Hey, all the young dudes, carry the news …
— Mott the Hoople
It started, this diatribe on my inadequacy of the day, as such things so often do: with a supposed put-down.
“You call yourself a ‘musical expert’ and think you know so much about music …”
Ummm … No and no.
That seems to be what happens around here when you’re willing to offer an opinion — emphasis on that word opinion — on any topic, be it politics, gardening, sports, economics, religion or even food. Suddenly it becomes open season, and you’re the target.
So, to clarify: At no time have I ever claimed to be a music expert. Neither do I think I have sufficient knowledge to qualify as anyone’s go-to guy when it comes to the minutiae that allows you to wow your friends and other competitors during karaoke/trivia night at the local bar.
I’m a guy who likes, listens to and owns a whole lot of music and doesn’t mind sharing his opinion on the subject. I’m aware of any number of local folks who’d run rings around me on Rock ‘n’ Roll Jeopardy, and I’ll admit right here for God and the world to see that I don’t know Luke Bryan’s belt buckle size.
What I am is a guy who grew up listening to hard-core country and bluegrass music, fell in love with the Beatles, Stones, Stevie, Led Zep, Bob Seger, Jimi, Elton John, Parliament-Funkadelic … and didn’t quit listening to new music just because I happened to come of age during the greatest musical decade in the history of music (1964-1973). Thus, I list Pearl Jam’s “Black” as the greatest song ever, consider rap/hip-hop artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar some of the best entertainers working today, think zydeco is the most under appreciated form of music ever made, consider Kanye, Skrillex and Eric Church artistic geniuses, and would put Leonard Cohen’s “Closing Time” up against any song on any genre’s current Top 10 list and bet it’s better.
Plus, I think two of the top songs released this year — not counting Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” which is far and away THE best — are Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and Lorde’s “Royals.”
While I wasn’t exactly thrilled to have my musical propers — nor my manhood, patriotism and intelligence, among other things — questioned by the above-mentioned emailer, reading it did lead me, in a roundabout way, to a theory that’s been nagging at me, just below the surface, for years: It’s hard to be a really big music fan and be a dude.
Here’s the justification around which I base this, I’ll admit, not exactly earth-shattering and unresearched premise: Most great music — and, trust me, I mean no disrespect to the ladies out there … Tina and Loretta and Joni and Beyonce, heck, even Miley — has been created by guys. And if you ask those great musical creators the motivation for their art, 86 percent of them (taking into account the gay factor) will tell you they started playing music to pick up girls.
I offer the fact that dudes as hideously ugly as Mick Jagger, Flava Flav, Slash, Lil Wayne, Joe Cocker, Joey Ramone, Ric Ocasek, James Brown, the drummer for Blue Oyster Cult and that guy from Digital Underground with the big nose have their pick of some of the finest selections womanhood has to offer as evidence to support my theory. You think Beyonce would have ended up with Jay-Z if he wasn’t a musical icon? You think Carly Simon would have hooked up with James Taylor? You think Pamela Anderson would have chosen Tommy Lee … oh, wait, not a good example, given the ummm extenuating circumstances there.
Even though guy musicians know what it’s like to be big music fans — for the best of them, it’s a lifetime obsession that becomes their livelihood — you think they’re going to want to talk guitar solos or meaningful lyrics with a dude if there are a couple of chicks waiting to get their goodies signed? You think they care that you spent half your paycheck growing up buying their records when that cutie next in line’s giving them that special rock-star look?
Plus, people tend to back away from you if you’re a guy and you get all little-girl-giggly when Jimmy Herring kicks into a mesmerizing 17-minute jam and you go into your own version of the impromptu, I’m-transported noodle dance that looks pretty cool when the hippie chicks do it. Be assured: They’re laughing at you, not with you.
So dudes, if you’re a music fanatic and you want to gush over anything less musically technical than the amperage needed to run the Foo Fighters’ sound board, just keep it to yourself. There’s only one guy who can have that “Play ‘Freebird’!” moment and not become fodder for ridicule.
Your only hope? Get yourself a column and gush ‘til your heart’s content. You’ll get your own anonymous e-haters who are the real musical geniuses, but the trade-off’s worth it.