Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lefty and Some Random Thoughts About Music

I can't get enough of Lefty Frizzell. He even wears the string tie. Elvis and Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly sort of dominated the 1958 era but Lefty generated more music than all of them. His songs didn't break any rules or set the standard but if you gave me a choice I would have to take Lefty's songs. That's more a testament to my honky-tonk heart than to quality of music because Buddy Holly was a brilliant pioneer and Elvis was the all time live entertainer (Michael Jackson is #2 only because Elvis made it OK to grab your crotch and Elvis did it when it was almost a criminal offense) and Johnny Cash wrote a lot of his own music and promoted himself better. Lefty is the performer Hank Williams Sr. would have been if he'd lived longer. Hank Sr. died before any of the proto-rock music arrived. Lefty never made the jump to rock and didn't want to, he never grabbed his crotch or shook his hips and apparently never played an electric guitar. He was pure Honky-Tonk with no ambition to bust genres. When you listen to a Lefty song you'll either get a slow blues or a slower big surprises on the jukebox in 1954 in Nashville. I love how the pianist is using a folding metal chair as a bench. It's like this performance is in a High School gymnasium. I met a guy in Oklahoma who had a voice like this...pure as a flowing river. Notice how he sings "I got those drinking cigarettes and smoking coffee blues..." at the end.

I've been pondering the present state of music and alas, nothing stays the same. Lady Gaga's dance beats steal thunder from The Goo-Goo Dolls who pissed on Nirvana's off key lyrics who rebelled against the creamy perfect pitch from Def Leppard while The Cure's dark depression forever banished cocaine disco from the airwaves and The Bee Gees broke the spirits of thousands of Crosby Stills & Nash hippies...who in turn made their parents go totally insane by taking off the Patsy Cline singles in favor of Jimi Hendrix long playing LPs...who made their neighbors call the police that someone was playing something other than Bing Crosby...whose fans had parents who only played Old Suzanna on the upright piano in the parlor. It never ends...and while there is actually music that would appeal to any of the above generations of fans still being recorded new today it can't all find a each fading gray haired fan must go back in time to the origin of their attraction...and lament the state of current music...which is adored by kids.

And this is the central problem: kids are the ones who buy music. Because you already have all the Boy George albums you want and if someone came along who sounded like The Culture Club then you won't buy their music. So why would a marketeer spend money promoting something you won't buy? If you browse by-gone eras of music then you'll be audience to thousands of comments on the "crap that's on the radio today"...but very few kids have anything bad to say about modern music...and the kids are the ones who will buy music or see a concert. It's their music and they are possessive of it even if it is shit.

Another point to make is that one should not cherry pick the best music from each era and then pine for that particular success. Cyndi Lauper had a few good songs...maybe 5. So you should not listen to those 5 songs and think music was better in 1984...on the strength of the hits. The 5-10 hits of today will sound pretty good in 25 years. The rest will sound like shite.*

It's ironic that the very people who complain about the present state of music are the ones to blame for the modern music trends because by complaining they are announcing that they are loyal to music that was recorded 25-70 years ago. If you like Beethoven then you aren't going to attend a John Williams violin concerto. A music degree gave me a broader understanding of the course of development of music and there have always been traditions and those who break traditions. But it's almost impossible to retune your ears to match the tonality of the current trends. The modern music I like is almost always derived from Billy Joel or The Beatles...and isn't technically modern music. If you like Led Zeppelin and The Who then you are really saying you like Mississippi Delta blues from 1928, not British Rock from 1970. Fortunately, the blues has been plundered thoroughly and now we're in a major tonality revival.

This applies to all art, cinema, literature...the traditions of the past must be crushed into the mud...the new generation must not only cut their own path through expression but must also mock and discredit the art that we old people hold so close to our hearts. It's purposefully unforgivable and that's what wins independence.

Music of today (Top 40 hits) is not too bad. Bruno Mars, Ke$ha, Coldplay, Adele, Fun, LMFAO, Beyonce....these will stand up to the erosion winds of time. However; Country music has taken an inexplicable nose dive that is almost principally girls in short shorts and tattooed men in cowboy hats pretending to harvest hay (drought has made this completely implausible). The songs are heartless and generic. While Lefty Frizzell's heroes never get the girl, the heroes of today's country songs not only get the girl, they fuck her ten times a night and she dances drunk on their tailgate while his drunk friends shower her with dollar bills. It's really grotesque and bizarre because Country Music is the easiest music to write in the's the people's music...simple....kid growing up, parents dying, heartbreak, love. Simple. But no, every single modern country song includes a girl with sexy legs grinding her pussy on someone's leg. And the women seem to all be singing about domestic violence revenge, sex abuse and slashing the tires on their boyfriend's truck. Is it any wonder I pine for Patsy Cline? If you write a song that I'd be embarrassed to listen to in the presence of my mother then you're not a country musician; you're singing rock with a southern accent.

*I think the era from 1992-1997 was an anomaly of truly atrocious music like the era from 1958-1966 was an anomaly of incredibly good music. If you can have spikes of talent surplus then you can have spikes of talent deficiencies and the era of grunge and retro-ska was like some sort of black hole of gifted musicians. Maybe I'm defending my own anachronisms but there is a case to my point because I was technically still young enough to appreciate new music and I wasn't the only one who found radio hits in 1996 painfully annoying. Kid Rock and Snoop Dog were scraped off the ghetto pavement by personality pimps and sold in pre-packaged format to stoners with disposable income. If a song comes on the radio and I immediately frown like someone is farting the national anthem then I can be sure that song was recorded in 1994. I really don't know what went wrong.
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.