Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Musical Transgressions From the Begrudging Acceptance File

There are bands and music that I truly hate. Some I hated as I got older and my tastes changed. Some were just over-played where I grew up and became instruments of torture to my ears. And some I hated upon first listen, for my own subjective reasons.

Among these bands I admit there is usually one song I can handle for a few minutes, even though it pains me to say so out loud to anyone, even a pet. But I'll go ahead and air it out here, as in confession. I was raised Catholic--not the most musical of religions, but certainly one of the most confessional. Let's just get it all out in the open (for entertainment purposes only--not to be considered an actual form of redemption).

Number one hated band in my roster: Journey. I can't STAND Journey but because I was raised in the Bay Area, they were stuffed down my pop-culture throat during my entire high school experience (not a huge problem as world problems go, but still). MTV played Journey round the clock, as did our local radio stations. Girls in my school hung photos of Steve Perry in their lockers so when I walked down the hall: BAM! He might be in my sight-line at any moment.

Ultimately my problem with Journey resides in Perry's vocals and presence. He irritates me seven ways to Sunday (is that even a legitimate phrase?). He's whiney, he's too tightly dressed, he's fully mulleted at all times, and he finds himself awesome. Tens of thousands of fans have reinforced this opinion of himself. He has talent but I can't stand listening to his voice. It sounds like this to me: WHOAH-AH-WHOAH-AH-WHOAH-AH-WHOAH-AH. So that the lyrics, "alone with your lover" become: Aloh-ah-one with your luh-ah-uh-ah-vah!

That said, I do like Wheel In The Sky. It's got a weird, epic vibe that the rest of their power-ballady output doesn't match. If I'm driving my car and Wheel In The Sky happens to come on the radio, I will most likely listen through until the end. Forgive me. Choosing a video for this was very tough. Do I go with the puffy-shirted Perry? Or the high-waisted skin-tight jeans and animal print belly-shirt look (watch him dance during the Neil Schon's blistering guitar solo--golden!). I decided to go with high-waisted electra-green pants/open flowery shirted Steve Perry. Don't look into his eyes, ladies. He will seduce you.

Once my friends and I listened to every Foreigner hit, raising our tiny fists in the air in unison. Yes, I thought the name "Foreigner" was really unimaginative, even stupid, and they looked like your least favorite substitute teachers, but they had stories to tell, man. We even overlooked the awkwardly internal rhyming scheme of Cold As Ice.

Then I moved to San Francisco and heard The Residents and realized they had way better stories to tell. Not that I knew what they were talking about, but I realized that it was virtually impossible to listen to the two bands in one sitting without my brain imploding. Foreigner would have to go.

Years later I was surprised to hear my two little cousins sing all the major Foreigner hits in one sitting. "How do you know all those old songs?" I demanded. "We had a really cool babysitter," they explained. "She used to bring over her 'Best of Foreigner' album and play it for us--we LOVE those songs!" Well, if it's good enough for my little cousins, it's good enough for me.

Here's the song I'll linger in the shoe store a little longer to hear all the way through, especially if there's a sale on socks. Check out the inflatable set design--not as visually arresting as The Residents, but it'll do. Lou Gramm's voice is so raw it sounds like his larynx is about to fall out of his throat. That's dedication to the sound.

I don't hate Cher. She's always been so independent and wry. She just doesn't have a lot of vocal range. And her 70s hits are so cabaret-ish, it's embarassing to admit you might actually like them (I mean "like them" like them). I do find myself singing Half Breed to myself on occasion. Maybe I relate to her Armenian/Cherokee/German/Irish/English ancestory. I think it has to do with how pissed off she sounds. Maybe this one really resonates with her. When Cher and I were growing up in California, there weren't a lot of gals that looked like us in the suburbs (or in her case, in the entertainment industry). Once a kid in my school thought I was Chinese because I had black hair. There was some identity confusion. That's not the way it is now, but you get the idea. Tell 'em Cher. Tell 'em how it was.

In 1985 in certain circles, it was considered very uncool to like The Power Station. Even though they had the hottest member of Duran Duran (John Taylor, sorry Andy), the eternally suave Robert Palmer, and some very crunchy, tasty rhythms. They were a supergroup celebrating overt, day-glow sexuality--possibly transexual in nature--what's not to like? So c'mon, let's turn up the heat 'til we fry.

1 comment:

Morningside said...

I used to hum "Here I Come, Constantinople, Here I Come" because that song by The Residents reflected the mental state I was driven into by Steve Perry's voice (ARGH!).

But, have to admit, I liked "Lights" by Journey because my friend used it as the soundtrack to his Super 8 film in high school (the soundtracks to my Super 8 films were "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Day Tripper").