Thursday, December 04, 2003

Music of the Spheres



Before Thanksgiving, the 2blowhards were discussing Greats I don't get, art, film, books, etc that are lauded as culturally significant but, for whatever reason just sort of fly over your head. The discussion was lively with a lot of similar entries: abstract modern art (which I love, personally), rap, James Joyce (who I wish I could enjoy but canít) and a few other obtuse luminaries. I admitted for the first time, publicly, that I don't get the Beatles.

Sure, I understand their significance in the greater scheme of Rock and Roll history, how they have influenced pop music, etc. I even like some of their songs. But I never have understood why my parents' generation considers them the end all, be all of Rock music. The proto-shiznit, if you will. I chalked it up to just having been born in the wrong generation.

When I met my wife, she added a different perspective on the Beatles. Apparently they aren't all that in the Hispanic community. Just a bunch of Anglos pretending to be soulful. My in-laws are decidedly in the Elvis camp. He's like the world's greatest mariachi and for one simple reason: you can dance to his music. Put on Rubber Soul and just try to dance.

Now some people say my generation doesnít have a Beatles.
I once had a discussion with my mother, to the effect that none of the bands around then had the staying power or the influence. I sheepishly agreed then but think differently now.

At the time of that particular conversation, I was fourteen or fifteen, which would have been... (Counting on fingers) around 1990, '91. The Eighties were barely over. Grunge was just happening and Punk and Ska were still underground. It was also before I knew anything really about music. I now have a larger perspective on the matter and can say that while we didn't have any band that was ìBigger Then Jesusî i.e., hyped all to hell as the second coming, we did have our Beatles. And Our Eagles and even our Herman and the Hermits.

Like the Fab Four, the Beastie Boys started out pigeonholed in one particular genre of music, urban hip hop (as opposed the British Invasion Skiffle Rock). They quickly evolved though, becoming something unique and other than the usual eighties hi hop band. Paul's Boutique is their White Album. It introduced the world at large to sampling, which is arguably a good or bad thing; good when it's done well, bad when it's used as an excuse to rip off someone elseís guitar riff or beat (*cauph* Vanilla Ice *caugh*). Also, the Beastie Boys are still around, twenty years later and rumored to be coming out with another album soon. Plus they didn't run off to India and become Yogis. Sure, AdRoc became a Buddhist and the band plays Free Tibet concerts, but it's more a form of activism rather than just a trendy dip in the Eastern Spirituality pool.

Other bands from my generation that are still around: They Might Be Giants, the Cure, Sonic Youth. Siouxsie left the Banshees but her new project, The Creatures is even better. The Pixies broke up but they're reuniting next year proving, as the Eagles did, that occasionally Hell freezes over (Or Kim Deal can get out of rehab).

I have little to say about Nirvana, who many in my generation adore. Curt Cobain is placed on the Icon Shelf along with Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin simply because he died at the same age. Sure, Nevermind was a pretty good album in its day but it has not aged well. You put it on and hear 1993 all over again. Yuck. Besides, they so wanted to be the Pixies. I'd say they are our Herman and the Hermits. They had one or two catchy songs but none of the staying power of some of the other bands of the day. But that's Kurt Cobain's fault. Or Courtney Love's, depending on which way you take your conspiracy theories.

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