Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


And it makes me wonder

Filed under : Music
On March 4, 2008
At 11:00 pm
Comments : 34

This is going to be an interactive post. Pencils ready? OK. You know how on Sex and the City, Carrie always sat in front of her laptop and thought, “I began to wonder…?” I’m doing that right now!

Let’s back up a little. In my office at work is a giant duratran of Nirvana from the Nevermind era. (A duratran is the big square poster that goes in the lightbox display of a store – it’s made of a special material that lets the light show through). I don’t have it up so much because I’m a huge Nirvana fan, because I’m not, although I have all their CD’s and I still like them. It’s more because, well, I work in the music business and it reminds me of somewhere near the start of my career when I worked in a record store and Nirvana was shockingly getting bigger and bigger. I remember being amazed that the label would spring for the cost of the duratrans (they’re pricey) and reserving the space (even pricier) for a band like that when there were Mariah Careys about. And I remember when I bought Nevermind, I bought it on cassette because I only knew the one song they were playing on WHFS and I was afraid to use all my hard-to-find college dollars on the spendy CD. We only got one copy in the store. One! That’s what a small release it was. The reason I recall this is because the case was cracked and since we only had one, I had to switch the plastic cassette-case with one from a promotional copy of something else.

So why is this relevant now? The other day, I was sitting waiting for the subway (I got one of six seats – this is bad, it means I just missed the previous train) and standing right near me was a tween boy, like 12 or 13, with a backpack sporting a Nirvana patch. This is the part where I began to wonder. Can this boy ever really know and love Nirvana? Who has the better fan experience? The person who witnessed the whole mad scene, the sea change in the sort of music that was popular, the bitter end? Or the kid who was born after it ended and discovers them after it’s all over? And I ask this question from the other side too, because I consider myself a big Beatles fan but they broke up before I was born and I missed the mania, the screaming, the “oh my God the new single is out, he got married, they’re going to appear on Ed Sullivan” part of things. Can it ever be the same for me? Plus, I already knew it was this huge cultural happening before I started. I came to the music knowing it had changed the world.

But on the other hand, the music comes to me untainted, without any extraneous stuff. It’s just music, not lunchboxes, not gossip, not visuals. It’s a finished work, like seeing the TV season on DVD over one weekend rather than eagerly awaiting the next episode after the cliffhanger. I never had to worry about what Yoko would do to the Beatles, it was already done if there was anything to be done. The same as how this kid probably doesn’t worry what effect wacky Courtney Love will have on Nirvana’s output. The same as the young’uns in my office who think I bought the duratran on eBay. When I say it was from my store, the store in which I worked, and I took it home at the end of its run in the lightbox, they get that “gosh, Grandma, tell me more!” look on their faces.

By the way, I’m not comparing Nirvana and the Beatles, they’re just examples.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing that goes through my head when I’m waiting for the train and trying to ignore the whistling Spanish guitar-playing busker. The punchline, by the way, is that this boy was actually standing apart from his family (just like young Becca on vacation with her family!) and was a French tourist. So he wouldn’t have experienced “Nirvana changes American music” up close even if he’d been born years earlier.

And now, for the interactive part. Please make your feelings known in the comments. Can the kids ever be as big fans as the people who lived through the band’s heyday and watched it all develop and explode? Or is it easier to love the music when it’s only that, music, and not caught in a whirlwind of hype? If you’re not a music fan, don’t feel left out! You can talk about your lunchbox or Ed Sullivan.

Well, obviously the title comes from Stairway to Heaven, and Led Zeppelin are another group who already were legendary, had a member die, and broke up before I was aware but this post isn’t about them.

This is my favorite Nirvana song. If you can’t feel the line, “I’m not like them but I can pretend,” then you haven’t been a teenager.

Nirvana – Dumb


34 Comments for this post

  1. JFB says:

    I know how it feels.
    You saw a teenager like the one we probably were.

    I remember when I was 12 or something I started being a big fan of Bowie, and I only liked his “old” records.. That was in 1983 and Ziggy Stardust was just ten years before, and “Low” or “Heroes” was just like 6 years before. Now today, “Let’s dance” era is …25 YEARS away… So at the time, event if it was already over, it was not that far.. Same for all the bands of the seventies actually.

