Apr 062016
As good as it gets?

As good as it gets?

My 18-year-old son was telling me last week about his recent mission to spend entire days listening to the complete catalogs of artists who have interested him. One day, through Spotify, he listened to every Creedence Clearwater Revival album in order. He dedicated another day to Lynyrd Skynyrd. His growing interest in rootsy music has led him to investigate a genre I’ve never come to terms with: Country music.

“You know what’s the best driving station on the radio?” he asked me, to kick off this conversation.


“92.5, the Country station.”

“Really?” I tried to hide my concern over imagining my usually hip, somewhat snobbish son as a budding Bro-Country guy, clutching a Solo cup in the parking lot.

“Yeah,” he said, “the thing I’m realizing about Country music is that although not much of it is great, not much of it sucks.”

This is the kind of insight that has led me to lay the plans for one day turning over the “family business” of rock snobbery to my boys!

What musical wisdom has come from the mouths of your babes in recent months?

May 052015


This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I heard the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Lodi” coming out of our 13-year-old son’s room. I was filled with pride in the kid’s hard-bitten psych-up music for another school day. Meanwhile, our high school senior son has been all about The Doors (especially his new musical hero, Ray Manzarek) and determining the second-best guitar player after Jimi Hendrix. He’s decided that Eddie Hazel‘s guitar on “Maggot Brain” is his favorite extended guitar solo he’s heard to date. However, he’s disappointed that the rest of Funkadelic‘s catalog, or at least what he’s heard of it so far, doesn’t live up to the promise of that song.

With no tremendous topic to put forth, I ask you: What are your kids listening to, right now?

I look forward to your answers.

Jun 242014
Kids say the darnedest things!

Kids say the darnedest things!

I heartily encourage you to follow this link to a piece on School of Rock kids watching and reacting to a video by the Philadelphia band Man Man. You won’t be disappointed by following this link and reading/watching the piece. Then, let us know which future rocker(s) would make the grade in your band. Thank you for following the link to this piece.

Oct 302013
Fire away!

Fire away!

Listen, I’m in an incredibly bad mood today (it has nothing to do with you), but don’t think I’m not man enough to welcome an intelligent discussion on a piece of rock criticism that appeared in The Washington Post.

On a friend’s Facebook page people are sharing mixed opinions on critic Chris Richards‘ handling of his negative review of The Arcade Fire‘s new album, Reflektor. It’s not Richards’ opinion they seem to be reacting to but his tone. I don’t get it. What’s wrong with a critic thinking an album sucks and writing about it as he or she feels? Why do I sense some candy-ass regard for the critic’s tone? It’s a stinking rock ‘n roll album and one person’s opinion of it. It’s not a dissenting opinion on a Supreme Court decision.

After winning a Grammy for album of the year in 2011, they’re still the biggest rock band on the block, still making music mysteriously devoid of wit, subtlety and danger. And now, they’re really into bongo drums, too. We should all be repulsed. Only partially because of the bongos.

Candy-asses of the Rock World: Please explain what’s wrong with this negative review of The Arcade Fire’s new album, Reflektor.

People on my friend’s Facebook page are lashing out at this guy for being “tragically hip,” for feeling slighted by the “cool kids.” In my formative rock years, these admittedly pathetic feelings were a badge of honor, a rite of passage. What rock snob worth his or her salt didn’t feel left out by the cool kids? Is it no longer cool to feel left out? Is everybody happy nowadays? Everybody but me and Chris Richards?

Just last week I was asking my 16-year-old son if there’s anything kids can be made fun of these days. We were joking around, but there was an undercurrent of snobbish pride in our joking. In a world where young people can walk around in “slides” (ie, those sporty flip-flops) and white knee-high socks without shame, how can anyone know their place, from bullies to misfits?

Listen, anyone past a certain age should grow up and grow past whatever feelings might have fueled their essential take on rock ‘n roll, but if in our judgments of rock ‘n roll music we totally deny that kid, be it a kid who sat at the cool table or one who was excluded, I’m not sure we’re fit to listen to rock ‘n roll any longer. Or maybe we’re not fit to critique it any longer. Rock ‘n roll is there for the taking, enjoying, hating, whatever. It’s not something we are obliged to approach and assess through some formal, respectful, educated, mature eye. That is one approach that can be taken, but why should it be the only approach?

Jun 192013

With all this talk of birthdays, check out these kids, and anything else they have on YouTube. It’s enough to make any of us feel over the hill. Even if their metal-punk isn’t quite my cup of tea, I’m impressed.

Apr 202013


No, this is not a reference to sammymaudlin’s recent post in today’s All-Star Jam.

This post is about remembering something good. About the transcendence of music, even crappy music.

Last night, I attended and performed in this year’s Talent Show at the middle school where I work. Yes, we adult faculty were magnificent in our rendition of the Harlem Shake (I’m sure my Funky Chicken will be commented on for years to come). But the part of the afternoon that stood out for me was a student’s rendition of Kansas’s “Dust In The Wind.” I initially guffawed when I saw the song announced on the program. When when she started to play, it realized it was a lovely choice. I am not admitting that this song has some sentimental value as I’d seen Kansas in concert about 3 times when I was growing up. I will admit that it’s a horrible song. But to hear this student sing it in a heart-felt way was oddly transcendent.

It reminds me of that album, The Langley Schools Music Project, and the student renditions of some popular songs at the time. Many of those songs are objectively horrible (“Mandy,” by Barry Manilow!) but when performed by young students (even horribly), they somehow lose some of that dreadfullness and become…palatable? Beautiful? Acceptable? (There is a cringe-worthy but great version of “Good Vibrations” that has been used in some movie soundtracks.) One of my favorites from that album is “Desperado” by [The] Eagles:

I’ve often been cautious about attending student/young performer musical events: they seem to be more the stuff of family photo ops than “art.” I can still recall the dread, waiting for my turn to play in annual piano recitals, sitting next to my father and hearing him rapidly suck air in through his teeth when someone played a wrong note, and then worrying that I would make some laughable mistake.

So yesterday’s performance was just what I needed: the kids who love music and it how it shows, even if what they choose to play is garbage.


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