Sunday, 30 October 2011

Listing, listing, listing ...

It's not really news I guess, but there are a lot of lists out there, and more showing up every day  ...  Top 50 This and Best 100 That.

Readers, editors, experts, radio stations, magazines, websites, product companies, everybody makes 'em.

Dunno 'bout you, but I like reading them.  Sometimes the invoke argument, sometimes reflection, sometimes they even provide new insights or ideas.

So when I find 'em I'll show them and comment.  Can't predict how much reflection or insight will ensue, but the disagreements are pretty much guaranteed.

That's human nature, right?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

And The Light Shines

Just a post script to the last post...

Earlier I wrote that it's a bit sad to watch an aging rocker, that it's a young person's game.

I sometimes thought that we went to see people like The Stones to see if they might die onstage, kind of like going to a NASCAR race to see the crashes.

No longer.

There's a segment in Shine A Light where someone is interviewing a young Mick Jagger and asks him if he can see himself doing this when he's sixty.

"Absolutely!" says Mick.

And he proved himself right.

They're doing it because they love doing it.  The joy is just as fresh as when they were kids.  Our morbid reactions are our own problem.

Rock on, boys.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Light Bulb Goes On

I watched the Scorsese Stones video a while back - not for the first time - and finally got it.

The Rolling Stones are not (were not?) the world's greatest rock and roll band, they are (were?) the world's greatest jam band.  While other performers strive for Las Vegas type precision - and predictability - they just get up there and play.

While other artists let their minds go numb with the same set list every performance, the Stones change theirs every night. 

And they don't stop there.  They keep changing the songs, finding new ways to keep things fresh and interesting for them - which of course keeps it interesting for us.  When the concert started, it took me a few seconds to realize I was listening to Jumping Jack Flash.  Even though it still retained one of the most recognizable hooks in the history of rock, it sounded completely different.

Sure, they've got a lot of tricks, gimmicks and effects to put on a competitive show - but the real magic emanates from the indisputable fact that these guys love what they're doing.

I've always been a fan, but I always found the sound a bit chaotic, haphazard, even sloppy.  At various times, I'd convinced myself drugs, poor musicianship and bad taste were to blame.

But there is no blame.  It's deliberate.  They just like jamming.  They get off on the ever-present danger of "where am I?" and "what chord is that?"

Keith was bang on when he said of himself and Ronnie Wood, "we're both lousy, but together we're better than ten others."  The years of jamming allow them to effortlessly and seemlessly work themselves back and forth as they trade who is playing lead and who is playing rhythm - sometimes within the same bar.  They give no thought and show no fear as they both wander off into a solo, lose themselves momentarily, then snap back to a driving beat.

Chaotic?  You bet.  Unpredictable?  Yep.  Haphazard?  By definition.

And magical.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Make Me Smile

Song writing was easy for John Lennon, who famously said, "Just say what it is, simple English, make it rhyme, and put a backbeat on it."

He might have also added, "A bit of a sense of humour always helps too."

It's not universally so, but I find many of my favourite songs don't take themselves too seriously, even when they are expressing anger, pain and fear.

One of the masters of this was Warren Zevon.  Just a few random samples:

Put me through some changes, Lord
Sort of like a Waring Blender

Send lawyers, guns and money
Dad, get me out of this

Accidently like a martyr
The hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder

Zevon must have studied Shakespeare, because he was a master at comic relief.  Dark situations all, but he gives you an out.  He's not taking it seriously, so you don't have to either.

On the other hand, if you identify with the pain, go ahead and feel lousy.

Your call:  rock on or crap out.  Backbeats, rhymes - and user choice.  Cool.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Let's Make Nice

Are there any nice lyrics out there?  Anyone not angry, depressed or who-gives-a-damn selfish?

Music is an art and art, should make you feel so any emotion is valid, but do you have to tune in country station to hear something positive or uplifting?

Or does "let's party" pass for positive these days?

Take Rude Boy by Rihanna, for example:
Come on rude boy, boy
can you get it up
Come here rude boy, boy
Is you big enough

Well, it's not negative.  And I guess its main virtue is that it's direct.  Not every song has to be deep poetry filled with metaphor, but is there any emotion involved here?  I suppose it serves for some fun gesturing on the dance floor, but then what?

In contrast, take Happiness Runs by Donovan:
Happiness runs in a circular motion
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea
Everybody is a part of everything anyway
You can have everything if you let yourself be

Now, I haven't got a clue what it means, but it makes me feel positive, optimistic, nice.

Nice is good for a change, isn't it?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Turn it down ... and listen!

Are we trying to make ourselves deaf?

I was at a wedding a while back and the noise level was just stupid.  It rivalled a rock concert.  It beat a construction site.  It dwarfed an airport.  What are we doing to ourselves?

It was a large wedding, so amplification was definitely necessary.  But the emcee shrieked into a microphone connected to an amplifier set to 11.  Every time he spoke, people literally cringed and curled up into the foetal position.  I'm not exaggerating.

The music during dinner rendered conversation impossible.  After dinner it got worse.  Not only was the volume jacked even higher, a live (and mic'd) drummer thumped along with the music - just in case your internal organs weren't following the beat already.  I didn't need to dance.  Most of me was already bouncing around.

Throughout the evening, as we progressed through the various little rituals, the emcee continually exhorted us to MAKE SOME NOISE.  Applause was apparently insufficient; we were expected to whoop and bark like we were at a sporting event.

Speaking of sports events, I'm about ready to give up on baseball and hockey because of the relentless, painful assault through the PA system.  I suppose if I want to talk to my friends I could text them, but then I might as well stay home where I don't have to drink my beer out of a plastic cup - and where the food is better.

Speaking of food, the decibel level is not much better in restaurants.  They seem to be mistaking themselves for nightclubs these days.  Even grocery stores are playing loud rock music for goodness sake.  In my neighbourhood, that one's a complete mystery, since most of the shoppers are of an age where they are likely to prefer Tony Bennett over Nickelback.

Listen:  I like rock music.  I play rock music.  I like my music loud.  But I want to hear it.  I want to get inside it with my brain and feel it with my heart, not feel it with my insides as the vibrations pass through me.

I want to listen to music.  Turn it down so I can hear it!