Friday, October 15, 2010

Same Old Song

The other day I was in a car with someone who was playing the radio, and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" came on. I cringed and begged her to change the station, or better yet, turn the radio off entirely. She obliged, but she was curious why I hold such a disdain for so-called "classic rock". My answer was that old music is old and it's played out.

"But isn't most of the music you listen to even older?", she asked, confused.

Well, yeah, but the difference is that it's old music that I've never heard before, or at least haven't heard often, such as "Ghost of the Mayor" by the Edison Symphony Orchestra. I grew up with "classic rock" before it was classic, and was as thoroughly immersed in it as anyone else.

Therefore, I can have long detailed conversations about Yes, Styx, Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin, Krokus, Cinderella, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Wings, Rush, Cheap Trick, April Wine, Nazareth, REO Speedwagon, .38 Special, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Van Halen, Angel, ZZ Top, Head East, Average White Band, Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult, Quiet Riot, America, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago, Atlanta Rhythm Section, KC & the Sunshine Band, Allman Brothers, Linda Rondstadt, Black Sabbath, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, Bad Company, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Thin Lizzy, Mountain, The Eagles, The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band, Kansas, Prince, Carly Simon, Hot Tuna, Eric Clapton, The Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, Abba, Grand Funk Railroad, Jefferson Starship, Air Supply, Bee Gees, Aerosmith, Grass Roots, Badfinger, James Taylor, The Guess Who, John Cougar Mellencamp, Poco, Jimmy Buffett, Queen, Boz Scaggs, Aldo Nova, The Carpenters, Foreigner, Traffic, Mahogany Rush, Carole King, Hall & Oates, Olivia Newton-John, Anne Murray, Motley Crue, Joe Walsh, Captain & Tennille, Genesis, Toto, Pink Floyd, Kenny Rogers, Seals & Crofts, Journey, Jethro Tull, Steely Dan, King Crimson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Phil Collins, Madonna, The Police, Heart, Pat Benatar, Robert Palmer, Firefall, Supertramp, Boston, etc. and sound very knowledgeable and even enthusiastic about them - and yet at the same time, I don't really have a desire to hear most of the songs by most of these bands in my life again. Ever. This is a cause of considerable confusion for some.

Led Zeppelin IV came out in 1971. By the mid-seventies, its songs had already been overplayed, run into the ground by radio. By decade's end, the horse was pretty well fully flogged to death. And yet throughout the 1980s we were still bombarded by these songs at every turn. And throughout the 1990s, it continued. And then again through the oughts.

It's now the teens of the 21st century, folks. I have been subjected to the likes of Led Zeppelin for four decades now. Enough is enough. Excuse me now, I gotta go listen to some 1920's Chicken & Skeeter records to cleanse my palate of the Elton John music they're blasting in this coffee house.

- - JSH


Melissa said...

I grok your statements. Not only is some of this music so overplayed as to inspire naught by weariness, they can be an associative-memory cue second, perhaps, only to fragrance in their evocative persistence. But, sometimes, there can be 'Easter eggs' in those Same Old Song[s].

Once in a while, I hear a piece of music which I've experienced many, many times and catch a nuance I know I've never noticed before (despite a nearly audiographic memory). This phenomenon always brings me a smile. Most recently, "They Paved Paradise" by the Counting Crows, with these lyrics: "Hey farmer, farmer, put away your DDT
I don't care about spots on my apples,
LEAVE me the birds and the bees please . . ."

Transylvania Gentlemen said...

Yep, if I really work hard at flogging my perceptions, I can hear some of these songs as if for the first time, like "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones - which is the probably the quintessentially overplayed, overhyped, overexposed song in rock history. And yet, when the moon is just right, I can pull the wool over my own eyes and hear it as people must have heard it for the first time in the Summer of '65.... fuzztone guitar, plodding caveman beat, half-spoken-half-sung lyrics that are more beatnik poetry than rock and roll.

These little oldies-station satoris are few and far between, however.

(And just to demonstrate that I'm not really a Zep-hater: "Thank You" is actually still, to this day, one of my Top 100 favorite songs of all time.)


florin said...

i just wish stations would play something different. all those groups have so many more songs besides what you hear on the radio. i miss album rock stations of the 70's.

Transylvania Gentlemen said...

I hear ya. If we must still be listening to same music today that we did in elementary school, at least let's hear some of the more obscure tracks.

"Get Down Make Love", not "We Are the Champions."

"No Quarter", not "Stairway to Heaven."

"Factory", not "Born in the USA."

"Bike", not "Another Brick in the Wall pt.2".

"Persecution Smith", not "Against the Wind".

"Scandinavian Skies", not "Just the Way You Are."