Friday, August 26, 2016

Revisiting Music Wars

A few days ago, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook page that the 35th class reunion for my high school class (although anyone else that graduated within a year or two of that year is welcome, too) was going to be held in a month, and that he had been delegated with selecting the music to be played at this event. He asked for suggestions as to what to put on the list, with the general proviso that the selections be songs and groups that we were listening to at the time and place.
And what a can of worms he opened. The usual suspects were quickly named. I made a half-jesting contribution, which served to remind my classmates that not everyone in a class that graduated 525 members was all that into Kool and the Gang, REO Speedwagon, the Commodores, and Styx. I know that I detested a lot of that stuff at the time, and I know that I had a lot of company, because there were a quite a few kids that listened to the stuff I was listening to and buying and making tapes of at the time--Blondie, Talking Heads, the B52's, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Pretenders, and the Ramones, to name the more durable ones, along with now-forgotten but then-relevant bands like Tuff Darts, The Buzzcocks, The Jam, and The Dead Boys, and even more mainstream and accessible artists like the Stones, Springsteen, The Cars, and The Kinks that had popular albums out at the time. My comment was noted, applauded--and overwhelmed as more and more people got involved in this comment thread. When I started reading names like Jefferson Starship and Billy Squier, I stopped paying attention.
But like a serious bacterial infection, I keep getting drawn back in, mostly to satirize the process. After a couple of days, I mentioned that I hadn't yet seen the name of a group so lame that it became a putdown of the highest order; among our group, being labeled "a Hall and Oat" were near-fighting words. Predictably, several chimed in with enthusiasm. Another day went by, and I said something about the one group I actually remember getting into serious arguments about with some of the girls in our social group at the time; I remember getting drunk on a day excursion to Greenwood Park and nearly causing Sue Serowik to cry when I flipped out after being subjected to one sappy Air Supply song too many. That one hit a nerve; no one, at least that I have seen, has had the courage to admit that they were Air Supply fans in high school--even though there were at least twenty of you that subjected us to this aural torture for two frigging years...still, I wouldn't exactly say that I am uptight about it all. For one, I doubt I am going to be able to attend; I'm sure it's on a weekend night, and I work Friday and Saturday nights. And even if I did go--the music is just going to be background noise, anyway. I'm not anticipating that the venue is going to seriously remind anyone of the Power and Light Co. (what passed for a disco in our area)  back in the day. If the 30th reunion is anything to go by, most of us are going to spend most of the night chatting amiably, posing for pictures, and comparing notes about who's aged well and who hasn't, and (among the guys, at least) who still has most of their hair and who doesn't. So even though I still retch at the thought of having to endure the inevitable assaults of Keep On Lovin' You, Come Sail Away. Paradise By The Dashboard Light, and other songs sure to deposit horrid earworm eggs for the next few weeks, the larger purpose--getting together with a whole lot of old friends and acquaintances and celebrating a shared heritage and culture-- remains foremost in my head about this.
But the music issue is affecting some of us more deeply. I have received several impassioned private messages deploring some of the names being bandied about. I was awoken yesterday afternoon by a message beginning with the words "Grown men loving on Journey"-- which sent me scrambling back to the thread because somehow, we had gotten four days without anyone remembering those insipid, God-awful creators of some of the worst crap of the era. I was actually disappointed in myself for allowing  them to fade completely from my memory; I think it was some sort of self-defense mechanism, like some people repress memories of traumatic events.
I had a bunch of stuff to do today, and then I had to go to work earlier than normal, but I have dredged up the name of one heinous band that somehow was one of the biggest acts in the world for a short time during the summer after I graduated and my freshman year in college, which means they were part of high school memory for about half the people planning to attend this thing. And my memory is golden, people; I know a lot of you liked them, even if you'd rather have your genitalia removed by feral animals before you'll admit to it today. I am going to pass this name along privately to the putative music director, and ensure that he includes at least two selections from this long-gone, deservedly obscure relic that has been reduced in recent years to playing to half-interested crowds numbering in the dozens at places like the Dick's Sporting Goods Open...
Trust me, you'll be begging to being turned loose from this earworm, and should I be working on that weekend, I will rest easier knowing I've been spared the memories this awful band brings up. Shit, I'd rather listen to the entire canon of Hall and Oates and Journey back to back before hearing a minute of this group. I am actually chortling with delight thinking about inflicting them on everyone. And as I mentioned, I remember who thought they were hot shit at the time, and believe me, if I do attend, you are going to hear about it... in a good-natured way, of course.

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