Phil and Don? No, Phil and Joe.
So much sad and disheartening news floating around on my longer-than-usual evening browse through Facebook tonight: Bobbie Smith of The Spinners died. I grew up loving that band. Just this evening, in fact, while driving home from a long client presentation through a wintry mix on the New Jersey Turnpike, one of their songs came on the radio. That’s right, I was listening to sports-talk radio, got sick of hearing people talk about stinking college kids wearing t-shirts under their tank tops and their basketball tournament, which dudes who barely graduated from high school foam at the mouth over in hopes of winning $200 in an office pool. I hate the sight of college basketball players wearing of a t-shirt under a tank top. It’s not right. It’s sad. It’s like watching fat kids in the pool with a t-shirt sticking to their fat rolls. Who are they kidding? You’re playing basketball, kid: wear a tank top! (College football players don’t know how to wear their uniforms either, with their exposed calves…It’s even extended to the NFL, with the whole sleeveless Look. Come on, man, I want to watch big men pound each other as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to see a 360-pound lineman’s fat rolls being squeezed out from his armpits.) Anyhow, I got sick of the March Madness talk and flipped through the couple of music stations I have saved. The Spinners played, and I sang along to whatever old Spinners tune it was the oldies station was playing. (Next they played “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and I bailed. That’s not an “oldie!” That’s the musical equivalent of a t-shirt under a tank top.)
I also read that a guy named Jason Molina died. The name rang a bell. At first I thought he was one of those bearded, mediocre folk-rock dudes who manage to appear on The Tonight Show and other major outlets despite seeming to have generated no organic buzz. Like that Ray Montaigne (sp?) guy. His music’s all right, but you’re telling me there aren’t 2 bearded, mediocre folk-rock dudes in any music scene who couldn’t draw the same amount of people to a club as him? What do I know? Upon further investigation I was reminded that Molina was the man behind Songs:Ohia, an actually good folky band I first learned about through a contribution to a tribute album on which my band appeared. I thought their contribution was the strongest of the batch. This story was especially sad, sadder than the fat kid jumping into the pool in his sopping wet, skin-tight t-shirt. Molina was 39 or so. His body gave out from drinking.
In contrast to these stories I took a modicum of delight in news that Michelle Shocked spouted off on some hateful anti-gay rant at a recent show in San Francisco, I believe. She declared that “God hates fags,” or something like that, and expressed a fear of gay marriage. Much of her audience walked out. The club shut down her performance, and 8 of her next 11 scheduled venues canceled her coming appearance. My mild sense of delight was in no means related to the content of her shocking new beliefs but in the fact that I never liked her music, her entire schtick, and all the people who bought into that schtick in the mid-’80s or so. She was at the fore of a wave of “serious” artists whose stance seemed to be way more important than their music. Too many of those artists struck me as being props for people who couldn’t take a stand of their own. It was “package-deal” music. “I’ve got no beef with homosexuals,” God said when informed of Shocked’s comments. “I simply never found Michelle’s music that interesting.”
The musical discussion that really made me stop and think, however, came from Crystal, the wife of a Townsman, and a former contributor herself, in fact. I hope she and her husband don’t mind me reposting her status:
Quick! Think of a song that makes you happy. Putting together a playlist for someone. I’ll start, Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation…
I wanted to chime in and play along, but you know what? I’m not sure that any song actually makes me “happy.” All the favorite songs that came to mind that make me feel the wonder of life and the cosmos, or whatever, inevitably make me feel a little sad as well. Not sad in an I’m-drinking-myself-to-death way or even sad like the kid in the pool in his t-shirt, but a little sad at the knowledge that the beauty of the song I’m hearing cannot last forever. Maybe it’s like that orgasmic state some French thinker dubbed la petite morte.
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