    So the kid in the subway probably feels special because he likes some really old band from the nineties.

    When George Harrisson died, I said to some trainees at the office “Hey, George Harrison died”.. they looked at me with that dead fish stare of people who have no clue what you are talking about : they were totally unaware of who George Harrison was.
    At that moment I really started to feel the gap..

    I remember I knew Nirvana before they became famous. Some friends of mine in “lycée” (highschool = end of the eighties), had a small band we loved to hear rehearsing in their basement. They were called “Nirvana”. They used to say, “Nirvana is also an american band”.

  2. Kylydia says:

    Grunge music was the music that made me find myself. It was the first time I strayed from the top 40 to find a music that I really liked all on it’s own merit. Of course, everyone else was doing it, too, and I picked the “wrong” band to be my favorite – Pearl Jam instead of Nirvana. It was exciting when it happened. Every CD release was a huge deal that I would make my mom drive me to the bigger city with a Disc Jockey records IMMEDIATELY after school so I could buy it before anyone else. Pearl Jam’s Ten was my first CD purchase.

    But, to your point. I always feel so much pressure surrounding music. If you miss finding that new band by a week, you’re suddenly on the bandwagon and not cool, anymore. So, I try not to judge people about music tastes. The kid who was maybe born the day before Kurt Cobain killed himself and twenty 8th grade girls on a class Spring Break trip cried their eyes out every hour, on the hour, while watching continuous MTV coverage is a hard thing for one of those girls who went through it to take seriously, but she has to try.

    I have a good case in point about this. When I was a freshman in high school, all my friends loved Green Day. Dookie was the biggest thing since Kurt Cobain died. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I joined in the group sing-a-longs we thought were so fun during our lunch hour. When American Idiot came out and was all over the radio, my 9-year old cousin asked me if I liked Green Day. I said I did, sort of, and my favorite song of theirs is “Longview.” He proceeded to inform me that Green Day doesn’t sing a song called that, and he knows this for a fact because it isn’t on his CD that he has ripped to his iPod and see, see! no Longview under Green Day.

    That was the day that I got to pass on a little music knowledge to the next generation. I wrote down the CD title so he could buy it from iTunes. He later thanked me because all his friends thought he was so cool for knowing the “old-school” Green Day stuff.

    So, I’m “old-school,” and that makes me sad, but happy, too.

  3. Kylydia says:

    Wow, that was long. Sorry.

  4. I’ll definitely come back and comment about my musical past, loves, and such but I just wanted to tell you I think this is a great post. Very thought provoking!

  5. Arjewtino says:

    That is a very interesting idea and one I don’t think can be easily answered. I, too, love the Beatles but missed out on their heyday, turning to my dad and his explanations over why they were so big to help me understand. Being from Argentina, he told me he learned English by listening to the Beatles, memorizing the lyrics yet not always understanding what they meant. I always wished they had made as big an impact on me as they did on him, which I imagine might have been more important to him than Nirvana or Pearl Jam were to me.

  6. Becca says:

    Yes, that’s true, JF. I did think that about him (that he thought it was cool to like a 90’s band) and after I could see that he was a tourist I wondered if he was excited to be here, where Nirvana was from. When I was a teenager I was excited to go to England where my favorite bands were from.

    And that’s sad but expected about George Harrison. The joke when I was a kid was, “you mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?” It’s the same when a new band remakes your favorite song and the kids think the new band wrote it. They don’t even know it’s a remake.

    Lydia, I was hoping for long comments! Because I really am curious about this. I think I was one of the rare people who liked them both but in the end I liked PJ better. I still do. They were the “hardest” band I liked at that time. There was a divide: you either liked New Wave or Metal. Alternative kind of brought that together and melded them.

    And that is a good point. In fact, coolness is part of liking a band no matter what era they are from. Even if they are still recording you’re not considered a “real” fan unless you were at the first show at that tiny club, before they played arenas. When I was a teen, I tried not to tell people that I didn’t get into Depeche Mode until their third album. Now that they have like 20 it doesn’t seem to matter so much.

    Ima, looking forward to it!

    Arj, I think that liking a group is often a generational identifier. In that same sort of “you weren’t at Woodstock so you don’t get me” way. It can be like a point of pride. And maybe that’s right, so it’s possible the Beatles never truly would be able to have the same impact on you.

