Freethinkers Anonymous: The Musical

November 14, 2003

It’s not that I don’t like music. The fact is I love music, but when hit with the question, "What kind of music do you like?" I have no idea what to say, so most of the time I just say, "Well, I’m really not a music person," which isn’t true but it’s easier than trying to answer the question. When you like Stravinsky’s "Rite of Spring", Led Zeppelin’s "Stairway to Heaven", and Monty Python’s "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" pretty equally, what musical category do you fit into? I guess I’m a guy who likes songs with prepositional phrases in the titles – except when I don’t. I’m a guy who will pick up a CD by some band or singer I’ve never heard of only to realize I know half the tracks…I just never knew who they were by – or that the same performer was responsible for all them. I’m a guy who never followed any one band or singer, except for a brief period in my late teens when I made the mistake of becoming a huge Pink Floyd fan.

It’s not that I have anything against Pink Floyd – it wasn’t that long ago that I replaced my worn-out cassette of "Dark Side of the Moon" with the CD, but I should have known better than to get seriously involved with a band that did some of their best work while I was still in diapers. Fortunately by the time I finally saw "The Wall" I was mature enough to know that shaving off your eyebrows is about as cool as, for example, getting your tongue pierced. (If, at this moment, you’re asking yourself whether I mean that it REALLY is cool to shave off your eyebrows, seek professional help immediately.)

But I digress. The other problem with Pink Floyd is they’re depressing. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it must be treated responsibly. Now that I’m an adult I know better than to pull out my CD of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" after getting the quarterly statement on my retirement account. Teenagers, as anyone who’s ever been one will remember, get depression the same way they get acne: sometimes it’s caused by nothing, and sometimes it’s caused by nothing and something else comes in and makes it worse. Pink Floyd is the equivalent of washing down deep-fried chocolate sticks with a gallon of soda. (Your teachers, you guidance counselor, and your dermatologist probably told you that what you eat doesn’t cause acne, but isn’t odd that they all owned stock in Faceblemish Foods Inc.?) In the 1970’s and 1980’s teen music seemed to be all about being dark and depressing. Okay, I know that’s generalizing, especially since "Thriller" was about as dark and depressing as elevator muzak, which is what "Thriller" has been turned into, but the recent history of music goes sort of like this:

In the 1950’s rock was just being born so it was wild and rebellious, if you consider pageboy haircuts and wearing your necktie just a little too loose rebellious. In the 1960’s there were protest songs, but mostly everybody just sat around trying to learn to play the guitar and wondering who the walrus was. In the 1970’s there was the punk movement and rock was about being dark and angry – or it was about writing the songs that make the whole world sing. In the 1980’s it was all about writing songs that went well with a video montage of desks bursting into flames, people jumping around on giant chessboards, dogs barking at each other, guys in sleek automobiles putting mustard on their champagne, and big groups of skeletons. And it was about the hair. In the 1980’s a man was a man only if he looked like a woman. In the 1990’s it was about being angry, but without really knowing why. And wearing a lot of flannel and a woven cap all the time. Or having a really good beat.

Finally music has achieved its ultimate purpose as the inherent message of all top 40 songs is now, "Buy this! Not just this album, but also this hat, this shirt, these earrings, and this brand of deodorant." Once upon a time musicians were happy to be paid for their studio time. Then they were happy to make enough money that they could afford to trash their hotel rooms. Now a song can go from the top of the charts to the background of a toothpaste commercial in less time than it takes a rock star to come out on stage before thousands of screaming fans and yell, "HELLO…where am I playing again?" Unless of course the singer is really controversial, and at the rate things are going singers are going to have to start chopping their fingers off on stage to be controversial, especially since the songs themselves are really just elevator muzak played on an electric guitar that needs to be tuned…badly. Yes, I know that’s a simplistic overview of the history of music of the past 50 years or so, and it leaves out a lot of stuff, i ncluding rap and alternative music (I remember the days when "alternative" music really was, and the term wasn’t just a label record companies used to lure in the 8% of us who were getting our music via bootlegs of groups so obscure the record shops would throw us out for asking about them), but what can I say? I’m really not that much of a music person.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


[And now for something else you’re likely to hear on the radio – if you’re lucky.]

SPORTS COMMENTATOR SLIP-UPS

"And this is Gregoriava from Bulgaria. I saw her snatch this morning and it was amazing!" (Pat Glenn – weightlifting commentator)

"Sure, there have been deaths in boxing but none of them serious." (Alan Minter)

"Andrew Mehrtens loves it when Darryl Gibson comes inside of him." (New Zealand rugby commentator Murray Mexted)

"This is really a lovely horse. I once rode her mother." (Ted Walsh – horse racing commentator)

"I’ve never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body." (Winston Bennett)

"The lead car is absolutely unique, except for the one behind it, which is identical." (Murray Walker – F1 racing commentator)

"I owe a lot to my parents, especially my father and mother." (Greg Norman)

"If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again." (Terry Venables – Soccer Coach)

"I would not say that David Ginola is the best left winger in the Premiership, but there are none better." (Ron Atkinson – soccer coach)

"Ah, isn’t that nice. The wife of the Cambridge president is kissing the cox of the Oxford crew." (Harry Carpenter at the Oxford-Cambridge boat race 1977)

"Julian Dicks is everywhere. It’s like they’ve got eleven Dicks on the field" (Metro Radio)

"Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seems to hang in the air for even longer." (David Acfield)

"What will you do when you leave football, Jack. Will you stay in football? (Stuart Hall – Radio 5 live)

"And there goes Juantorena down the back straight, opening his legs and showing his class." (David Coleman at the Montreal Olympics)

"One of the reasons Arnie (Arnold Palmer) is playing so well is that before each tee shot, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them….. Oh my God! What have I just said?!!!" (US PGA Commentator)

"For those of you who are watching in black and white, the blue is behind the brown" (Ted Lowe, Snooker commentator)

(Supposedly) True story… a female news anchor who, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn’t, turned to the weatherman and asked "So Bob, where’s that 8 inches you promised me last night?" Not only did HE have to leave the set, but half the crew did too as they were laughing so hard!

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