Sunday, March 09, 2008

Human Nature

Music calms the savage beast. For me, it's like collecting baseball cards. I love owning a massive library. Mine is clearly bigger than the average one, but it could be far, far worse.

I'm going to dance carefully around the subject of music trading, but work with me here. Prior to the digital age, we passed around mixed tapes like there was nothing to it. You want a copy of "1984" (Van Halen, just in case you didn't know)? OK, give me a Maxell (or TDK) 60-minute cassette, and I'll work my magic.

Yet the music industry didn't seem troubled. I suppose it's gotten too easy in this era (hit "burn" and your disc is done in minutes), but the concept hasn't changed. Oh but follow the money, of course. The biz is losing money (being in a recession can do that, though that's just one reason) and now they want to hurt people. Yet what's best for the artist - let me get a copy of a CD, hear that it's great, and spread the word (like, um, here) or just never get it because I can't afford it?

A tough dichotomy, to be sure.

Anywho, my old radio friend (code name: John Harrison) turned me on to some things (which I could tell you, but then I'd have know...). So I dabbled by seeing what I wanted to add to my collection.

Jack Johnson? Check. Eagles? OK. Sheryl Crow? Bingo! Michael Jackson? Thriller!

Hold it. Back up. Say WHAT?

I was telling Sandi about the items in question, and was trying to pick her mind about some music that she would like to add. Her early answer was anything by The Sundays (good call, I might add) and then it hit her - Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

'Twas once a time when this would have sent me into a twitching, vomit-induced, whatthehellareyoufookingnuts fit. I won't own anything by that so-and-so. But come on - if I'm not going to ignore the movies of Jane Fonda, then why ignore Michael Jackson? Separate the politics and scandal, and accept the art for what it is, no?

Here is further proof that ol' Uncle Robbie is kinder and gentler. Yes, the "bad man" can indeed change. I'm open to embracing things - lots of things. Try me!

For the record, I'm not a "bad man", in case you were wondering. But I have been told that people like me can't change. I'm sorry, people like who?

I'll admit it - I was often an arse on the subject of music. I think I've said that here before. I still think, for instance, that John Mellancamp is a poor imitation of my man Bruce Springsteen, but he's had a following for nearly 30 years. He's done something right. It took me roughly fifteen years to get over my U2 issues. Blah blah, hmm-hah (that's for you, Myron Cope) and so on.

I could tease terribly on such things. Sandi might be the biggest a-ha fan in Carmel (well there has to be one, I suppose). I probably teased her so much that she became embarrassed by it (don't worry, she's gotten even with a certain act from the San Francisco-Bay area). Eventually I would buy her a CD copy of "Hunting High and Low" (yes, that's the one with "Take on Me" on it) to begin to alleviate the guilt.

The problem is that teasing can be a weapon. I've apologized repeatedly, and I'm kind of done with that. It's all about moving forward, isn't it?

Back to tonight. When she stated that she was ready to reintroduce "Thriller" to her/our collection, I didn't flinch. I just shot into the office and downloaded it.

See, here's the thing. Not owning a copy of "Thriller" was like a badge of honor (sort of like not seeing the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy). It was too easy, too trendy, too girlish, too non-rock to own it. As 1982 turned to 1983, I was happy with other musical exploits - mostly whatever was on the rock stations, but I also listened to the Top-40 outlets as well. Oh I understood the thrill of "Thriller." The songs were all good - on the first listen - but by the 700th (on the same day) it was a bit much. Besides, being a rock guy, it wasn't "cool" to show any interest in it - unless it was "Beat It" and that was only because our guitar god (Eddie Van Halen) was playing the axe.

So we return to this early night in aught-eight. The thought of "Thriller" joining our music collection was thrill-ing. It brought back the memories - nostalgia! - of 1982 and 1983. What cassette was in our boom boxes? What girl liked which guy? What movie were we going to see? Should we shoot hoops today, play baseball, or get the football out? Jeez, that painters hat looks so cool! And of course, did the Yankees win today?

It felt great to welcome a classic album. I listened to a few of the songs I have admired - "Wanna Be Starting Something" and of course, "Beat It." And yes, I put it on my iPod. It might not stay, but it felt right to honor it like that.

And it - this new open-minded, fair and balanced (copyright, Fox News, 2008) way of mine showed me that, while I'm going to stumble, I CAN change. I CAN grow, and as I have always said, I never want to stop learning. Even if it's learning about me.

Teach me. Tell me why the music moved you. Why do you like it so much, or want to go see them in concert? Don't hide whatever it is you're listening to. I've said it, over and over again, that I'm a pushover to the right person. Share with me - that's the beauty of music. To state a song, try a little tenderness.

So when I burned the CD and gave it to Sandi, I had a little burst of pride. I said nothing - and she'll know nothing of it unless she reads it here - and returned to the office. I think the gesture said it all, and even I can realize that actions really do speak louder than words.

She got "Thriller" back. I was happy for her.

Before we close, let me add that while I've picked up a bunch of fine CD's that I'm test-driving right now (this new Jack Johnson effort - "Sleep Through the Static" is quite relaxing), the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss combo, called "Raising Sand" has blown me away. Sean Kilkelly (who's having another classic March Madness at his blog) and I have similar musical tastes - that is, we like everything. I recommended it to him, and we discussed why we were both a touch skeptical of the Plant/Krauss album. It seemed too cliche; too "Crossroads" (ooo, let's take a rock icon and mix him with a bluegrass singer - COOL!). Yet it works - it really works. I hope in 25 years (at which time "Thriller" will be 50) that I regard "Raising Sand" in a similar classic tense.

Rock on!


Hellooo!!! said...

Hello Robert! You are such a kidder..and a fantastic writer I must admit! I would really like to hear more about your Jackson dilemma!! How did that turn out for you and Sandi my dear friend?? Well, be sure to fill me in sooner or later!!

signed xo,

Rob Adams said...

Well sure, I'd be glad to fill you in...if only you'd like to fill me in on who you really are. "xo" is awfully cute - I could use a few hugs and kisses - but I'd like to know who it is that is giving the hugs and kisses.