  7. Alfa says:

    Reading about all the bands you people missed the first time around just makes me feel old. O-L-D.

    I tend to fall into the “Isn’t it cute,” camp when it comes to kids who wear gear from bands that died before they were born.

    Yes, it’s possible they appreciate the music. But, it’s also equally possible they’re just latching on to the cool factor of The Sex Pistols or The Clash, etc.

    I feel about the whole punk movement the way my father feels about WW II: You can read about it; you can see movies about it (or listen to music from the era); you can understand it and relate to it, but it’s not the same as living it.

  8. Pious B says:

    Whoa, Becca, you were alive when Wings was together?! What was that like?! I am so jealous!

  9. Girlnextdoortn says:

    This is probably my favorite post ever, because it gives me permission to be supernostalgic. And this is going to be reeaaaaly long, so bear with me.

    Being in the midst of it all is far different than coming along after the fact. I shall argue that the afterthefactness allows you to have a purer appreciation of the music, because the band (be it Nirvana, the Beatles, or what ever hell is controversial and music-changing right now) doesn’t have the drama anymore. Sure, you get people like me, like you, like others who insist that it’s life-changing music, but not having the tabloids, magazines, internet inundated with current stories a la Britney Spears allows the listener to shrug off others’ opinions and lets him or her form a new opinion.

    I was like that a few years ago with the Beatles as well, and David Bowie, and even early Elton John. I had to kind of discover it on my own time, and when I did, it meant so much more to me and resonated with deeper enjoyment than if I’d followed along gleefully in the current of what other people insisted was cool.

    Nirvana was hot shit as I grew up- I was in HS when KC committed suicide, and happenstance led me to be a “grunge” chick for a year or two, until NIN and Marilyn Manson seduced me into goth-industrial. However, chance had it than in 7th grade, my best friend stole her college-aged sister’s Nevermind tape and played it for me in Tech class.

    I thought it was okay, but because I had been able to discover it on my own, it didn’t really resonate with me the way Color Me Badd and En Vogue did at the time (haa haa). Yet a mere 3 years later, I loved Nirvana, and admittedly maybe I loved them because my friends did. (Honestly, I loved Hole much more than Nirvana, though no one could relate- but I think it was because I discovered Hole through my own exploration of music rather than as a part of a cultural movement.)

    So, that is my discourse on the discovery of music “after the fact”. In summation, it is better for the listener to discover music or be introduced to music after the wave of frenzy has passed in order to develop a true appreciation for said music.

    The End.

  10. Girlnextdoortn says:

    OMG- Kylydia! Pearl Jam was my first CD purchase, too! Along with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends”, but that was because my dad was buying, and he wanted me to listen to it.

  11. Becca says:

    Alfa, it’s OK, Pi’s trying to do the same thing to me. But it won’t work! Now get off my lawn. Darned kids.

    But seriously, I do get that. To this day, when I see footage of the Vietnam War, I think of it with a soundtrack of The End and Fortunate Son. Not only do I not know what it was like to have lived through it, it’s been molded for me into a certain shape by society and the media and that’s the way I now see it. It’s like how with some memories you have of your early childhood, you’re not sure if you really remember them or if the story has been told to you so many times that you think you did. So if you now know The Clash were cool, it’s easy to say, “oh yeah! I discovered them myself so I’m cool.”

    TN, you have license to be long today (or any day)! I may not forgive you for reminding me of the existence of Color Me Badd, however. But I’m glad to see someone take the other side of the argument because as I said, I’m not really sure. I suppose the question, based on others’ replies, would be: is there a difference between following a band because everyone else is versus following a band because everyone else was? Unless it’s possible to not know if a band was cool or not, or if it’s now cool to like them. I guess artists like Moby Grape would fall into this category.

    I mentioned last year that I had begun to listen to a lot of French pop. One of the things I like the most about it is that it is divorced from any notion of what is cool or whether I am supposed to like it. For me, there are no videos or photos of the artists. I don’t know whether the song went to #1 or was a flop. I couldn’t tell you if the lead singer is ugly or if this is their first album or their eighth. Do people laugh if you say you like them? Are they Color Me Badd or Nirvana? Who knows? I simply have the songs, and I really love that. So if knowing an artist after the fact is like that, then I take your point.

