art, music, Pop Culture

Grammy Night…Music on My Mind


I am in one of those moods, rare for me, where I would rather take a break from the hard-scrabble world of political theory, philosophy, and 18th century sexual deviant geniuses in order to discuss something of more pressing importance: The Grammys

Well, less the Grammys than my taste in music and how that overlaps WITH said award program. My taste is rather eclectic and hard to pin down. It is easier, I suppose to state what I do NOT like.

1. I hate 95% of country music. The exceptions are Hank Williams, Johnny Cash (who along with Woody Guthrie is, in my opinion, the best American musician of all time…go ahead, challenge me on it) and….well there you go.

2. I hate 95% of hip-hop and rap made after 1992. The exceptions being Kanye West’s early stuff (I know that sounds hipster of me but oh well), Biggie Smalls, and Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise”. It is all just so much sound and fury signifying jack shit, to turn a phrase.

3. Not a big fan of jazz. I just…I don’t get it.

4. Anything auto-tuned. Just. Don’t.

Well now that I have THAT out of the way…on to what I DO like! My favorite channel on Pandora radio is my customized “Donovan” network, named for the Scottish songwriter/poet/musician who in many ways is what Dylan wanted to be when he tried to get all spiritual in the 70’s and failed miserably. The choices on that station are hardly limited to Donovan though: The Doors, The Beatles, John Lennon, The Stones, The Kinks (perhaps the most underrated rock group of the 70’s) and of course Zeppelin.

I have my wife’s wonderful music tastes to thank for my discovery of Led Zeppelin. I am partial to their more bluesy and soulful material but for just rocking out you cannot beat some of their arena anthems like Whole Lotta Love or Black Dog. And I can listen to Stairway to Heaven until the cows come home. Queen is another great band that gets a lot of play for me…especially Love of My Life, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Somebody to Love. Killer Queen is also exemplary. Freddie Mercury is pretty much a rock god in my eyes.

My guilty pleasure has always been U2…Name any of their songs and I will find something to love about it. Their Greatest Hits album was the soundtrack to my first solo trip to London back in 2005. Especially beloved by me are Sunday, Bloody Sunday, Beautiful Day, Where The Streets Have No Name, and the sublime One. Springsteen, The Clash, and Three Dog Night also inspire and move me as well.

For my more artistic moods I tend to reach for early Dylan…the folk stuff and the era when he just started going electric. Highway 61 Revisited is one of my all time favorite albums of any genre and I wrote some of my earliest poetry while listening to the haunting Desolation Row on loop for hours on end. As for his later stuff…well I like Quinn the Eskimo. We will leave it at that.

Not much about contemporary rock gets me excited…there are a few exceptions of course. The White Stripes are the best band of the 2000’s, hands down, and The Black Keys are fast becoming essential listening for anyone who needs to get in touch with the roots of rock. I’m Slowly Turning into You off of Icky Thump from the former and Lonely Boy from the latter are especially good examples of the genius of these groups. I hope that we will see more rock of this type as the years go by.

I am actually a rather big fan of lyrical hip hop and 80’s era politically infused rap. NWA’s Natural Born Killers and Express Yourself are two of the best contemporary songs of all time in my honest opinion. And The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is terrifying, haunting, and captivating all at once. Public Enemy is also another favorite of mine, as are the Beastie Boys.

Three of my all time favorites are The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Supremes, in that order. Ball of Confusion, My Girl, and Can’t Get Next to You Babe are…well they are classics. It’s Just The Same (Old Song) is just pure fun and energy and I can listen to almost anything song by Diana Ross at random. Motown in general is perhaps my greatest standby for when I just want to hear something that makes me happy.

Beyond pop I have a great love for Classical music. I can and have listened to Mozart for hours on end, especially the Operas and the Requiem Mass. Bach is a favorite as is Beethoven and Handel. I love the romantic era composers, especially Saint-Saens, Berlioz and Lizst. You can never go wrong with Richard Strauss either. I am amazed again and again when I listen to the Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens and his Carnival of the Animals suite, especially the segment entitled The Chickens with its frantic bursts of energy and concise structure. It really captures the mood of an autistic mind such as mine.

I think I mentioned something about the Grammys…oh yes! Well they were tonight and the Black Keys did NOT get the album of the year award they so richly deserved. The grossly overrated Mumford and Sons took that honor away from them. Meh. I was happy to see Adele get another award (I loved her 21 album) and the Lumineers are a delightful group, though I fear they may be a one hit wonder. Fun. is ok but they need to stop trying so hard to be Queen. I liked Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z’s Al Green-esque new song and I am intrigued by Frank Ocean. I also greatly appreciate Katy Perry’s breasts. Quite a bit.

Well that is my taste in music in a nutshell. Believe me, I could go on about this topic for 1000’s of words, and perhaps I will someday in this blog, but for now I will spare you. I have a date with Lola by The Kinks…Happy Listening!


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