Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, June 06, 2004


I’ve been enjoying the spectacle of aging rockist rhetorical revolutionaries hardening their rockism into reactionary fogeyism. Fogeyism has always been with us. “Things were better when I was better, I mean when I was young.”

A couple weeks ago the English novelist and film scenarist Nick Hornby opined in the New York Times (link available, but it costs money now) that good old rock and roll just ain’t as good nowadays as the old good rock and roll. His main complaint seems to be -- though he doesn’t say this explicitly -- that no current young act is as multi-dimensional as Springsteen; he seems to want his stars to be crafty melodic noisy passionate goofy hard-rockin’ popsters with great personalities that have brilliant insights into the ways of the heart and the world but don’t take themselves too seriously. (Hornby’s evidence that Springsteen has a goofy side is that he covered “Little Latin Lupe Lu” in concert, a song I remember having heard of only because a character in a Nick Hornby movie mentioned it.) Hornby disses today’s crafty light popsters for being too commercial, and the passionate insightful rockers of today disappoint him because they’re not commercial enough or too ironic or both.

On the strength of a hit novel and movie about obsessive record collectors, Hornby became for a while the pop music critic for the New Yorker. His replacement, Mr. Sasha Frere-Jones, wrote a line-by-line takedown of Hornby’s piece on May 21, which includes most (or maybe all -- don’t remember) of Hornby’s orginal.

Not only did Sasha Frere-Jones’s blog alert me to Hornby’s piece, but a friend sent it to me as well. Around the same time that same friend sent me a link to a recent interview with David Crosby, who says what Hornby says -- ain’t it a drag that things ain’t what they used to be. The pull quote from Cros says, “It changed from being about the music to being about what you look like.” This is hilarious, because Crosby’s band the Byrds hired drummer Michael Clarke not because of his mediocre drum chops (which are often masked by tambourine or scraper or shaker on the records, or replaced by a session drummer) -- the Byrds hired him because he looked like Mick Jagger!

Sinatra’s generation mostly complained about rock and roll, and now a lot of the rock and rollers complain about what’s going on now. The only wrinkle is that rock ideology proclaims itself to be Now! New! Rebellious! Rebellious against the stale old Sinatra fogeys, originally. Post-rock genres -- such today’s R&B and techno influenced dance teen pop -- have silently liberated themselves from the dogma of rebellion, if they ever felt the dogma in the first place. The kids are doing their own thing without making such a fuss about it, and the kids are alright.

I’m a fogey myself, and I love the Byrds, and I love David Crosby for saying this, despite himself, in the recent interview:

“I see plenty of future for music. Music is magic. It's been mankind's magic since the first caveman danced around his fire going "Ugga bugga, hugga bugga!" That was music, and he was happy. And we're still doing it, and it makes us happy. It will transcend; it will go on.”

Music is magic. The sounds travel through space & into your ear & they vibrate your skin too, and in ways that nobody can ever completely understand, they change your outlook, they transform you. Ugga bugga hugga bugga, baby!

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