The Taste of Music

My dad used to sing me Neil Young and Uncle Remus.

Then he showed me David Bromberg, The Rolling Stones and Tchaikovsky.

I was at my neighbor’s house when Black Dog gave my little boy body wide-eyed convulsions.

There was a Tuesday afternoon elective at my school called “Beatles and Drawing.” It was a half hour of listening to the Beatles and drawing whatever you wanted. I was 9 years old. MLC…sigh.

I was a 10 year old when my friend mentioned that his big brother bought Kill ‘Em All and it took me 2 more years of Madonna and New Wave until I finally understood what he said that day.

My first concert was George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers at Portland’s Civic Auditorium in 1986. The following year my dad took me to my first indie show, Screaming Trees with The Dwarves at Pine Street Theater. That’s how cool my dad was.

When my family broke up I moved schools and went from being raised among the culture of the city to now having to explore adolescence deep in the Eastside suburbs, my life took a serious turn. My lifelines were License To Ill, Legacy of Brutality, N.W.A. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, It Takes A Nation and in the 8th grade my friend brought over G.B.H., Jimi Hendrix, L7 and Slayer records and we played them all until the needle broke and my brain melted like soft ice cream.

I was neck-deep in a suburban white neighborhood and it was then that I realized I could either be a product of my bland environment or make a conscious decision to live and think for myself.

Anything that flaunted the system and mocked the establishment, the music that protested corruption, oppression and used passion and adrenaline to express their discontent was music I subsisted on, endlessly blaring into my Walkman. I was an only child who just lost his mother and was now living an hour-long bus ride away from the comfort of downtown. Music was the only thing I listened to because I certainly wasn’t hearing any of my teachers or relatives.

On those bus rides I understood why some people listen to bubblegum pop and others just…don’t.

I found this and this at the record store while dropping out of college. Twice.

My friend at Tower Records told me to buy Pretty Hate Machine. I bought it on title alone.

I showed my best friend the Marshall Mathers LP when it first came out and we played it continuously in his 88 Mustang GT.

A friend came to my house and she showed me Glass Animals.

I went to my friend’s house and she showed me 21 Pilots.

Though words and pictures are like my harem, it is music that leads my beautiful life from darkness into today.

Rage

Peaceful Pistol

Let’s have a brief talk about Rage Against The Machine. My absolute adoration with this band goes beyond all things I consider important in terms of musical science or their talent for playing varied styles of rock, punk, funk, metal, soul and hip-hop.

I’ve little idea about how to explicate why this musical band is so fundamentally sound or how each of their songs tremendously evolve from the first intro and hook to the final pounding note. Like a thrown fist through a Molotov cocktail.

Rage rocks so much beautiful, angry violence that when their music plays, I swallow pride and relinquish all possession of physical restraint. Rage’s music makes us want to learn, enlighten and burn things down. We find brutal passion in Rage’s songs, we dig in our bowels and bring our frustration and fury to the surface like smashmouth weapons, seeking to slaughter those who turn blind…

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Game of Thorns

These two talking about Game of Thrones and spewing about who’s dying and who’s screwing and what-the-what and I’m thinking, man, I haven’t been able to physically watch the damn show since the ex-girlfriend, so would you both kindly stop talking and ruining things I’m still unable to sit in front of? Can you not see this by the look on my horrified face and the way I’m saying “la la la la la la,” while you’re yakking spoilers all over the place? God!

Breakfast of Rainbow Puppies

Killers and jailbirds, dilettantes and scofflaws, I’m just trying to have coffee and someone is talking about some pseudo-news-reality-witch-hunt-bloodbath-headline television show. Apparently we all crave the details of how some father in the midwest went berserk at work with a sidearm or a couple in Florida rented their own daughter out from down in the basement until she was old enough to vote, it just never ends. The more it’s splashed everywhere, the less it all matters in our everyday lives, it just becomes wallpaper. I just can’t figure where the fringe sits between the filthy perpetrators and the good folks who love hearing about it. I eat cereal and drink orange juice and read about the most nefarious and disgusting kind of people doing the worst kinds of things to each other. Suddenly things ain’t tasting so sweet this morning.

Strangely, advertising revenue and media ratings have little to do with good and happy news.

Oh money, how you sometimes turn the world in such a dark and twisted way!

Maybe if I sprinkle some dollars on my breakfast it’ll give it some yummy again.

