Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Good Old Days Again: Music

Joel calls me out for calling the Golden Age music "trite."  He says: "The pop music of 1947-73 included Beatles, Rolling Stones and on and on IMHO not trite." Well, he's onto something here, but I won't go all the way. When I wrote "trite," I was really thinking about the 50s, maybe the late 40s.  Mainstream pop, Your Hit Parade, Gisele MacKenzie, Snooky Lanson.  Look, tastes differ but that stuff drove me wild, just a mind virus that took over potentially useful brain cells and stunned them into a kind of paralysis.   I had heard almost nothing of what we used to call "longhair" until I went off to college and I speak with perfect sincerity when I say I nearly cried tears of gratitude when I first heard some of the stuff that I came to like (came to like hell, it was love it first sight).  

I don't offer this as evidence of refined or superior taste, BTW.  In fact, quite the reverse: I think the problem was that I had (or have) an almost fatal vulnerability jingly tunes and doggerel verse and the first thing you know, the day is gone and I haven't thought a single thought worth remembering.  Guilty secret: for so many pop songs of the 50s, I can remember the silly parody better than the original ("you smile, your teeth fall out, your lips they taste like sauerkraut, it's tragic..."--you think I'm making this up? Go here).   Somebody, maybe Raymond Williams, speaks of a life spent "between activity and repose."  Boy do I get that one.

Anyway, moving forward to the 60s, I'll have to grant Joel the Beatles.  But I'll admit that my prejudices were so entrenched by the time they came along that it took my several years grasp just how good they really were: I do get it now, however belated.  The Rolling Stones--well you know, there is a whole torrent of contemporary music that I simply don't get.  Doesn't drive me nuts like Snooky Lanson (poor Snooky, I should quit picking on him).  But it doesn't really grab me either.  Never got Elvis. Never got the Rolling Stones.  Never got Dylan for the most part, the few funky numbers like "The Mighty Quinn" excite a certain sense of the absurd.    I did develop and retain an affection for a certain kind of faux folk: the Carter Family, Bill Monroe, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Steeleye Span.  But the list does seem a tad interstitial, not exactly definitive of a culture.  Still, even as qualified, I'd have to say (concede?) that the 60s were a lot more interesting than the 50s, and that the 70s were in some ways actually kind of fun.  

Fun fact: I learn from Wiki that Snooky spent the last 20-30 years of his life as a Chrysler salesman back in Nashville.  Also per Wiki, "it is said that big band singer Snooky Lanson's weekly attempts to perform Elvis Presley's 'Hound Dog' hit in 1956 hastened the end of the series."

This just in: Joel emails "we disagree re the 50s."    Ah well, de gustibus.  I wonder where we stand on 1947?

Followup: I can't find "Hound Dog," but I do find this:

1 comment:

Ken Houghton said...

The 50s are the highlights of Lieber/Stoller, the only time Phil Spector is worth anything, and the beginning of Motown and Buddy Holly. Not to mention the days when Rap Music was started--by Italian guys on street corners who would later claim their successors "aren't music."

Where it succeeds is still having Show Tunes translate to Pop hits. Yes, you get the mediocre and worse (Fabian Forte makes Milli Vanilli seem like artists; the hype of Shelley Fabares, Annette, and a bunch of chick pop "singers"--notably excepting the Leslie Gores and Petula Clarks, and stipluating that the likes of Jeri Southern, Rosemary Clooney, and Eartha Kitt are jazz singers--who aren't that much worse than their equivalent in other eras but were totemized beyond ability. Not to mention the male equivalents--Tab Hunter, Pat Boone, John Gary, Troy Donohue--who were worse. When the best voices from the period are the aforementioned Charles Hardin, Frankie Lymon, Mitch Ryder, Chuck Berry, and Sam Cooke, you can't go too far bad--or too far, if you're restricting yourselves to the white artists who will be alive by the time the Beatles cover "Roll Over, Beethoven."

There's a lot that happens, but there's little that's on the surface. All in all, I'm with Joel. The follow-through is better from the 1950s to the 1960s than the 1960s to the 1970s.