Unformed Thoughts on Music This Week
I moved last week. Moving means a number of things: you finally get rid of the roller blades you haven’t worn in 13 years; the cat is trapped in the bathroom for two days while renovations are happening; you’re without internet for over a week (why is this the hardest task to accomplish? Why?). At least I didn’t move 11 times in 3 years like some people.
The move and my increasingly scattered work schedule means that my thoughts on music are fleeting and undeveloped. As such, and inspired by Easy Ed’s weekly column (which I’m quite enjoying, Ed. Also, I got an iphone on your recommendation; do you get commission?), I’ve compiled said undeveloped thoughts here as a way of getting back into the work of writing about music.
Music and the City
First, going back to Woody for a second, I love this idea of seeing the places where someone created on a daily basis. Music tourism is built on exactly this: here’s where John Lennon lived, and here’s where The Beatles walked across Abbey Road – maybe you can pose for a picture with your family the same way – this is a lot like when we stood on Elvis’s X in Sun Studios, huh? But it’s really nice, because you suddenly see the magic underneath a city plugging along in its everyday groove. Boring places are made special. We need to see that in our current music scenes too: the strip I walk along to get to the grocery store was transformed last night into a neighbourhood music festival. The Sadies played to a roaring crowd at the same place I had purchased a screwdriver in Dollarama just hours before.
When I was unpacking last week, I had a strong craving for Synchronicity. This wasn’t good, because although I’d unpacked the “O” and “Q” boxes of CDs, I hadn’t yet come across “P”. So I tore the place apart and found the box, because I couldn’t continue unpacking until the album was playing. Unfortunately, I only have a ripped copy, and it didn’t work in my player (Sting is laughing right now, isn’t he? Serves me right, he says. Pours himself another $100 glass of wine.) I put on The Police and Sting’s Greatest Hits instead.
Later in the week, I was challenged to list non-hit good tracks from Synchronicity, and aside from the fact that I hadn’t heard it recently, I didn’t think I could do it. What about Zenyatta Mondatta? my challenger asked. Outlandos d’Amour? I accepted the challenge, and have been listening to Outlandos all week. “Next to You” is okay, but not Police-like. “Hole in My Life” is also alright. My top deep tracks here are “Peanuts” and “Born in the 50s”, but yeah, it’s not the outstanding album that Synchronicity is in my mind. Thoughts? I’ll take on Zenyatta this week and come back with more.
For now, one of my faves:
Presumably, if you didn’t spend this past week in Nashville, it’s quite possible you were considering going to a Gram Parsons tribute show. I put one together for the club I work at, and spent most of the week panicking that the musicians couldn’t get together to rehearse, that I wasn’t promoting it enough, that we would be hit hard by the Junior Gone Wild show taking place not far away.
Seems like people want these shows, though. Musicians are anxious to perform in them, despite the hard work of learning the songs and creating a night that flows smoothly. Audiences want to go, because they know the songs, and as a bonus, they’re often being performed by a variety of musicians that are familiar, even though these singers’ own catalogues may not be as well-known by attendees. Clubs make a lot of money, benefitting from the familiar repertoire and variety of performers. This kind of show is bread and butter for a venue like Hugh’s Room, whose audience tends towards the older-with-good-memory-and-money demographic.
But tribute shows are really playing into our tendency to privilege very few songwriters whose legacies we can’t shake. For good reason: usually the songs are worth repeat performance. But in the process of regurgitating the catalogues of these few, often who died young and tragically, who are we ignoring?
I say this, having organized an Ian Tyson tribute this week, and a Woody Guthrie one next week.
I left this topic to the end, because it doesn’t deserve a higher spot on the list. Kevin Fallon probably says it best – we’ve reached booty exhaustion, and maybe J. Lo’s bandwagon jumping indicates the beginning of the end of a trend. I talked about butts in my first day of pop music class, and quite frankly, that was my moment of booty exhaustion. As I said to my students, I now challenge pop songwriters to tackle climate change. Go pick up Naomi Klein’s book, at least read the introduction, put it on your shelf, and let it inspire a good tune.
That’s all for now.