At home in Fort Worth…
This post is a continuation of my earlier musings about becoming a Geezer. For several days, I had a foggy mental outline of what this post has become—a diatribe about the bilious noise that passes for popular music these days. Before I could write it, however, Al of the Bayfield Bunch unwittingly stole my thunder in one of his posts a few days ago. The only difference was that his favorite music was popular a decade or two later than the point in the last century where I was left behind by songwriters and singers.
In my mind, good music began about 1940 and was largely extinct after about 1970 with a few notable exceptions mostly associated with Broadway musicals. I guess the hallmark of this 30-year period was that music actually had melody back then. I won’t even attempt to name any of the hundreds of melodious songs from those years that are still universally recognized today along with the big bands who played them and the crooners who sang them. But you know these instantly when you hear them, and you can hum their melodies if not sing their words.
I must admit to being utterly devoid of even the tiniest understanding of today’s music. I am mystified by rappers, and I have no idea of what constitutes funk, grunge, metal, heavy metal, punk pop or any of the other weird subgenres that float around out there like strange and annoying creatures from a parallel universe.
I don’t even recognize country music anymore. A simple and understandable country song with fiddles, a steel guitar and a melody has given way to a rambling story-saga with perhaps a catchy line but no tune that anyone could hum. Again, there are a few exceptions to this, but not many.
I guess the latest thing that set me off was the recent windup of the TV show, American Idol, a horrible misnomer for what proved to be a never-ending freak show of poorly-dressed youngsters bent on inflicting musical torture. We have now reached a point, it seems, where judges appear to be impressed only to the degree that a performer’s voice can be pushed and strained to a point where it is no longer discernible as anything other than a primal scream. Nothing seemed to matter in this show except whether the primal scream was sufficiently vein-bulging that it showed the proper apoplexy or ‘emotion’ of the singer. I suppose that if the performer had actually suffered an aneurysm and died at that point, he or she would have been named the posthumous winner by acclamation.
At the merciful end of the season, the winner was a pitiful rural lad whose voice had about a six-note range but who prevailed, presumably, because he was ‘different.’ God help us.
Fearing my curmudgeonly attitude would be dismissed as the predictable snarkiness of an old fuddy-duddy who is not growing old gracefully, I have engaged in no small degree of introspection as to why this causes me so much consternation. Perhaps it is because I am a musician of sorts myself (piano), about whose capability kind things have been said, however misguided they may be.
In this exercise of due diligence, I thought back to my own youth and my parents’ reaction to the music of my pubescent fifties and sixties. Let’s see—no, their heads didn’t explode when rock and roll hit and Elvis discovered his hips. My folks didn’t listen to pop music much back then, but they never gave me the impression they thought I was from another planet when I listened to it. In fact, they even liked some of it. Even “Purple People Eater” and “Splish Splash, I Was Taking A Bath” had a melody, for goodness’ sake! I
Therefore, I refuse to be pigeonholed as typical of the geezers of each fading generation who just don’t ‘get it’ when it comes to modern pop music. I think the music died a good while ago along with the culture, and I’m not sure it will ever come back.