Archive for February, 2012
Back in the 1980s, Tipper Gore and a group of women in Washington, D.C., formed an organization called the Parents Music Resource Center.
This group was frightened by what they saw as the graphic nature of some music videos, song lyrics, and album covers. Gore and other members cited the music videos for Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as examples at a congressional hearing called by the U.S. Senate to discuss so called “porn-rock.”
They also provided a list of what they considered the most objectionable songs out there. This list was called the “Filthy Fifteen.” Their goal was to have all music recordings labeled or rated much like feature films. They even suggested that materials they deemed objectionable be kept behind counters at stores.
I took a look at this list just the other day. Not only did I realize that I owned most of the songs on it, I also noticed that most would be considered tame by today’s standards.
While I will concede that a lot of what the PMRC went after is probably not suitable for young children, I think it was and is just a reflection of the artist’s environment at the time. A lot of songs were not dirty or violent at all, they were just assumed to be by their title of a few of the lyrics.
Looking through all the material they wanted to label or limit accessibility to, I can really see now why Al Gore invented the Internet.
In the end, most of the record companies voluntarily placed warnings on recordings that had explicit content. I am guessing they did it because they found out labeled ones sold three times as many copies.
This kind of imagery has been in music throughout history; it is nothing new. Warning labels do not and will not take the place of good parenting.
After meditating on the idea of warning labels, I found myself wondering why they do not label music for other reasons other than how explicit they are. A lot of songs, videos and albums are offensive for other reasons.
Do you remember “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega? What about “Take on Me” by A-ha? These songs are tremendously offensive to me in the way they seemed to be everywhere I went when they came out. Maybe I should put my own group together and get organized. We can then testify before Congress that something needs to be done about these senseless attacks on our sanity and ability to form rational thought. I already have compiled a list of the worst offenders that I have titled the “Exasperating Eleven.” Here it is in no particular order:
1. “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. This song poured out of every Z28, 5.0 and convertible in town when it was released in 1990. It needs to be labeled for its misuse of classic rock, near destruction of hip-hop, and the over-the-top doofus dance it’s performer inflicted on everyone. Warning: May cause doofyness, word to your mother.
2. “Macarena” by Los del Rio. I was warned about this song by a friend who had been on vacation. I forget where she visited, but she said this song would be here soon and it would take over. Wow. Warning: This song may cause you to be forced to do a dance that will make you appear to be (a) patting yourself down before arrest, (b) folding socks while on pain medication for tennis elbow, or (c) performing a magic trick called “disappearing masculinity.”
3. “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer (among others). This song takes the cake when it comes to bad lyrics. Warning: This song contains confectionary violence and old men playing Chinese checkers.
4. “Heartbeat” by Don Johnson (video). Does anyone remember “Miami Vice”? Did you think it was cool? Well, this is not. Warning: Only watch this video on equipment secured to something larger than the biggest door or window in your home.
5. “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus. Originally rejected by the Oak Ridge Boys for national security reasons, this song infected the United States on March 22, 1992. It contains two chords that wrap themselves around your brain and squeeze hard. While this song was once No. 1 on the country charts, for me it lands at No. 2, with a mullet. Warning: May cause line dancing, often referred to by the technical term ‘boot scooting.’ 6. “MMMBop” by Hanson. This song was so catchy that you didn’t even need to know the words. In fact, I am not sure if it has any other than “MmmBop” and “dop.” I almost had to quit writing this just by seeing the title of it. Warning: You will continue to hear this song, especially if you try not to.
7. “The Final Countdown” by Europe. Back in the mid to late ’80s, whenever you watched or listened to anything about hard rock or heavy metal, this song made an appearance. It was very popular, but also very awful. Warning: This song has lyrics that can easily be changed into something much funnier. Enjoy responsibly.
8. “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith. I have to admit, I enjoyed this song the first time I heard it. It was not too bad after I heard it a few more times. But now, after hearing it at least a few hundred times, it is time to throw it away. Luckily, it is not recyclable around here. Warning: This song causes outbreaks of drunken singing of words other than those contained in the song. That is kind of the point though.
9. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. No song ever made me want to be on the Titanic as much as this one. Well played, Mr. Cameron. Warning: Singing this song may convince you that you are the greatest singer who ever lived.
10. Any song by Van Halen with David Lee Roth since 1996. I am starting to dig the new Van Halen songs and some of the explanatory videos that David Lee Roth has put out there. His lyrics all seem to have some deep meaning. Too bad no one knows what it is but him! My favorite line is from one of the songs he did with them in 1996: ‘Steak and potatoes/A feather in a bucket.’ So deep. Thanks, Dave! Warning: May cause self-absorption and overalls.
11. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. To this day, I am totally convinced this song ended the Cold War. Not long after its release, the Soviet Union fell and the Berlin wall started coming down. I am absolutely sure it was played on repeat to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, too. Warning: Hearing this song will render you useless for the next nine hours.
So who is with me?
—Don Van Dyke
Yes, the Grammys happened this week. Where was the award for best guide vocal recording? Is it just me, or does anyone else think it’s weird that a ceremony celebrating recordings is criticized every year for having performances by artists who appear to be lip syncing? I always have wondered why they have live performances on the Grammy award show at all. No one goes on stage at the Oscars and performs a scene from their movie. I do not recall seeing the cast of the Big Bang Theory perform their current episode on the Emmys either. It is about the best performances captured on tape. It is more about the finished product than the actual art of the music. The whole thing is just odd to me. Don’t get me wrong, there is an art to making good recordings, but you have to have the music first. My advice is not to bother wasting three hours of your life watching these shows. You do not need some silly awards show telling you what good music is. You already know that.
Much like my other passions in life, food and drink, music is very taste driven and taste can change very quickly. This is why I struggle when someone asks me what my favorite band is or my favorite album, or my favorite drink. Today, my favorite band may be Pink Floyd, my favorite album may be “Revolver” by the Beatles, and my favorite drink may be red Mountain Dew. BUT, tonight my favorite band may be Fielder, my favorite album may be “Rocks” by Aerosmith, and my favorite drink may be Jameson on the rocks. Ask me again in an hour, and I will probably have different answers. For me, music is very situational. Just like I am most likely not going to be out on the patio in my jammies at 5 a.m. grilling steaks for breakfast, I probably will not be popping in a Mastodon CD while I take my kids to school in the morning. If you know me, you would not be a bit surprised if I actually did either of those things.
It should be your own taste that drives what music you like, not some doofus blogger or tacky award show. Maybe you are picky about what you listen to, or maybe you like everything. All I ask is that you give everything a chance. As Geddy Lee from Rush once said, “There are a lot of empty calories on the radio these days.” Do not get filled up on those when you can have something good for you like a big bowl of Black Country Communion. I cannot guarantee you will like them, but you will.
Also like the best food you can eat, the best music you can hear is organically grown locally. Sure, you can shell out the money a few times a year to go see the big names in St. Louis or Chicago, and there is nothing wrong with that. All I am saying is that there is some great stuff being cooked up around here every weekend at some absolutely fantastic venues. Just check out the calendar page right here on The Local Q for details! If you do not want to go out every night, you can always stay home and make your own music. There are lots of great places to buy the freshest ingredients to do that as well, if you know what I mean.
Valentine’s Day is also this week. Do not waste your money on flowers and chocolate when you can give the gift of music. Sure you can buy some CD’s, but wouldn’t it be a better idea to buy your significant other a guitar? This works especially well if you know how to play it, so you can teach them. Use your imagination. If you do not know how to play, buy lessons for both of you. Even if neither of you continue playing and you end up donating the guitar to Six String Heroes, you will get something out of the experience. Trust me …
Don Van Dyke
Hello, my name is Don, and I am a music snob. I will be sharing my opinions on various subjects with music being the main one, of course. Every once in a while, I will put out one of these blogs just to empty my head. So, they will be short most of the time. I will try to relate them to something current or local whenever possible. Since this is my first blog, I hope you will give me some room for improvement. Any suggestions or comments are welcome!