    Oh, and Pi, it was never the same after that integral member of the band, Linda McCartney, died. You couldn’t recreate that group with Pegleg, that’s for sure.

  12. sean poole says:

    Great reading, thanks

  13. Kylydia says:

    Something I thought about while I read the other comments. If I find a new band, I inevitably try to get all my friends to like them, too. Am I searching for validation or for that common ground that music can place so many people on? I have no idea, but it’s probably a little bit of both.

    And, for your revised question, “is there a difference between following a band because everyone else is versus following a band because everyone else was?” my answer is that it’s much easier to know what my true feelings about a band and their music are if I’m doing it after the fact.

    Idea one: I like a LOT of classic rock songs, individually. There are a handful of classic rock bands that I really dig their whole catalog of music. I think if I were learning about those bands as those catalogs were released, I’d feel pressured to like them all or none. Pink Floyd is a good example of this. Overall, I’ll comment to someone that I don’t like Pink Floyd because I don’t the majority of their music. I do like individual songs, though.

    Idea two: When music is happening, like the punk movement, it’s a whole set of cultural things, not just the music, so it’s going to have a whole different impact on someone living that culture than learning about it from afar. It’s just another way shows how versatile music is. A set of finite notes, put together in different ways can have a million different meanings for a million different people.

  14. ~dogandmusiclover~ says:

    I wish I could articulate my opinion on this. But I just can’t. I have no clue why I can’t, since I love music so much.

  15. ~dogandmusiclover~ says:

    And I do agree that this is great reading.

  16. kb says:

    1) I’ve never appreciated Elvis. I like his songs, but not in a rabid-fan way. I’m the little kid who grew up in an Elvis-lunchbox world but never understood the need to have one of my own. It was just part of the landscape, something that I had a choice to be into or not.

    2) Growing up, my musical landscape was informed mostly by my older brother, who could have probably started his own radio station by the time he was twenty, for all the albums he owned. I’m serious. Anyway, because of him, I took new music for granted. It shocked me, once I was in high school, to discover that I was “that friend” who heard new music weeks before anyone else in my circle ever seemed to. Ironically, I bought my first single when I was eighteen, and a few weeks later my first cassette tape. I never needed to before then! But I think, because of my constant exposure to all kinds of music, I never ever became a fan of a group or an artist just because everyone else was. I always liked music for how it hit my own ears. I liked John Gary, Barbra Streisand, Herb Alpert and Carol Burnett (!!)(Sunrise, Sunset) just as much as I liked ABBA, Supertramp, Boston, ELO, Kool and the Gang, and Journey.

    3) Right now, my favorite band is MUSE. I have loved them for four years now and my love only keeps growing. It is impossible for me to get tired of them. It thrills me when I hear a radio station play one of their songs, because it’s taken this long for them to become mainstream enough to get on certain stations. But while I like it when other people know and like them, it’s not necessary for them to be popular before I’ll embrace them. I like that I was “in” on them since the beginning. Now, “I begin to wonder,” what if they were to suddenly explode in popularity, with everyone carrying around their lunchboxes, etc.? How would I feel? Honestly, I might feel a bit miffed, only because I wouldn’t want to be thought of as a “follower” for liking them. I think I’d want to somehow prove that I was there since the beginning.

    I know that’s not exactly what you’re looking for. But I’m thinking along those lines because I just had a conversation with my son about this: he complains that he’s always liked certain bands, introduced them to his friends, who then jump on the bandwagon and proclaim to the world that they love those bands, and then turn around and accuse him of being a “follower” for liking the bands too. I wonder, what is it that triggers such “pride” inside us, that we’d feel the need to “own” a band, or “be a leader, not a follower” in our musical tastes?

    I don’t know the answer to that question.

