I’m Not Rock-Worthy

I recently saw a TV documentary on Joseph Stalin. Yeah, he was bad, yeah he was brutal. But at least the movie of his life can be scored with a thrash-metal soundtrack.

Not everyone can say that. I certainly can’t:

“Alan Brech graduated from the University of Florida’s English Department–where he shredded it!”  [crashing guitars howl and wail]

No, that’ll never work. I’ll never get a hard rock soundtrack to accompany the “story” of my lame suburban life. ‘Never happen, as the grunts used to say back in the world’s most rock-n-roll-worthy war, the Vietnam Conflict (even if most of the actual participants listened to country, soul and Asian folk).

Ironically, while much of the really great early rock music of the 60’s and 70’s was anti-war, now the most rock-n-roll thing is war. According to everything I’ve seen on TV–and that’s quite a lot, thank you very much–war fucking rocks. Advanced weapons systems rock. Dangerous missions rock. Heavy casualties really rocks!

But not every great thing rocks. It’s not that easy. Take Tolkien, for example. Yeah, it’s great, and yeah it seems like it should rock. But it doesn’t. Put a rock soundtrack on anything from Tolkien and the result is corny stupidity causing internal cringes of embarrassment that are the exact opposite of rocking out.

Many a near-great Zeppelin tune has been marred by an unfortunate reference to Mordor and Gollum. Ok, it was only one song, but look how it cast a pall over all their other stuff.

And poor Rush. Poor, poor Rush…

Or opera. I don’t like it but for people who do it must seem great and powerful–just like rock–so what could be a better marriage than rock and opera? Wrong again. Tommy can’t hear you and none of us are listening anymore either.

It’s debatable whether Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart really rocked or not. Yes, Falco made a good case in the abstract, but no one has yet attempted to score a visual portrayal of WAM with rock music. It’s doubtful whether it would work for anything other than his mental breakdown scenes.

Because mental breakdowns rock.

Apparently many things we despise and fear–war, mental breakdowns, crime, stress, addiction, hopelessness, maybe the Orcs from Tokien–really rock.

Butterflies, not so much, 1968 notwithstanding. A bird chomping down on a butterfly with butterfly juice squirting out in slow motion–yeah, that would rock.

So choose your soundtrack and live it well.

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Call it the Seeger River

What did Pete Seeger do for fun while on the road away from his wife, serving this cause or that—no drinking, no smoking, no bars, and supposedly no women?

He could be a saint—did Pete Seeger perform any miracles?

Did his songs?

Rename the Hudson the Seeger.

Because who was better, really?

Someone else who was also white would have eventually found the Hudson River. Big deal. The Indians already had a pretty good idea it existed, since they lived there.

But it’s not clear that someone else inevitably would have written “If I Had a Hammer,” or set Ecclesiastes to music and added “turn turn turn.”

Being banned from TV was the ultimate 20th century version of martyrdom.

And resisting tobacco ad money was like resisting the Devil’s best temptations after 40 days and nights of deprivation.

What we really need is a muck-raking expose that brings this guy down to our level. Something bad, something really, really bad needs to be uncovered.

Singer-Songwriters Who Should Have Just Written

How many great songs have been ruined by selfish writers who insisted on singing their own creations?

Bob Dylan:   Too nasal, not enough variation in his voice. The Byrds should have done all his songs. Then they could have lasted forever. Had I been Dylan I would have been objective and humble enough to give all my songs to them and other artists. Also, I would have had a hard time understanding myself when I spoke, but that’s just me, or me being Dylan.

Frank Zappa:   Sounds too much like Bill Murray’s 1970’s lounge singer from Saturday Night Live. “Those Crazy Star Wars” could have been a full-length Zappa clay-animation movie for all I know.

Roy Orbison:   Voice sounds like cream soda. He looked like a switched corpse–like not the corpse you thought you were burying but a different one that got switched-in but no one wants to say anything even though it seems obvious to everyone but the bereaved.

Gregory Isaacs (reggae star from the 1980s): Too nasal. Sounds like Benny Hill doing reggae. All male nasal singers sound like Benny Hill singing. As you can tell, we hates nasal.

Tom Petty:  Like Orbison, he looks like a cadaver, but unlike Orbison, a cool-looking cadaver, like a cadaver who just emerged from a joint-lined coffin after a mourner paying his respects had blown some cocaine up its nose, semi-reviving him. ‘Not saying Petty shouldn’t have performed his songs, he just shouldn’t sing them. Why? you guessed it–too nasal.

Bob Marley:  Borders on nasal. And what is that dancing??? Far too many tripping hippies have mistakenly become uninhibited by the bad example of Bob Marley’s horrible dancing.

To me, nasal singing among male performers is almost an oxymoron, and “almost an oxymoron” is an oxymoron, I think, meaning it’s like practically the same thing.

Female nasal singing, however, is fine but it can border on too cute. No, I cannot define “too cute” but I know it when I want to punch it.

There are whole cultures in southern Asia that speak and sing more nasal than they have to as a sacrifice to their God. And it works: they get good grades.

But it’s not for everyone; they have no Barry Whites.

I also don’t like tenors, but that’s a separate non-issue.