Hi. My name’s Joe Friday-on-My-Mind. I’m with the ACLU, Rock Music Division. We defend the indefensible. Here’s my story:
After some time, the Monkees were permitted, too, but we knew there were limits. No one with facial or female-length hair need apply. We probably could have gotten away with the odd subtle drug reference here or there. After all, my dad missed what Country Joe was spelling out on “
And in my own cowardly and roundabout way, I struck a blow for justice when I accidentally (?) dropped a stack of Irish LPs on the floor. Back then the vinyl was thick and brittle. All I remember now is being up to my ankles in jagged black shards, feeling like I’d just slain Goliath (or Dorothy after she unknowingly dropped a house on the witch, but I’m a little uncomfortable with that analogy).
A lot of us spent our childhoods being told that what we loved was crap and that our heroes were bums. How did you deal with that? Did you ignore the criticisms or try to prove them wrong? If you did the former, weren’t you implicitly accepting the criticism? (Not really, but I thought so at the time. Unlike most other kids, I never learned to totally ignore adults.) And if you accepted it, then didn’t that mean that you yourself would eventually choose to stop listening to it, judging it to be juvenile? And even though I was confusing a simple change of taste with a conscious decision to reject something on philosophical grounds, I still think that the early seventies represented my generation’s first reaction against rock and roll. Many of us, in an effort to feel more mature, began listening to more “serious” music.
I did it too, by getting into “progressive” music, singer-songwriters and other such genres. I was looking for Artists who were making music that was more defensible. After all, I had adults I needed to be to arguing with. Other kids played stickball.
And what defenses did I use, you ask?
First, there was the Virtuosity, or, “Ginger Baker is the best drummer in the world” defense. At around the age of twelve, musicianship became very important to me. Simply judging music by the amount of enjoyment it provided was too subjective for me. And it left me open to the criticism that my taste was immature. But if someone was a great musician, it meant that they had an inherent quality that could be measured, which validated the music. Alas, this is where music “appreciation” begins. Remember how much fun it was to listen to ten minute drum solos?
Then there was the Sounds Like Classical Music defense. You had to buy Emerson,
And finally, there was the Sounds Like Music Older People Would Like defense. I would play “Celluloid Heroes” by the Kinks for my mom, hoping that she would one day say “What a beautiful song. Well, rock music is actually very good! How’s about putting on some Hot f-ing Tuna?” Instead, she mistook the drum beat for a scratch on the record. Much later, to her credit, she very unexpectedly said that she liked “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead. And dad noted that David Lindley could play a mean violin, wild hair and all. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Drug addicts (i.e., anyone who ever tried an illegal drug in their lives) were bad people, and bad people couldn’t do things like make great music. So I had to defend my favorite artists from this charge. I told my parents that they were being unfair, and that they shouldn’t assume this about anyone, blah, blah, blah…. I really believed this; hence my need at the time to find “clean cut” groups (i.e. those adhering to my dad’s facial hair dictum, which I’d apparently internalized by this time. Sgt. Pepper, again, caused a crisis, with the Beatles now sporting mustaches.) I can now admit that I was being a bit naive, but only because my mom probably won’t read this.
Have Mouth, Will Defend:
But otherwise, if I may paraphrase some very unsound advice, if it sounds good, maybe you should just sit back and enjoy. And yes, I’ll admit that we’ll all draw the line at drowning puppies, but I wonder what I’ll be willing to sing along to before I get to that point? Hopefully not “Deutschland über Alles”.