, honey, do something colorful. This is video! You’re not just singing songs anymore!” The actors got silly out of take-75 boredom (And since when was music ever boring? Don't like it, turn it off. No need for funny hats.) Then the MT videos got choppy and neurotic, and the line between a commercial for a song and a commercial for cornflakes disappeared.

Now we have these Gaga mega-concerts with disturbing flashing lights, dancing girls and boys, dancing singers, sets, costume changes, smoke fog and bubbles. If you don’t like to go out and pay money, it’s all over invasion tv too. As if that were music. That’s Ziegfeld’s Follies, Cirque du Soleil. Often it's soft porn. But is it music? What’re those empty words they're chewing on? Is the drummer playing with his hands or a memory card? Anyone under 50 remember Leon Redbone, who plays sitting down, singing softly?

Can someone—pick a card, any card: Maria Muldaur singing Midnight at the Oasis—do it for you without the tricks, give you the love that songs are for without any medicine show con-artist mirrors and distractions? Somebody like Christina Aguilera has the pipes, but is she singing a song or just shouting: Look at me, over here, everybody, check me out!?

Here’s a good song. A really good song.
By whom?
Not interested.
No sexy video either.
Double not interested.

Here’s a good song from the 60’s and 70’s: Let It Be
Here’s a good song from the 80’s: Walk Like an Egyptian
(What? 80’s music, jokes? Says who?)

Nirvana came along and saved us all. Pearl Jam. Dave Matthews. Ben Harper. Natalie Merchant. U2. Green Day. Dido. Chili Peppers. Black Eyed Peas. Oasis. Shakira. Plenty of decent stuff came after the 80’s. I’m not stuck in my high school/college years, too much. Okay, we all are to some degree [I posted Born to be Wild on my YouTube channel], but if you can consider my point without nostalgic prejudice, I may be onto something.

Or I may not. I may just be trying to provoke any reaction, because I don’t get much response to my blog, and I’m wondering whether I should continue writing if no one’s reading. My brother says: if you can’t be good, be controversial. I’ll be watching the comments box for infuriated 40-somethings who feel their beloved music’s been offended. Give me your best shot.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: He does like trouble.
Jeff: Masochistic retrograde song terrorist.
Mutt: Got a poem for you, my man.
Jeff: Have at it.
Mutt: Here.
"The attributes
Of bathing suits
For lasses of lithesome limb
Make me inquire
If this attire
Is worn to slink or swim."
Jeff: For the love of Mike, that’s a zinger!
Mutt: ... well?
Jeff: Okay.
"A bachelor is a cagey guy.
He has a load of fun.
He likes to check out all the chicks,
And never Mrs. one."
Mutt: Oowah! You win. Uncle! I can’t stand it anymore.