Tiger Woods vs. Noreweigan Wood

There seems to be question about whether or not the public can “trust” Tiger Woods. (Trust him with what? My car? Nope. My wife? Definitely nope. I don’t trust anyone I don’t know personally. Do you?) ESPN had a half hour vomit-inducing round table discussion about his waning popularity based on everything but how he hits a golf ball. Until golf becomes full contact I think it’s painfully boring to watch and follow so I don’t much care. But I do care enough to write that cheating on your wife is nothing compared to bilking hard-working Americans out of their pensions and 401k’s. Nothing compared to abusing kids or using a great rock song to schlep some crappy product.  The list of things worse than adultery is a mile long yet the story about Tiger Woods is how his cheating on his wife is a betrayal to his fans, a taint on the sport of golf and the now crumbling integrity of the marketing industrial complex that is the golfer himself. I can barely believe it’s a story. And I’m actually writing about it. This is what happens when you stop watching the news or reading about current events and politics. I only hear about the biggest, most inane train wrecks.

Something about those Asian Americans, though. Interesting enigmas, they are.

Save The Roots!

I feel sorry for The Roots. The Roots are this great hip-hop band from Philly who are immensely talented and have great success especially among those who have grown to loathe the pedestrian contemporary rap songs about rims on whips or cabbage and grips.

Why The Roots deserve our sympathy is because every weeknight they have to sit through an entire, uninterrupted episode of the late nite snooze-fest of a show that is hosted by the sadly unimaginative Jimmy Fallon. Since The Roots are the house band, they bear witness to high-grade talent going rotten in the interview chair on the daily. The exchanges between Fallon and his guests are punishingly forced, plodding and just plain boring. I would rather watch my father pick his ears with a car key than sit through Jimmy Fallon interviewing someone. Fallon’s lack of common cultural knowledge leaves him sitting there like a nervous muppet with nothing interesting to say, unaware that he has no shred of spontaneous wit. 

The episodes are rabbit pebbles strung together by long, dull stories from celebrities and maybe a silly voice thrown in and this sorry recipe for entertainment reduces his show to a 60 minute log of awkward silence. I’ve counted how many times people laugh during a Jimmy Fallon segment and wonder why The Roots haven’t thrown their instruments through the phony scenic background and burned that place to dust. Simply put, the show just isn’t funny and the business of a late night show that isn’t Nightline is to be funny or we’re all falling asleep wishing The Roots would change their name to The Riots.

I know The Roots are getting paid but couldn’t they be given reprieve from this terrible show? We all know Fallon won’t last another year, which is unfortunate because on SNL he was quite funny, in his element he was goofy and charming. But leave him alone with the likes of Robert DeNiro or even Danny DeVito and count the tumbleweeds.

The Roots need to migrate to a better show or this is going to stain their resume, what about that crazy Scottish guy? His show’s kinda irreverent and bizarre. Way more fun than watching Jimmy Fallon struggle to put words together to form something that matters. Poor bastard.

The very least he could do is replace The Roots with a band more fitting for his nightly vacuous conversations, like Good Charlotte or The Black Eyed Peas so The Roots can go on making great music without enduring their horribly grueling day job.

We Couldn’t Get Tito On Demerol?

I wasn’t going to mention the whole media blitz storm surrounding the death of Michael Jackson but it’s a nice day and I got Ozzy blasting through the house so I’d figure it would be cathartic.

I forgot about the monkey, the amusement park ranch, the hyperbaric chamber, the skin disorder, the masks, the surgeries, the marriages, the babies, the court proceedings, the showing up to said court proceedings in pajamas, the endless fascination and vilifying of a strange man.

I never forgot the circle slide, the moonwalk, the incredible dancing, the theatrical music videos and the politics of a man who just wanted peace for all people and for the wealth of the world to be shared with those less fortunate.

Crimeny, when this man danced he was the only thing you would be looking at, with dozens of people around him doing the same moves, no one did them like he did, he truly was a universal entertainer, every corner of the world understood that no one they knew could dance like that. His fashion sense alone has almost become a separate entity when describing him, those zipper jackets, weird gloves, buckles, straps, sparkles and even lingerie. Courage comes in many colors, my friends.

Since he hasn’t put out a decent record in at least a decade and a half and how the stories surrounding him were far from respectful or flattering, it’s almost a relief that he’s dead. The pressure on him to be something he’s not is gone and the weird caricature of a celebrity he had become has now morphed into the “The King Of Pop Is Dead, The World Mourns” headline that not only belies his global impact but leaves all the bizarre peripheral crap behind. Regretfully his children have lost their father but maybe the wee ones will have some semblance of a “normal” life without being in the shadow of such a media juggernaut.

An artist is an artist. You don’t sit down to dinner with an artist, you don’t have them babysit your kids, you don’t loan them money or have them sleep over at the house. If I stopped enjoying artists on their personal behavior and the value of their ethics, I certainly wouldn’t have any Van Gogh prints, ticket stubs to the Mollala Buckeroo or any Eminem records. Enjoy the art not the person. I’ve never once heard a great song or saw a mind-blowing performance and asked myself if the artist was a republican, cage-fighting fan or rapist. No offense to any of those demographics. Except the last one. 

People themselves often let me down anyhow so their art is many times the best person worth remembering.

And I truly believe Michael Jackson would have been a fascinating and sophisticated dinner guest.