  17. Becca says:

    Lydia, so if I read you right, I think you are agreeing with GirlTN. But, you see, the coolness factor can also affect whether you like a band in the after-the-fact scenario. That is, if all your friends like Evanescence, you can be a non-conformist by liking a band that you know has already been deemed cool by society, like The Clash, but isn’t cool to your friends because they were popular 30 years ago. In fact, I think that’s the basis for lots of sub-cultures, including the one I was a part of in HS, Goth. So you look different from everyone else and like different things, but you can be assured that there is a group of people you fit in with. And if you like Nirvana and someone picks on you because they’re not Panic at the Disco, you can say, “this has already been certified cool so shut the fuck up.”

    Regarding culture, that’s how I feel, that that kid could never really understand what it was like to see several popular types of music with little quality swept away by Nirvana and other bands. It will mean something different to him. The Beatles were an integral part of the 60’s but to me they will always mean college, where my roommate turned me onto them (I gave her Yes, you can decide who got the better side of the deal). So they mean a certain time period to me, but not the one most people identify them with. And I will probably never get that aspect of their music. But, you know, if you’re born blind, do you miss color?

    kb, a bit off your point but you reminded me, my father hates Elvis! Why? He’s 72 and Elvis swept away all the music he loved, like Vic Damone and Big Band. So there’s probably another side of the story, Motley Crue lovers who never liked the grunge scene.

    And I was the same as you, which is what made me get into the music business. I actually did play Smells Like Teen Spirit for everyone I knew – I had never heard anything like it. And I wanted to do that for a living, to say, “you have to hear this, it’s amazing!”

    And you see, I only discovered Muse in 2006! But now I really love them. And I made one of their songs iPod Song of the Week, as well as highlighting my favorite song by them in a different post, thus fulfilling that “you have to hear this” mentality. But according to my theory, you have a right to look down on me, as I’m a bandwagon jumper and a follower. But at least I didn’t get into them because they were cool or a lot of people I knew were listening to them. I heard them in France and the person I was vacationing with found out who sang the song we liked and sent it to me.

    But I do think that is an interesting tangent. When I go to a concert of a band I like in an arena, I find myself first swelling with pride that they are this popular and all these people and I have this in common, that we love them. And then I begin to think, “who do you think you are to imagine you love them as much as I do?” I suppose, as you say, I think I own them. It’s an odd thing.

    And lastly but not leastly, I agree with Sean and Dog, this has been a fascinating discussion, just what I was hoping so, so thanks everyone.

  18. kb says:

    I wrote that post before reading the others, not knowing that I was actually commenting on many of the same points others had already made.

    Arjewtino, I am currently “learning French” through constant listening to a CD of a French Musical I adore. Although, unless I find myself in France someday begging at the steps of Notre Dame for asylum for me and my fellow refugees, it will probably not prove terribly helpful to me in my daily life. It has, however, impressed a French exchange student I go to school with. 🙂

    I think music speaks to each of us in such a personal way. To jump on the bandwagon of what’s popular *just* because it’s “cool”, is to put on a mask that deceives the world to who you really are. Those people who can find an old band (or a new band or an unpopular band) that speaks to them, and who declare it to the world, are brave. Those who put the patch on their backpack “just to fit in” are cheating themselves. How can we tell the difference? We can’t, and we shouldn’t. Who cares what someone else likes? Why judge others by their musical taste? Why laugh at someone for listening to unpopular music?

    I guess I’m just too much an individual, which has served me well but is not doing so well for my son. I raised him to be an individual too, but now he’s getting laughed at for making “unpopular” and “uncool” choices. I can’t wait for him to get out of high school! I’m sorry, I digress…

    I believe music is personal, and when I find a song that speaks to me, I want to share it with my friends so that they might get to know a little piece of the “inside me” a little better. So far, my attempts have utterly failed. Music is just too personal. Fear of what someone might think of me for what I listen to has shut me down on more than one occasion. In fact, I’ve held back from sharing music that I deeply adore, for fear that any criticizm of the music will taint it for me.

    I suspect I’m rambling. I’m sooooo tired and it’s really late ….

  19. kb says:

    For some reason, I don’t like concerts. I would tell you that I find them boring, but I think the real, underlying reason might be that I don’t want to participate in the “competition” of proving “I LOVE THIS BAND MORE THAN YOU DO!” For the most part, I’d just as soon stay home and listen to their CD.

    I have only been to three concerts that I truly enjoyed: Paul McCartney, Art Garfunkle, and Bon Jovi.

