In the movie “High Fidelity,” John Cusack says, “Which came first – the music or the misery? Do I listen to pop music because I am miserable or am I miserable because I listen to pop music?” Personally, I like pop music and all kinds of music. I really enjoy listening to music with friends. I’m not miserable at all.
Some of my friends like pop music. Some don’t. Some like country-western music. Some hate it. Some like classic rock. Some don’t. Personally, I appreciate all kinds of music. I may not like some writers or performers, but in almost all genres, there are songs I like.
In the mid-1980s, my wife and I joined forces with some friends and ran a small dance club, The Bedrock Lounge on Sixth Avenue. For a while it was the place to go . . . until we had liquor board problems. We mostly played alternative rock and dance mixes. On the weekends we brought in live bands. Peg and I listened to a wide variety of music. I played records through the evening and into the early morning hours on Wednesday nights. She knit, read, and worked on her calligraphy. From pop to classics and show tunes, we’ll listen. I even enjoyed the music of John Lydon, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols – “Sometimes the absolute most positive thing you can be in a boring society is completely negative.”
Every time someone mentions a musical I like, I generally say, “Oh, that’s one of my favorites.” I don’t really have a list of favorites, but perhaps I should write one down. Like Cusack, again, in “High Fidelity” says, “What really matters is what you like, not what you’re like.”
When I attend a musical with my wife, we always buy the cast album if possible. If you are familiar with particular Broadway musicals you can experience the entire play just by listening to the music. In your mind you can see the characters, hear their lines and watch their actions. In reality you are just listening to the songs performed on stage, but the human mind tends to fill in the blanks. I remember returning from Seattle after seeing “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” by Steven Schwartz, and my friend Rob Erb said, “That’s the best musical I’ve ever seen.” A good musical should give you that feeling each time you see it.
I love live performances. If I have seen a performer live AND have their music on a CD I’m in heaven. If I have CDs of a favorite singer and haven’t seen them live, I search on the internet for their concert dates. And sometimes I just fall into the right situation.
Peg and I once attended a Nanci Griffith concert and expected to see Guy Clark open for her. Guy Clark is a favorite singer/song writer of Peggy’s. He couldn’t make it. However, Iris DeMent, a member of the band stepped forward. Her voice is very identifiable . . . and her poignant songs pierce your heart. “Our Town,” was the first song she wrote. The lyrics came to her as she drove through a boarded up mid-west town. I can hum the song and enjoy the visions it calls forth, but the lyrics and song “There’s a Wall In Washington” just stops me cold.
“There’s a wall in Washington
And it’s made of cold black granite
They say 60,000 names are etched there in it”
– “There’s a Wall in Washington” by Iris DeMent
DeMent has made frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.” She sings back-up on Nanci Griffith’s “Other Voice, Other Rooms,” but most people have probably heard her over the closing credits of the Coen brothers’ film “True Grit.” Peg and I watched the film with friends at Tacoma’s Grand Cinema. As the credits rolled someone in the row in front of us, said knowledgeably “Joni Mitchell.” Peg leaned forward and said, “Iris DeMent, I believe.”
Sometimes the music doesn’t matter and sometimes the lyrics don’t matter, but songs reach out and touch us, regardless:
I can’t get jumping jack
I wanna hold – get back
Knick knack patty whack
Talk about, pop musik
Talk about, pop musik
– “Pop Musik” by M
One afternoon Peg and I were at Half Price Books with our grandtwins. I had purchased a CD by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. The first song was “Reasons to Be Cheerful Part 3.” Soon the rock/rap/jazz/fusion music filled the car. It was fantastic. Who couldn’t listen to this music and just get fired up? The two young girls in the backseat, that’s who.
Music is personal and it grabs different people in different ways. It can make you want to shout, make you want to cry, make you want to dance, or make you want to get back into bed.