I was born in November, 1957. If I read his obsessive ongoing autobiography closely, James Lileks was born in August, 1958. How the hell did I get so much older than him, anyway? Ahem:
Kids today. No respect for kids of yesterday. Thing is, we were required to know every fargin’ thing about the 60s when we were coming up, being schooled in the ways of the Most Important Musical Genre Ever. You were required to nod at your elder and respect their sage ways, and thus I found myself in a few dorm rooms listening to peers explain why Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Reefer and Cocaine were incredible not just for their harmony and song-writing skills, but their abilty to make music that on longer than three minutes. To which you could only say: may all your girlfriends take “Love the One You’re With” to heart everytime you’re out of town.
What the hell is he talking about? I have no recollection of this. There was no bright line between ’60s music and ’70s music. There are few bright lines in any art form, but I guess if you wanted to pick it apart, you could find places where the next thing seemed to arrive allofasudden, but it certainly wasn’t between the ’60s and ’70s, unless you’re talking disco, but I don’t think he is. Rather, I think he’s pooching his little lip out and pouting that in the ’60s, we elevated drug addicts and America-haters to the Top 10.
Of course, I had older brothers and sisters, and picked up their enthusiasms along the way. I started listening to pop music when I was very young; everybody did. You tuned your AM radio to WCOL and left it there until 1972 or so, when WCOL-FM started playing some crazy stuff called “progressive rock” in the overnight hours. (Yes, way — they were country-and-western during the day, and at 9 p.m. or so the Stetsons went home and the hippies took over.) But everyone still listened to the Top 40, too, and the ’60s were a rich, rich time for that. You had everyone from the Jefferson Airplane to Glen Campbell to Martha and the Vandellas elbowing for space. I can still recall, as vividly as the moon landing, the DJ telling everyone they’d be playing the new Rolling Stones single at 2 p.m. sharp, so be there if you wanted to hear it first. And that’s where I heard the opening cowbell of “Honky Tonk Women” for the first time, in my bedroom, on my transistor radio.
Checking Wikipedia; it was the same summer as the moon landing, and guess what the B-side was? “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” In many ways, the ’60s were better, Jimbo.
I asked a friend of similar age for a reality check. He replied, “my bet was his little turntable in his room with the cowboy wallpaper only had Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Sgt. Barry Sadler and the soundtrack to Patton.”
Lileks has made some money trashing the ’70s, but I won’t have any of it, especially where music is concerned. There was some great pop music made then, and for some genres — I’m thinking soul and funk — there wasn’t any better time, before or since. I wouldn’t imagine Parliament/Funkadelic made it all the way to Fargo, however.
But don’t trust me; I even liked disco, at least in its natural habitat, i.e., the disco. If you’d ever joined a dance floor full of sweaty, shirtless men waving their hands in the air to “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” you would, too. And as for the bright line between the ’70s and the ’80s, which Lileks loves, I have only to note that I heard quite a few of those early New Wave tunes in the disco, and the shirtless men danced to those, too. They fit right in for a reason.
Eh. I hate all this genre fascism. Bring back the melting pot of ’60s Top 40. There are still places in this racist town where you can turn on a rock station and hear their top of the hour promos: Today’s best rock…and NO RAP. Oh, that’s comforting. Meanwhile, I was driving home late last summer listening to an R&B station, black DJs, black artists, the usual. They were in their Saturday-night old-school groove, Prince and LTD and so on, and guess what they slipped into the mix? Thomas Dolby, “She Blinded Me With Science.” I’m glad they’re not as tight-assed as their colleagues at the rock stations.
Enough. Now I’m boring myself. So let’s start the bloggage off with an unveiling:
WashPost pop-culture writer and NN.c reader Hank Stuever has a blog! Yay! It’s called Tonsil and it’s not about throats, but a build-up for his great new book, due out in November, “Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present.” (It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, via Nance’s Kickback Lounge.) I for one hope Tonsil will live beyond Christmas, since Hank’s voice is one we need to hear more of:
When the Post was starting a far too many blogs in the mid-‘00s, I carped in an in-house memo that none of the paper’s writers should be blogging at all; we should be writing stories that are blogged about. I also have enormous issues about writing for free.
Well, some things have changed. I still work at the Post (last I checked), but I feel like now I have some reasons to blog. (As for writing for free, well, it’s a fucking renaissance out there, isn’t it? So long, six centuries of the printed word! Hello, crapola!)
…it’s nice to be able to type the word “fucking” and just hit publish.
Yes, isn’t it? Anyway, I’m working my way through “Tinsel” now, and will discuss it at length as we get closer to its pub date. (Or when it “drops,” as the hip-hoppers have taught us to say.) It’s Christmas in July in my recreational reading, but as life in Michigan will teach you, winter is never that far away. In the meantime, bookmark Hank, and ignore that pimpage of yours truly in his first entry. This is a mutual-admiration society built on mutual admiration.
Next item: Next month our little family, plus dog, will be vacationing in Chicago for a couple of days, before moving up the west coast of the Mitten to spend the rest of the week at the beach. Any interest in a modest Chicago meetup? Grab a big table at someplace like Buca di Beppo and pass around a platter of meatballs? If so, e-mail me separately.
Breakfast time, and a lot of work ahead. Enjoy it.