    I loved McCarney because I was acutely aware of being in the same room as an Important Historical Figure.

    I loved Garfunkle because he just enjoys music soooo much: his eyes sparkled when he listened to the symphony behind him, and when he looked at the people in the balcony during symphonic interludes. He seemed humbled by music and truly appreciative of his fans. I loved his concert so much that I brought my family back two days later, and we got seats in the front row. After his concert, during our standing ovation, he looked down at my 12-yr-old son and personally thanked him for coming.

    And I loved Bon Jovi because he’s just such a smart businessman, he knows how to put on a great concert and keep everyone completely entertained throughout the whole show. No stupid banter with the idiots in the audience. No boring space-filling chatter, riffs or self-indulgent fan appreciation. Just a solid show, with every piece selected to complement the piece before it.

    Okay, this time I’m done and going to bed for real.

  20. kb says:

    oh shoot, sorry for rambling. Delete that last tangential post (and this one). I don’t want to hog. I was just too tired last night to know what I was doing. 🙁

  21. Becca says:

    Oh, kb, this page can go on forever! There’s no limit. Also, you may have noticed my exciting “Top Commenter” box on the right. This is because I like comments and want to encourage them.

    I haven’t had time to write a response to your interesting thoughts but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read and enjoy them (and I’m sure – I have stats – that others have too). So I’ll delete it if you like but I’d prefer to leave it.

  22. kb says:

    fine okay leave it. I’m not often listened to at home so I may as well enjoy the soapbox here. 😀

    (and with this post, I become Top Commenter for the moment! Exciting! Thanks for pointing that out.)

  23. Robin4782 says:

    I don’t know if that is a question that can truly be answered. I think that music is such a personal experience to each individual. That french kid may have heard Nirvana for the first time and had some sort of “music revalation.” He may truly be as big of a fan of Nirvana as any one of us that was living it at the time. In some ways to him it may be better because instead of having to wait for the next song or album to be released everything the band ever did is there at his fingertips; sort of instant gratification. But at the same time to another person it may be somewhat of a let down because they know the whole story up front. There is no suspense, no hopes of ever going to a concert and feeling that rush when your favorite band comes out on the stage and plays the first note.

    So I suppose that really didn’t answer anything. Except my personal view on the subject is there is no right or wrong answer to it. As long as you love the music and you’re not just sporting a patch on your bag because it’s the “in” thing to do then who’s to say they had a better experience then you?

  24. kay says:

    I was too young for the Beatles and too old for Nirvana. I love them both but never had the opportunity to experience them the way their young, original fans did. And that experience isn’t transferable or replaceable.

    I guess I’ll always have Heaven 17…. On a serious note, I guess that was my experience with U2. I was at the Under a Blood Red Sky concert at Red Rocks, the summer I graduated from high school. That experience was transcendent and there are still fans discovering them today; just not in that same way we experienced them.

  25. Robin4782 says:

    So I was writing my last comment minutes before I was about to go to sleep. So it may not make complete sense, but it made sense in my mind.

    I just read the other comments and wanted to comment on KYLydia’s point and the others who have responded. When I find a new group I also try to push them onto my friends. I think it is a teeny bit of ooh look at what I found, but more of a common ground. What’s better then being in a car with one of your friends on a nice day with the radio blasting with music that you both love? Also I have recently come to a point where I just don’t care what people think about my music taste.

    To be honest until a few years ago the majority of my friends and the guys I dated listened to top 40 and rap so that’s what I listened to. They never knew that I listened to anything else. At that point my musical library was somewhat limited compared to now. I didn’t want to appear strange or uncool. Well now I just don’t care; I suppose that comes with growing up some. I have found such a love for music that if it’s not the in thing or my friends don’t like it oh well. They don’t like me because of what type of music I listen to. I have recently fallen in love with Jamie Cullum, The Postal Service, and Dredg to name a few. I can gaurantee that at least more then half of my friends have never heard of one of those artists. The difference now is I’m going to tell them about them because if I can go from listening to mostly top 40’s crap why couldn’t they?

  26. Soxy says:

    I think this post is great! Admittedly, I didn’t read every comment, but finally have a minute to say what I think.

