Behind The Music

August 6, 2004

"And did we tell you the name of the game, boy?
We call it Riding the Gravy Train."
– Pink Floyd

I was walking down the street the other day and saw a photocopied poster advertising a performance – you can’t really call it a "concert" if it’s being held in a place that only holds twelve people – by a local musician. Along the bottom of the poster was the line, "Go, you so you can say you saw him when…" When what? I guess in twenty years I’m supposed to be at a swank dinner party, in one of the lunar colonies maybe, and say, "You know, I saw Neville de Maya when he couldn’t afford a color printer for his posters, still had hair, and was playing at open mic nights in small coffee shops." And everyone will say, "Who?" Okay, maybe this guy is really good, in which case I wish him success, fame, and heaping bowls of only blue M&Ms. Maybe he’ll struggle and practice and sometimes fail and eventually make his way to the top – which will make him completely unlike any other pop music star of today.

Now I don’t want to sound like an old fogey waving a stogie while on the golf course hitting a bogey. I know it’s inevitable that once you reach a certain age – in my case it was seventeen – you completely lose touch with contemporary music. But it really is different now. It’s not that I don’t like today’s music, although as anyone who can legally drink knows there’s so much about it not to like. I feel I can’t escape today’s music. I don’t know if anyone else remembers this, but there was a time when radio stations would occasionally play a song and then ask, "Is this a smash or is this trash?" And listeners would call in. Unbelievable as it might sound the public was actually given a chance to decide what kind of music we liked and what kind we didn’t. It wasn’t about which pre-pubescent prodigy could stand in front of three music industry executives listening to a critique of her performance of "Proud Mary" before everyone rushes to their phone spend eight dollars a minute to vote to have the snobby English guy disemboweled on live television. It was about radio stations taking a song and asking listeners to call in and say, "I’d like to hear that again," or, "Aigh! My ears are bleeding!" It was much more casual, and much more about the music and less about who looked better in suede. Okay, maybe I am an old fogey, but I wouldn’t complain so much if I thought I could escape modern pop stars once in a while, but there’s no place to get away from them. The latest song by the blonde flavor of the month is not only downloaded to peoples’ cell phones where it plays incessantly, but she’s also got a hit movie, a hit television show in which a camera crew follows her around while she tries to figure out how to operate parking meters, and a bestselling books. What happened to the days when performers settled for doing one or two things well instead of doing everything in a half-assed way? There’s a reason radio stations never ask, "Smash or trash?" anymore. It’s because most of it is trash, and it needs to be smashed. Now go get grandpa another stogie.


Things My Mom Taught Me

My mother taught me
TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE

"If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside – I just finished cleaning!"

My mother taught me
RELIGION

"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

My mother taught me about
TIME TRAVEL

"If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

My mother taught me
LOGIC

"Because I said so, that’s why."

My mother taught me
FORESIGHT

"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident."

My mother taught me
IRONY

"Keep laughing and I’ll ‘give’ you something to cry about."

My mother taught me about the science of
OSMOSIS

"Shut your mouth and eat your supper!"

My mother taught me about
CONTORTIONISM

"Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck!"

My mother taught me about
STAMINA

"You’ll sit there ’til all that spinach is finished."

My mother taught me about
WEATHER

"It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."

My mother taught me how to solve
PHYSICS PROBLEMS

"If I yelled because I saw a meteor coming toward you, would you listen then?"

My mother taught me about
HYPOCRISY

"If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times – Don’t exaggerate!!!"

My mother taught me
THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

My mother taught me about
BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION

"Stop acting like your father!"

My mother taught me about
ENVY

"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do!"

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