I listen to a lot of different music. At least I think I do. Besides the usual 70s hard Brit rock I cut my teeth on back in the day I am always on the hunt for something new. Lately I’ve been dabbling in both ambient/new age and stoner rock, which are about as diametric as you can get. But there are some things I will not give a chance.
Let’s start with country. I was born in 1957 and grew up in the northwest North Dakota. Country was about as impossible to escape from as the Saturday night Lawrence Welk show. Most of the radio stations were country (and thank you Jebus for the exceptions) and just about every business place you entered was playing those stations. I never recall my parents buying country records but they certainly played the local radio (when Mom bought records it was show tunes and lounge lizards). But it was definitely the music to rebel against.
Even back then, it was calculating and pandering pap. The authentic practitioners and bluegrass players had already been pushed to the edges, what remained on the airwaves in my youth was Billy Sherrill string-swamped nasal crap, written out of Nashville hit stables without a hint of heart and soul. I’m not saying that all of it was crap but Sturgeon’s Law definitely applied. The vocals irritated the hell out of me, but the music was even worse. So simplistic it made punk sound like Beethoven. I crave music that demands a little intelligence, not that denies it.
I will admit that on occasion I can listen to Johnny Cash, or Waylon n’ Willy. Live bluegrass is more fun than the proverbial barrel of simians. And there’s more with real integrity in them out there, skating on the margins. But it’s a genre that has constantly been about the latest thing, giving lip service to its enormous past yet steadfastly ignoring it.
Opera. I do listen to classical music though it took me years to get there. I prefer small ensembles, string quartets, and cello pieces but I can crank a symphony now and then. But opera is lost on me. Maybe it’s the cascade of notes, the impenetrable lyrics, or just the overly staged aspect of it. I can appreciate the talent behind it but it tries my patience. And speaking of overly staged…
Show Tunes. Just kill me now. I like my vocals with a little edge to them due in part to too much time spent with blues and rock. But there’s something about show tunes that raises the hackles almost as fast as country. I’ve never been fond of musicals, bursting into song in theater is a concept I could never embrace. But the music in them, the overly melodramatic presentation, it makes me want to crank Tom Waits to earbleed level.
This is a true story. Once upon a time there was a presentation of Oklahoma on TV. My mom insisted that we all watch. My brother and I were promised that it was about cowboys and given that we were around ten or eleven, that was a natural draw. So we settled in front of the TV and it began. Maybe it was the opening overture, or maybe it was “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”. But I do remember seeing cowboys. They were dancing. They did not have guns. I remember turning to my brother and we exchanged a look. Before my mom could even squawk we were out the door. I guess I still have not grown up.
Jerol’s list of musical he actually likes:
Fiddler on the Roof
Caberet (movie version)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
All That Jazz
Sweeney Todd (for the blood, naturally)
and any Gilbert & Sullivan
Dance Music. Well, given that I am a clumsy middle aged white male with a classic rock background and no sense of natural rhythm this is somewhat understandable. If I want to dance, put on the fuckin’ Stones. Then I’ll hit the floor. But I have real issues with that programmed dance beat. It’s so simple, it denies the dynamics of a rhythm section. As George Clinton said of disco, “it’s like making love with only one stroke”. And yeah, that’s pretty much why I don’t like hip-hop either. Which is odd, because while I hate lack of rhythmic complexity in dance and hip-hop I am also indifferent to Latin because it’s ALL rhythm. I mean why do you need fifteen guys on percussion in a twenty piece band? I guess there’s no satisfying me.
When I look at the genres in the music player on this PC I see Alternative (indie and punk fit in that category as well), Ambient, Blue, Blues-Rock, Classical, Country (Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Cash, Lyle Lovett, and Steve Earle), Electronic (getting into trip-hop and post-club a bit these days), Folk, Fusion, Goth, Jazz, Metal, Neo-Prog, New Age, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Rock, Soul and R&B, Southern Rock, Space Rock, Stoner Rock, and World. I’d say I got my bases covered.
This has been Jerol is a Grumpy Old Man and Get Off My Lawn Rant #786. Transcripts may be ordered from your NPR station.