    I think it can be hard for your average Joe Schmoe to even find new music. I listen to the radio in the car, where everything is grossly overplayed, and my iPod at work, where its just older stuff I like. But the only new music I get is stuff I see on iTunes, because everyone else loves it and it pops up on the top 10 list.

    My husband & I have this ongoing discussion about bands “selling out.” He thinks they sell out when they sell their songs to commercials, but I don’t really agree. Its almost like he thinks once a band is big they’re not cool anymore. If that was true, the Beatles would be uncool, and we know that’s not true.

    I was lucky to grow up listening to a lot of different stuff, because my dad was in a band and I’d hear the stuff they played, all older stuff my friends wouldn’t necessarily know. But its not cool to be 12 and humming Runaround Sue.

    I’m just waiting for that big NKOTB reunion. In all seriousness, I haven’t loved a band like I loved NKOTB. Now, I can’t even think of a current group I would pay money to see in concert.

    Oh! And I was going to say that I can’t think of a band I would pay $9.99 for their entire album for. And I realized that’s a problem. With iTunes, you can just buy one or two songs (probably the overplayed ones on the radio), and never hear the group’s less played, possibly better stuff. Cheaper, yes, but it also leaves you not getting the best of the band. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m cheap, though 🙂

    Wow, that was long and rambly.

  27. Becca says:

    kb, my catchprase in college was “just because you like it doesn’t mean it’s great, just because you hate it doesn’t mean it sucks.” But people do think this way. And I think it isn’t always easy to tell why you like something. I still listen to Duran Duran today but I could never tell you with a straight face that the only reason I loved them as a pre-teen was because of their music. There’s often something else going on. This boy may like Nirvana because their music is great or it may be tinged with the desire to latch onto a different movement or because his peers like them or because his peers hate them. Why should I care? Because I’m human and I analyze others’ behavior, we all do. Not to mention, it’s my business to figure out why people like or don’t like certain bands or types of music so it’s not purely curiosity.

    I do agree with you on the “who loves this band the best” dynamic going on at concerts and I especially love the subtle “I saw them in 1990” t-shirts people wear to make sure they are distinguished from the folks who only know the newest hit. But I still adore concerts, I hope I always will.

    Congrats on Top Commenter! ~balloons~

    Robin, to go further with your comments, I do think there is a big difference between getting the entire output of a band as a finished product versus joining in in a story, perhaps at the beginning, perhaps midway. Sometimes with a band who broke up before I knew them, I couldn’t tell you which album a certain song was on. But with a band like Depeche Mode, where I was in near the start and I anticipated each album and parsed the differences with its predecessor, you can bet I know exactly which one each song is on.

    And I wonder how different it would be to know Radiohead as an experimental, electronic band first and then find their old albums versus knowing them as we did, as a guitar band who changed direction and grew?

    Kay, that’s the funny thing. I discovered them with War and always thought I was a latecomer. Now that seems laughable. Of course, I’ll also always have Heaven 17.

    Soxy, it’s true, one can’t help being attracted to what’s popular because that’s simply what you hear. It takes some effort to hear stuff that’s not in current rotation, so to speak. And that’s a whole other conundrum from the one in my post. Is it “bad” to like a band who are huge? Does this mean they are mass-market and watered-down and you have no taste? I would tend to agree with kb on this and say, who cares? You like what you like and if it’s not “edgy,” that’s someone else’s problem. Someone judgmental, probably. As for selling out, I have mixed feelings and that would be a whole other post.

    And believe me, I know that “buy one song at a time” thing is a problem! I would never have discovered half the albums I have if iTunes had been around when I was a kid. OTOH, you can sample a lot of songs you might not have heard otherwise so it may even out.

  28. kb says:

    I probably buy more music on iTunes than I ever would have if it didn’t exist, simply because I’ve never bought an album unless I liked at least three or four songs on it already and was pretty sure I’d like the rest. Very few albums ever passed that test. I more often bought those stupid compilation tapes, guaranteeing that I’d at least know almost all the songs on it.

    Occasionally, I’ll give a band a chance, and buy an album without knowing most of the songs, but that only happens if I fall in love with a band’s overall sound, as is the case with MUSE. I can listen to every song on each of four CDs and like each song for one reason or another. It’s extremely rare to find a band like that. I tried doing that with Madonna’s dance album. I liked some of her old stuff, and when I liked one dance song I heard, I bought the whole album. YUCK!!!!!! Tossed it out and I won’t even listen to the original song I was attracted to.

