Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We Like Our Guitars

The following is meant to explain why you’ve hated my recommendations or violently disagreed with my opinions up to this point. I’m concerned that you might be losing some sleep over this, so I feel it necessary to assure you that there’s nothing wrong with you.

It’s not you, it’s me. I (still) like guitars.

A friend and I were talking music the other night. I was saying how my son liked a lot of the music that I liked when I was growing up. Thanks to Guitar Hero, it was easy for him to get “classic rock”. Young people – well, white fourteen year old boys, let’s say – seem much more open than we ever were to music that isn’t from their own time period.

You’d think people who grew up in the sixties would be very open, but I’ve come to the conclusion that we never had to be open to anything. It all came right to us. It helped that AM radio was amazing. Just turn it on and feel the love! It spoiled us, so by the time the seventies rolled around, we really didn’t like anything else. And radio also began to get more and more rigid about what it would play.

It didn’t help that I reacted to the disdain people had for rock and roll by being disdainful right back. So the music my parents liked was out. The Beatles ruined just about everything else for me, so I found “oldies” music to be totally lame. My friend agreed. We liked what was happening at the time, and not much else.

Then he told me that he never really got Elvis. This came as somewhat of a relief, because I felt the same way for a long time. It was only as an adult (and I use that term loosely) that I got into “The Sun Sessions”, “Elvis’ Gold”, the “comeback” special. The rest of it just reeked of Vegas to me. My favorite was “The Sun Sessions”. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but the one that’s most pertinent at the moment is Scotty Moore’s guitar.

So it came to me - we like our guitars. All the other stuff is nice – a pretty melody, an energetic beat, a good vocal, smart or funny lyrics (assuming I even get them, being that I’m obtuse and hard of hearing). But guitars are king. Horns are fine, but there’s just no comparison. Thank you Les Paul, Beatles, Stones, Who etc. You ruined me for anything else.

A childhood friend of mine liked Slade (“Mama, We’re All Crazy Now”) a lot. At the time, my problem with them was that all of their songs sounded the same. He replied, “You know there’s only so many different sounds you’re going to be able to get out of an electric guitar.” Well, that worried me for quite a while. But after thirty five years, I’ve gotten over it. Every time I think that the whole form is played out, somebody comes along to point out the limits of my imagination. It’s great to have your expectations trashed like that.

So, even though I’m fifty years old, my tastes have not grown up in a conventional way. Just when I was succumbing to mid-seventies singer-songwriters, which would have led to a natural progression to MOR, I suddenly got interested in punk rock and its variants. This setback to my musical (and emotional) maturity has never been fully corrected.

Okay, so that gets me to the age of forty. What’s my excuse for the next ten years? The answer lies in not getting stuck in a rut. I’ve been dabbling in other genres for quite a while. This not only brings me in contact with new types of music, it makes my familiarity with rock and roll avoid breeding contempt. I can get away from rock and roll long enough to miss it again.

I don’t like music that is meant to act as a background. It should be my option to use it that way, but it must be able to bear more attention than that. So I don’t find Easy Listening easy to listen to at all. And the overly emotive singers and huge orchestrations just don’t do it for me. To me, Bonnie Raitt’s simple “I Can’t Make You Love Me” or “Feels Like Home” blow away anything by Celine Dion. Maybe I just don’t like having emotions conveyed like the national anthem. Let’s not even discuss Michael Bolton…

So, for better or worse, that’s where my taste lies, which should tell you if I have anything to say to you or not.

So I hope this helps explain where I’m coming from: the inside of Pete Townsend’s Marshall amp.

Now playing: Elvis Presley - That's Allright (Mama)
via FoxyTunes

Now playing: The Who - Summertime Blues
via FoxyTunes

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