Friday, April 21, 2006
TWO RIFFS IN ONE KEY
One thing that probably seemed obvious to you (though it blind-sided me) is how many social or political conservatives I'd encounter in traditional or "square" music. I guess I assumed that the kinds of abandoned technologies and unfashionable musical values I hold dear would make anyone feel like a freak.
But at least in the San Francisco bay area, retro music worlds turn out to be havens for conservatives of many kinds. There's the dixieland bandleader with the No Spin Zone door mat and the welfare queen jokes, the rockabilly kids who beat up old dirty foreigners on principle, the vo-do-de-o ukulele strummer who thinks gay people are sick and best avoided, the jitterbug dancer who claims to know what God wants us all to do.
I'd expect these people to listen to Toby Keith and Rod Stewart, not to Louis Armstrong and the Cheap Suit Serenaders. What do I know? According to inside sources, the latter band suffered a near fatal seizure in the late seventies amid troubling conditions of internecine hatred and ethnic bigotry.
Addendum: Then there's the public's willingness to make racists out of anti-modernists. If I avoid Hip Hop for its obsessions with boasting and threatening, that makes me vulnerable to charges of racism. (Aggressive young men of every race and culture embrace Hip Hop as confirmation of their aggressive natures. Hip Hop is really not being made for librarians; I maintain the right to listen to music that flatters the egos of nerds like myself.)
The Flea Market Music bulletin board linked to a New York times article about the musical tastes of Stephin Merritt, a New York 'uke scenester. More concept than art, but different strokes, you know?
Link to New York Times piece. Also Slate picked up a rock in this fight.
Hey, when disco came in I saw the money fall out of the live band market, just as I was getting started. Did I demonize disco? Vociferously. Could I do a thing to stop it? Nothing, really. Was I ingracious? Undoubtedly. (Have I been listening to Donald Rumsfeld lately? Of course I have.) But although it made music sick for a while, disco didn't kill music. Disco's own inability to retain popular rule forever lends a new poignancy to those slick, unsubtle sounds.
Now that we know that the most coked-out players of the idiom either cleaned up or crashed and burned, I'm freed from my resentment. Bye Bye, Rick James. There's just a rueful sniff for the ruined and a relieved "right on" for the survivors. And I can listen to Funky Town with my windows rolled down.
But the dancers appeared so pleased with themselves, and in such an unseemly manner. Was I jealous of how much more action they were getting? Come on, baby, let me know.
Posted by Steven Strauss at 11:49 AM