Saturday, June 23, 2007

Letting go.

It's been a year today since Nadia died.

I think it's time I took her number off my cell phone.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rock of ages...

One of the fun things about having a teenager is sharing music. He introduces me to Sublime and Gnarls Barkley, I introduce him to Eric Burden and the Animals and Jefferson Airplane*. It's a two way street; albeit with a lot more traffic coming my way since I seem to have raised a major-league (or aspiring to be major-league) rock music geek. It's rare that I can actually introduce him to a band he hasn't heard before, whereas he has managed to get me to listen to people I didn't listen to when I was young, such as Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa, in addition to more contemporary acts. (And he has a fondness for oddities: Tori Amos's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," e.g., which is simply wonderful. His fondness for heavy thrash metal I find less explicable and less lovely, but then I suppose there have to be some generational differences.)

We have free-ranging discussions about technique, meaning, musicality. Yesterday's discussion centered on why "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen worked, while "Mr. Roboto" by Styx (or anything else by Styx, for that matter) didn't. (Namely, Queen obviously was not taking themselves seriously. Whereas Syx took themselves far more seriously than any of their music deserved.)

What I've always found interesting, both with him and his two younger brothers, is how to explain songs that depend upon experience for their meaning. Mostly, I just say "You'll understand it when you're older," which is seen by my children as being either lazy or evasive, depending. This is not about sexual content, either, but about, say, complicated relationships ("Drops of Jupiter" by Train) or coming to terms with the fact that life is uncertain and Truth-with-with-a-capitol-T is unknowable ("Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls). (I tried to explain that last one to my ten-year-old, and after he said "I still don't get it" several times, settled on "You'll get it when you're older." He was annoyed.)

And then there is one of my very favorite songs: "My Back Pages," as written by Bob Dylan and performed by The Byrds.

"It doesn't make any sense," my eldest said.

"Oh, yes it does," I chuckled. "It's about not being as smart as you think you are."

"I still don't get it."

"Don't worry, you'll understand it when you're, oh, forty."


It's true, though. I listen to "My Back Pages" and either smile wryly or grimace faintly, recognizing myself in its verses:
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
"Rip down all hate," I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

What, you think I'm a ranting, moralizing crusader now? You should have known me when I was twenty. I'm positively mellow by comparison.
Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Indeed I am.

*That would be Jefferson Airplane, as opposed to Jefferson Starship, which he had heard and pretty much dismissed as being lightweights.
When Mercedes Benz purchased the rights to “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin for a car commercial, it seemed like someone at the ad agency was trying to be too hip and ironic for their own good.

When Ronald Reagan wanted to use “Born in the USA” as a campaign theme song, it was clearly a case of “unclear on the concept.” Make that completely clueless.

When Cadillac appropriated Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” to sell sedans, it was a boring company trying to remake its image.

When Royal Caribbean Cruises chose Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” to sell vacations, you can bet they depended upon a large segment of their target population being unfamiliar with the ode to wretched excess.

But the low-water mark for the misuse of great rock songs* in pursuit of filthy lucre has always been Nike’s “Revolution” campaign….

Until the other day, when I saw a Kaiser Permanente ad set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’.” The voiceover prattled on to the effect that it was time to make a revolution in your lifestyle habits.

No….. just….no.

A generation’s greatest declaration of war upon the times they in which they found themselves, reduced to an exhortation to exercise and eat right.

Solipsism is alive and well in America.

*Of course, there is always the misuse of classical or religious music in commerce. A few years ago, when Mitsubishi used seventh movement to Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring” in a commercial, I wanted to throw something through my television. “Appalachian Spring” – or at least the movement used in the ad – lifts the melody from the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”, a deep and profoundly moving piece of anti-materialist music.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Trying to reason ...*

Today, June 1, is the start of the 2007 hurricane season.

The state of Florida has declared today a Day of Prayer. I object to this strenuously as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Having grown up in the state, and having family within spitting distance of the Gulf, I can certainly understand the sentiment, however.

Here's hoping we all get through the season with the minimal amount of damage possible.**

*It's a Jimmy Buffet song.
**Over at Making Light, Jim MacDonald has some information to help keep you safe.