Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who I'm Listening To

My bud Rick Koster of the New London Day stopped by the other day to chat with me about "The Shimmering Blond Sister." After we got done with our weighty talk about the role of crime fiction in modern American society Rick, who has spent a healthy portion of his life playing in rock and roll bands, put aside his notepad, sat back on the sofa and asked me the same question he always asks when we get together:

"Who are you listening to these days?"

And so I told him.  I'm listening to Sam and Dave.  And Otis Redding.  There's just something about the energy of the Stax sounds that gets me going no matter how shitty a day I'm having. I'm listening to "The Road to Escondido," an Eric Clapton-J.J. Cale collaboration from a couple of years ago that I keep coming back to again and again.  I'm listening to, well, I'm listening to pretty much the same gnarly old white guys whom I've always listened to: Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.  Also a lot of my same dead guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duane Allman and Jeff Healey.  In fact, I find I'm listening to the same bands I used to listen to in high school and college.  The Grateful Dead.  The Rolling Stones.  The Beatles.  Traffic.  Cream.  To my ears, most of their music sounds so fresh and alive that it could have been recorded last week.

Rick nodded sagely and said, "So you don't listen to anybody new?"

Not so, dude, I said defensively.  I like  a lot of new people.  I like Green Day and The Dave Matthews Band. I love Eddie Vedder.  I was just about to say I love U2, too, when Rick broke into hysterical laughter.  We both did.  Because, of course, those are contemporary performers but they're not new.   Not even close. They've been around for, what, 20 years?

Which got me to thinking long and hard about my taste in rock and roll.  Up until a few years ago I used to feel I had to keep up with everything new that was coming out.  If a college freshman was listening to it then I wanted to be there.  Hell, I even tried listening to rap music, which I finally realized I just plain didn't like.  I was terribly bothered by this realization.  Positive that it meant I'd become paleo, uncool, old.  I was ashamed to admit that I still enjoyed listening to music that had been recorded more than 40 years ago.

You want to know something? That''s not where I am anymore.  I've moved on.  I've decided that from now on I'm going to put rock and roll in the same cultural category as movies and jazz.  I happily enjoy watching old Cary Grant screwball comedies and Robert Mitchum noir thrillers.  I can never get enough of Bogart.  I can watch a Preston Sturges farce any time, day or night.  Does it bother me that a lot of my favorite movies are 60, 70, even 80 years old? Not at all.  I don't care when a movie was made.  A good movie is a good movie, period.  I happily listen to Miles Davis and John Coltrane all of the time.  I've never stop listening to "Kind of Blue."  Every time I hear it I swear it's as if I've never heard it before.  Does the fact that it was recorded more than 50 years ago somehow invalidate it? Of course not.  So why should I feel guilty because I still like to listen to Hendrix and the Dead? The answer is I don't.   Good music is good music and it doesn't matter when the hell it came out.  I refuse to feel guilty anymore when I find myself getting down with an old Buffalo Springfield album.  

I don't know what any of this means.  I don't know if I've just achieved a new level of inner rock and roll peace or if I've simply reached a state of self-justifying old fartdom.  But here's the good part: I don't care.  I'm cool with it.



1 comment:

  1. Great post, David. I could have written exactly the same thing...but not as well. Traffic, Cream, Stones, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, Sam & Dave, Aretha...Miles Davis, Coltrane—I'm SO there. "Kind of Blue" is "kind of amazing," and I will NEVER get tired of "The Gentle Side of John Coltrane." What's funny is that at the café I frequent, they use Pandora, so they can play any genre and era they want...and they often choose these songs. We're talking about kids in their very early twenties! I ask them about it, and they simply say they like it. That would be like us having voluntarily listened to Perry Como when we were in college. Absolutely impossible. I'm glad to know there's at least one other person out there whose musical tastes are "stuck" in the '60s and '70s.