Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

17 January 2008

It's Only Rock 'N Roll (But I Like It)

I was at a rotorcraft fly-in some years ago. An old friend from my New York City days, former Nassau County Police pilot Jim Logan was there with his gyrocopter, wife and troublesome teenage son who was interested in aviation not in the least. While Jim flew, his son and I hung out and talked about...music, of course. I have always tried to keep up with what’s current. The boy mentioned some obscure band. I had not only heard of them, but had heard a song of theirs on the radio. He reacted excitedly to this news.

“Oh, do you know their song, such-and-such? The lyrics are awesome!”

Then he proceeded to recite the lyrics word for word. I had to admit that I was not familiar and had in fact only heard one tune. And I somewhat jealously thought to myself that it must be nice to be that young, when you can spend so much time listening to, dissecting and analyzing music.

I remember those days. I miss those days…days long gone, replaced by adulthood and the time pressures and constraints and concerns that inhibit the ability to just “chill” and listen to a whole CD in one sitting, over and over if necessary. I couldn’t do that if I wanted to, then or now. With limited time and exposure, and waning interest in the concerns of teenagers, I just can’t get excited over the latest band that will be all-but-forgotten in two years.

iTunes has something called the “Single of the Week” that you can download for free. This week, they’re featuring the band, Black Tide. They’re pretty good, musically anyway. These kids are barely 18, yet they sound amazingly like certain heavy metal bands from the 1980’s – as if we were all desperately clamoring for a return of that sound. I kind of like the music, all crunchy guitars and a speed-metal beat, but check out the lyrics to the featured song, “Shockwave.”

Want a shockwave baby
I’ll take your f***ing life
Don’t mess with me
I’m a shockwave ready to kill.

Uhh, riiiiiiight. Yeah, I can relate to that – NOT! But your average sixteen year-old boy will probably eat it up. Black Tide could be huge. Maybe not the next Beatles, but certainly the next Megadeth.

I just can’t get into “Shockwave.” Still, I love music, and I love new music, and I still love rompin’, stompin’ loud rock music. But I like the more “mature” rock music too (think Widespread Panic). However the only place to consistently hear any of that is in concert or from satellite or internet radio. Guys like me are kind of left in the musical lurch.

And so, with uncanny timing, my friend and fellow helo pilot, Hal Johnson posted in his blog this past Sunday on the subject of whether listening to rock music should be the domain of the young? Can we old guys still rock out if we want to? Or should we leave rock music to the kids as we drift off to Mellowville? (Read Hal's post here. We aviation types do seem to spend a lot of time writing about music.)

The fact that I’m not as “up” on music as I’d like to be was painfully driven home a couple of weeks ago when Rolling Stone Magazine came out with their list of the Top 100 songs of 2007. I knew exactly three of them. Three! Only one of which I could sing to you. Am I that out of it? Apparently so.

Also, our tastes change as we get older. There are a lot of bands out now where the lead singer just screams…shrieks at the top of his lungs about…something (damned if I know). It’s not melodic, and I wonder how anyone can listen to that? It wears me out. On the other hand, if I hear that crappy, sappy, “Hey There Delilah,” by the Plain White Tees one more time, I think I’m going to actually kill someone – probably myself.

At the risk of sounding horribly old-fogeyish, the problem with today’s rock music is that it is so derivative. There is very little that is truly new. I recently caught a song on the radio that I swore was from a 1980’s band called Great White. It turned out to be a current band, the favorite of emo-boys all over the world, My Chemical Romance and their song, “Teenagers.” The guitar solo and song melody are such a rip-off that the surviving members of Great White should sue MCR for plagiarism.

So from the lack of originality in today’s rock music, to the blatant stealing, to the note-for-note remakes of classics, there is a lot that I’ve simply heard before. It’s uninteresting and turns me off. But to kids, it’s all new! So like Hal, I tend to go back and “rediscover” rock artists and songs that I either may not have paid much attention to first time around, or whom I can just appreciate better with today’s digital technology. All the while, I fool myself into thinking that I’m still hip.

Hal Johnson writes: I sometimes joke that I think of Counting Crows and the Foo Fighters as new groups. Sheesh, truth be told, maybe it's a stretch to claim that I'm joking.

Yo, Hal, although neither of those bands are technically new groups, the Foo Fighters are still current and hot. And coincidentally, they’re playing in Pensacola this weekend and I’m going! (But please don’t tell my friend Matt. He doesn’t know yet that I got us tickets, heh-heh-heh.)

Real rock ‘n roll may very well be created by young people for young people. We may not relate to it anymore, but that doesn’t mean we oldsters can’t enjoy it. I won't be first in line for any Black Tide concert tickets, but when the Foo Fighters play Pensacola this Sunday, I will be there in the crowd, screaming, “WOOOOOOOOOOOH!” at the top of my lungs and giving Dave Grohl the "horns" (an upraised fist with the extended index and pinky finger).

I’ll probably be the oldest one there. But you know what? I won’t care.


Anonymous said...

I guess I'm really old, Bob. I just recently saw The Police and Eric Clapton at the Garden. The entire audience stood throughout the Police concert and WOOOOOOOHED through 3 encores. Clapton was a little more laid back, but great!
Now, I just got an email from LIVE Concert update that "The Boss" is playin Nassau Colliseum. Should I check it out? Haven't seen them since they opened Brendon Birne Arena in 1981.


Redlefty said...

You seeing the Foo Fighters? Then it don't matter what your official age is -- you're still on top of good music.

A lot of my favorite music is played more often during "flashback" segments than the current stuff.

On a related note, do you think it gets harder to be "original" as times goes on? I mean, there's an ever-expanding catalog of music being created, and that might lower the odds of creating a sound or style that's totally new.

Bob Barbanes said...

kman, let me put it this way: my boss got tickets to see Bon Jovi in Atlanta in April. Because I'm flying him up there, I get a ticket too. I was lukewarm about seeing (insert eyeroll here) Bon Jovi, and thought about just bailing on the concert and seeing what kind of nightlife Atlanta had to offer. But my friend Matt put it this way, "How much longer do you think Bon Jovi will be performing? Might be good to see him before he calls it quits." He's right, of course. So I'll go see Bon Jovi, and I'll probably enjoy it.

So in that vein I would definitely go see the (real) Boss if the opportunity presented itself. But unlike a Black Tide concert, Bruce Springsteen will give a slightly different meaning to the term, "all-ages show." Not even I would be the oldest one there. Hopefully not you either. I want to go just so, please dear God, let me see and hear Bruce perform "Born To Run" live just once before I die.

And Michael yes, I do think it's harder for people/groups to come up with totally original ideas in the "rock" genre. It's nearly *all* been done before, so everything becomes a rehash (I'm tempted to add, "...of the Beatles" but I won't). That doesn't mean it can't still be entertaining, because there's always new combinations of beats, notes, vocals and lyrics. I'll occasionally be turned onto such music, and it's like finding gold!

Good musicians and good singers with good lyrics will always prevail and be popular, no matter what kind of music they choose. That's why you've got to love artists like Springsteen and the Foo Fighters, who keep creating new stuff, not just regurgitating the old.