May 102011

I would imagine we’ve all been on the receiving end of what I call Rock Schoolyard Bullying at some point or another in our musical development. Perhaps some Classic Rocker upper classman called you a “pussy” for liking punk rock or New Wave or Disco or whatever. Or maybe some asshole blogger once “outed” you for professing to like Bruce Springsteen‘s Nebraska while claiming you’re a cliche for professing to love that album while having long been too cool for school to admit liking any of The Boss’ popular works. Those rock bullies really get my goat!

I have, however, been guilty of acts of rock schoolyard bullying. I know this confession may shock you. To illustrate an experience I had on the giving end of this regrettable dynamic, here’s an excerpt from a longer piece I have in the works:

The rhythm of music has helped me better understand my own rhythm and the rhythm of others. “What makes that guy tick?” I’ve asked myself a few thousand times over the years. If he’s a music lover to any degree I may be able to quickly home in on his Inner Metronome and reach a level of intimacy that two dudes may not otherwise reach so easily. I have to tread with caution, though. Snap judgments and insults based on an artist he initially expresses as a favorite that I don’t like won’t help. I still regret walking into a party in my mid-20s, with a roomful of people I barely knew, being immediately cornered by a perfectly excited fellow music fan who wanted to make a connection, and then bluntly telling him his favorite local band of the moment “sucked.” It would have been better form had I simply shoved him against the wall and sucker punched him. Sorry, man.

Do you have a memorable moment of rock schoolyard bullying you feel needs sharing, be it on the giving or receiving end? I trust much healing will ensue.


  13 Responses to “RTH Confessional: Rock Schoolyard Bullying, on the Giving and Receiving Ends”

  1. When I first turned pro with the keyboards around 1988, I became acquainted with a more experienced guitarist – let’s call him Roy. He was a rock and roll purist who imagined himself to be the reincarnation of Hendrix, and he hated all music after around 1976. Roy and I tried to put a band together without much success due to a variety of reasons, not least being that Roy felt that soloing was the sole purpose of playing guitar. Finally I gave up in exasperation and went on a nine-month nationwide tour with an established professional travelling roadshow band. The show was a husband/wife team where the wife sang pop and dance hits while the husband was a Elvis impersonator of some repute. The other musicians (guitars, bass, drums) were all experienced touring pros with some solid rocker backgrounds. It was lots of travel, lots of work, and a real challenge to me since I had virtually no experience playing keyboards live. However, I got the job done and became an important part of the band which gigged at least five nights per week. After a short while, I managed some pretty decent chops since I had to play not only primary piano but all the synth, strings, and horn parts. There was no sequencing at all – we played everything live and in real time without even a fixed set list.

    During that time, Roy didn’t get a band together and had no paying gigs. I was making $400/week with all expenses paid, and I even got to play big showrooms in Vegas for a month. When I came back from the tour, Roy admitted that I had become a seasoned pro but gave me endless crap about how I was being a musical “slut” because I learned several hundred songs that he would never even dream of playing.

    My final replay? “I’m not a slut – I’m a whore. I got paid for it.”

  2. BigSteve

    I saw Elvis Costello & the Attractions on their first American tour. They were great. After the show I saw some of my pothead friends outside the club, and I remember one of them sniffing “I’m not interested in music by people with safety pins in their ears.” I didn’t defend the music, and I don’t think those guys ever came around.

  3. diskojoe

    When I was at college I got a copy of the Kinks’ VGPS as a birthday gift for a friend. I was at her room playing it when one of her friends came in, listened for a bit & said “It sounds like the Beatles. I hate it.” Last I heard, she was working @ at classical rock station.

  4. 2000 Man

    I have a bad habit of letting what I really think of something show quite plainly on my face, so I’ve missed some musical connections when acquaintances have introduced me to their group’s music nerd when said nerd started off with Rush or Stevie Ray Vaughan. I think I get a face that looks like I just sat in gum or something. I should work on that.

    I remember in high school getting Elvis Costello’s first and The Sex Pistols for my birthday. I didn’t put them in my locker, I dragged them with me everywhere so everyone could see how lucky and or cool I was. I don’t think anyone had ever heard either of them, and people just laughed at my pink album and the one with the “fag” on the front (talk about blank friggin stare – one guy called Elvis “some fag” and I said, “Why? Cuz he looks like Buddy Holly?” “Buddy Who?”). That’s about when the “Rick doesn’t like popular music” thing started (which isn’t true, I think that song by Adele that’s #1 right now is really great).

    Later, at the place I worked for decades, we would trade albums and loan them to each other all the time. That’s when I kind of got into Metal for awhile. But we were pretty underground hard rock kinds of guys, and I remember a guy bringing an armful of records hoping to get a swap going with one of us, and we were unmerciful to the guy cuz he had a 12″ of Sussudio. I think we called him Phil for two years. Man, that was a dick move.

  5. ladymisskirroyale

    In high school French class, one of the other gals mentioned that she loved The Boss. I knew who he was and liked his album covers but otherwise didn’t know much about him. We were asked to discuss this Boss guy. Because the girl who said she liked Springsteen was popular, and I wasn’t but wished I was, I just said that I liked him too.

    Years later, I still kick myself for admitting to like music that I didn’t know (and now don’t really enjoy that much) but also console myself to the fact that it is easier to use the elementary grasp of a language to agree than provide a disclaimer or different opinion.

  6. VERY HEALING. Thank you for sharing your experiences on both ends of this dynamic.

  7. That story cuts like a knife, ladymiss.

  8. ladymisskirroyale

    And then there was the time I got Slint and the Slits mixed up. I told a musician friend that I liked Slint but I was thinking he meant the Slits (whose music he also enjoyed). He was playing Slint’s first album on his stereo and I asked what it was. He said, “Don’t you remember? You said you like them?” Every time I see him, I recall this embarrassing episode and he doesn’t remember it, suggesting that my faux pas made a bigger impact on me than on him.

  9. misterioso

    That’s Le Patron to you.

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    Or Le Maitre.

  11. Two attempts at bullying on my part (one successful, one not) while bartending in SF circa 1992:

    Customer: “Ugh, who is butchering this Bonnie Raitt song?”
    Me (contemptuously): “John Hiatt, the guy who wrote it.”

    Customer: “Can you play some Shawn Colvin?”
    Me (contemptuously): “No, I can’t stand him.”
    Customer (smugly): “Shawn Colvin is a woman.”
    Apparently I was thinking of hot shot guitar wanker Shawn Lane.

    Perhaps this is just haughty behavior rather than bullying but in any event I’ve toned it down since then.

  12. Nope, can’t think of anything like this ever once happening in my experience….

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