January 8, 2017

THE CRUELEST THING YOU CAN DO TO KIDS...:

The One Book Music Lovers Have to Read (Matthew Walther , January 8, 2017, Washington Free Beacon)

As a teenager, David Hajdu owned a large collection of "nearly unplayable" 45s that his mother acquired for him from the jukebox at the diner where she was a waitress. One of his favorites was Tommy James and the Shonells' "Hanky Panky," which he "treasured as the filthiest thing I had ever encountered." Working as a music journalist three decades later, he had the chance to interview Romano Mussolini, the jazz pianist and son of Benito, who, he said, "had a standing order for Blackshirt troops to confiscate any 78 rpm records that they found in enemy encampments." Il Duce "didn't care for" the American swing music his troops were pilfering on his son's behalf, but he was happy to pass the records along because "he knew they would give me happiness."

On every page of this book there is something--a memory, an observation, a wry description--that will make music fans smile. I say "fans" because it is hard to imagine that anyone who doesn't have opinions about Robert Crumb's cover art for the second Big Brother and the Holding Company LP--an eyesore--or the relative merits of Judy Collins's mid-'60s concept albums--they're brilliant--will get very far. Part-history, part-criticism, part-memoir, Love for Sale is too familiarly written and discursively organized to be an overview of what, Hajdu, the music critic for the Nation and a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, reluctantly calls "popular music." It is to a more conventionally authoritative all-purpose pop history what Odds & Sods is to Who's Better, Who's Best: digressive, self-indulgent, and vastly more amusing. [...]

This is a book full of unassailable verdicts and memorable quips. Paul Whiteman's surname, Hajdu says, "was a comic descriptor worthy of Dickens." Donovan's "Epistle to Dipsy" is "a spacey jamble of pseudo-poetic images" that a teenaged Hajdu "studied in hopes of learning what it was like to take those drugs we were being warned against in health class." "Yesterday" is overplayed; he would rather hear "Tell Me What You Say" because it is what he was playing on his tape deck in the car the first time he kissed a girl named Mary Jane. Punk "was narrowly defined, a formal art in a sphere where the standards were as rigid as those of, say, the early-music movement. At CBGB, three-chord, two-minute guitar-band songs became the new madrigals." Guided By Voices lyrics are "great-sounding gibberish," and the words to most Beatles tunes "mean nothing." Listening to music with Spotify and iTunes "inhibits perseverance and impedes challenge."


...is like their music before them.
Posted by at January 8, 2017 6:30 AM

  

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