Thursday, June 01, 2006

Guilty Pleasures, or Why I Now Listen to Led Zeppelin

At work last week a colleague took a look at the CDs I brought in for the day and said, “I don’t need to listen to these any more.” The CDs? Mostly Led Zeppelin, including the one with Stairway to Heaven on it.

I knew what he meant. He listened to the band so much when he was younger that he could practically hear the songs in his head. I could not relate. I was a music snob when I was younger. When my peers were listening to Kiss, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Led Zeppelin, Journey and other popular (both perennially and ephemerally) bands, I looked the other way. “Morons,” I snickered, and turned up The Smiths, Television, The Died Pretty and other bands that hardly anyone else listened to.

The problem was that the “uncool” music creeped in, in spite of knowing better. Damn, “Panama” was catchy, and that Eddie dude could really play guitar. And those opening piano chords in “Don’t Stop Believin’” always got my heart racing. For years I chose to ignore those impulses, but little by little I gave in. “OK, I’ll keep ‘Love Bites’ on the car radio, but only because there’s nothing else on and my CD player is broken,” I would rationalize. Soon those rationalizations became more frequent, and soon I crossed the line and purchased my first guilt-inducing CD: Journey’s Greatest Hits. Soon after, the wheel in the sky turned, the lights went down in my city and I was getting it any way I wanted it—I fully surrendered. I was rocking to such previously despised bands as Foreigner, AC/DC and even Van Halen. What happened? I realized that there is no wrong or right in music, just pleasure and non-pleasure. I realized that I was the moron all along. Although I still listen to artists most people have not heard of (Deerhoof, Some Girls, M.I.A.), I now listen to “uncool” music without guilt. Let there be rock.


At 1:43 PM, Blogger Queen of Spin said...

I'm laughing at one line if I can add my 2 cents:

"I realized that I was the moron all along."

But I do agree, "Let there be rock."

You are talking to the girl who goes to 80s hair bands to relive her childhood because no one wanted to go with her when she was younger. Now it's all my friends who go with me and we have the best time.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger The Optimist said...

Just because lots of people listen to something doesn't make it bad.

And thanks for the picture of Kelly Clarkson. She is hot.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Adam Zand said...

Am I the colleague that scoffed? I did counter your Billy Joel crap this week with the Beastie Boys doing "Big Shot" (saw that gem front row in Paris 1998, and swear I might have been the only one who got the joke).

Counter to the optimist's opinions of me and my snobbery, I am able to embrace my inner cheese. I just can't go more than a few bars of Journey's recordings or think about paying to see a bad metal show again (hello, I saw the Ronnie James Dio version of Black Sabbath, Foghat with Blue Oyster Cult twice and started my concert career with Richie Blackmore's Rainbow in England 1981 - a year I should have fallen in love with real talent ... Motorhead!)

At 12:10 PM, Blogger thoughtbrigade said...

Yes, Adam Zand, it was your comment which sparked my post.

Cheesy music is like cotton candy: it's great fun once in a while, but too much can quickly make you ill.

I used to hate Billy Joel, but after recording a CD with his guitarist of 14 years, David Brown, my respect grew. He let me play his many Les Pauls, he was a great chess player and he shared many interesting road stories. I remember two things most from those sessions. One was the time I walked in and started singing, “Just the Way You Are” to tease him, and guitar in hand, he joined in and played the whole song while I sang, both of us grinning like kids. I was stunned at the beautiful chord structure of the song. Another time, after I completed a guitar solo on a track and looked up at him in the control room, he stared at me for a long while. I just stared back; I had no idea what was wrong. Finally he hits the talk-back button and says, “This ain’t no Berklee shit. You’re a motherf*&ker.” That's debatable, but it was a nice thing to say.

Quick question: what do you think is the hottest aspect of the Kelly Clarkson picture, Optimist?


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