    At least on iTunes I can hear a snippet of every song on the album, and if most of it sounds interesting, I’ll click on “buy album” out of curiosity alone. But, I’m also buying music from bands I wouldn’t have otherwise. In the old days I’d buy singles, and it’s the same today (except the singles are cheaper).

  29. sean poole says:

    I got into Queens of the Stone Age after hearing Dave Grohl’s drum work on their “Songs for the Deaf” album and almost immediately started getting grief from friends pulling the “I’ve been on board since their Kyuss days” line of BS. I still love QOTSA, they are putting out better music than Grohl’s own Foo Fighters, who my 14 year-old little brother idolizes, funny how what comes around goes around. (yep, unintended Ratt reference!)

  30. Robin4782 says:

    Speaking of Radiohead’s new awsomeness, my sister in-law called this weekend to let me know she got us tickets to see them!!!! I can NOT wait.

  31. Becca says:

    kb, I have to say, I fell so in love with that Shins song that I made iPod Song of the Week. In the old days I would have bought the whole album but I listened to it on Napster (where you can hear whole songs, not just snippets) and didn’t really like anything else. Lost sale there. But I sometimes wonder about things that might have grown on me. With one artist who literally changed my life, Matthew Sweet, I dismissed the CD after one listen when I worked at the record store in college. Then, listening to it as an instore play day after day it just slowly overwhelmed me and became, to this day, my favorite album of all time. I feel sad that there’s less chance of that happening these days.

    Sean, thanks for the earworm 😛 But yeah, it’s amazing the cred contests sometimes. That’s why I sometimes think it would be better to have the music without the baggage.

    Robin, lucky you! I saw they’re headlining two days of the whatever the Coachella East thing is being called. Fun times ahead!

  32. kb says:

    MIght your love for that album be somewhat connected to the emotions you were feeling about life while working in that store for that period of time?

    Meaning, suppose you did buy the album but didn’t hear it played instore. Suppose you played it a few times. Would it have still grown on you?

    Art Garfunkle’s “Breakaway” album became our Whole Family Experience when we played it on a trip out west one year. My brother brought the music. That tape made its way into the tape player gradually more and more, until it eventually defined the whole trip. When I hear the album to this day, I feel the openness of the West Texas landscape encased in every note. When I hear the “Absolution” album from Muse, it takes me back to an entire two months of summer in 2004, when I was music director for a community show and had to drive 45 minutes each way there and back. I feel the heat of the late afternoon sun on the car, and the excitement of the huge challenge I had taken on.

    I really don’t think I’d ever give Madonna that same chance, whether I bought the whole album or not. It’s just as easy to dismiss an album and regret its purchase … especially a CD, where you can push that button only to Track Three over and over … there’s actually a song on a Muse album that I don’t think I’ve listened to yet (or more than once): track 13 on Black Holes & Revelations. I love track 12 so much, it’s my “fight song”, that after it plays I turn the cd off. If I ever heard track 13, I’ve dismissed it.

  33. Becca says:

    Lots of albums I would say that for, but not this particular one. The things I love it for (a genius album that is about loss of love, doubt, betrayal, bitterness, and then falling in love again and hope) are things that happen to me pretty much every year. Each time I need it, the CD is there, ready to guide me with that same wisdom and expression of feeling. The music doesn’t remind me of the time in the store but actually what loving that album led me to that changed my life later. It would have grown on me no matter what because I consider it the coping mechanism God gave me to deal with life, as well as the key to the life I lead now. I know! It’s crazy.

    OK, let’s try another album so I can get to your point! There are in fact albums like that in my life. The previous mentioned Duran Duran, in fact. I do like the music on an aesthetic level but also because it takes me back to being a naive adolescent who thought Nick Rhodes was heterosexual.

    As for Muse, I only listen to them on my iPod so I tend to hear the whole thing and I like both 12 and 13. But listening to the single will always, always represent the very difficult circumstances under which I first heard and how it later resolved, begun by the gift of the song.

  34. kb says:


    It’s my new way to find new music!

Comments are closed.