There is a new Van Halen album this month. This is the first album they have recorded with David Lee Roth since 1983. While this reunion is not at the same excitement level for me as a reunion of the original Beatles, it is quite a bit higher than the level for a possible Color Me Badd reunion. I am not going to get into all the chatter about the songs being remakes of material they started writing decades ago. It is new to me. It is their music; they can put it out however they want. I wish them the best of luck, and I will probably get the new album. I would like to say it was because I thought they were still a great band, but it will probably be because it is on sale for five bucks. Without Michael Anthony, it is a tough sell. He made the whole sound with his vocals.
Why a reunion? Probably because they figured out that changing singers once and remaining successful was the exception that proves the rule. Usually, if you change singers and try to carry on, it does not go well. Just ask Motley Crue, they replaced Vince Neil with a singer for a few years, and it did not work out very well at all. Vince came back, and they made a mountain of money. They had two of their most successful tours without producing any new music worth listening to. They even landed a residency at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. They had a crazy stage show, but… well, you can look on YouTube to see what I am getting at.
I think the whole reunion craze started with the Eagles and the trailer loads of cash they hauled in on their 1994-96 tour. Kiss had a reunion of the original members soon after, and toured the world in their 1976 makeup. Then, they put out an album nearly unparalleled in its awfulness and toured the world again, making millions. Fleetwood Mac had a reunion around the same time, so did Black Sabbath, The E street band, and many others. Roger Waters even had a reunion with Pink Floyd at the Live 8 concerts a few years back. I was sure I would never see that. It is a shame that they couldn’t have done something else together before Rick Wright passed away.
At the other end of the spectrum are the bands that continue with only one or two of the original members. Guns N’ Roses comes to mind. Kiss is doing this now, too. They say it is because the makeup is bigger than the band members. I guess it is bigger than the panda bears they sell with the makeup designs on them too. I guess when your band becomes a “brand” you gotta ride that horse until it drops.
It makes you wonder why bands split up in the first place. I look at it this way: Most bands start out as just a group of friends. In order to be successful, they spend almost all of their time together. A lot of bands have lived together in a house or apartment for years trying to make it in the music business. They are like a family. It’s all for one and one for all because the band is what is important. This can work for a while, even for many years, but eventually it begins to wear on you. Especially when alcohol, drugs and other substances like success come into the picture. At some point, people need space from each other. A band that is successful or trying to be does not provide much space, so things tend to get amplified and yesterday’s disagreements settled after a few beers and couple games of pool turn into today’s fistfights settled after an arrest or a management ultimatum. Someone quits the band or gets fired. The band is too big and probably owes too much money to the record company to stop, so a new member is brought in and they soldier on.
It is just like most families. The only difference is that you tend to move out of the house at some point after you become adults. Has anyone been in a confined space like an RV with their family when everyone was an adult? How did that go? Pretty well if you drove for three or fewer hours. If it was longer, I bet you were ready to leave the band when it was over or maybe fire a couple of members. The only problem is that you and I cannot plug DJ Ashba or Wolfgang Van Halen into the chairs around our Thanksgiving tables.
I think it was Joe Perry from Aerosmith who once told his drummer that they did not have to be friends to be in a band together. This may be a cold, heartless thing to say, but it is the truth.
Based on all of this, I will give this advice to those in bands today: Try not to spend all of your free time with your band mates. Find other interests, even a side band or doing solo music. Make every rehearsal and show a reunion, so you do not have to have one for the wrong reasons later. It has been said that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the music industry. That is why very few bands survive anymore. I will get into that more in later blogs. For now, remember the two rules some very wise friends shared with me. One: Less is more. This applies to every facet of music except, of course, for volume. Two: Look for quality rather than quantity. This applies to music and just about everything else.
Don Van Dyke