My wife and I were sitting on the couch the other day when she spontaneously began singing a song by the band Nickelback. I endured the song for a minute or so, and was about to say something – Nickelback songs are bad enough when Nickelback sings them – but then I paused to think it through.
The Megger has a much better track record than I do with regard to music. She was a disc jockey at her college radio station, and even before that was an early adopter of the band REM. When CD’s replaced tapes, the first two CD’s she bought were the classics Ten by Pearl Jam and Nevermind by Nirvana. These days, merely by listening to the first few notes The Megger can recall the name and artist of just about any song that was on the radio in the past 20 years.
I have no such music cred. I might have 2,221 songs on my iPod – 6.5 days worth – but all of my playlists are alphabetical by band name.
My first CD, which I bought in 1994, was Face Value by Phil Collins – plucked from a bargain bin because of the song “In the Air Tonight.” That song, released in 1981, certainly wasn’t cool in 1994. Further, I didn’t even own a CD player at the time, so I had to go around to my friends and use their CD players to listen to stale Phil Collins music. That didn’t exactly help my social standing.
During that same time period, I once called WBCN, the recently departed radio station known as the Rock of Boston, and asked them to play “Rocky Raccoon.” The DJ laughed so hard I feared he might have a seizure, and then he hung up on me.
My excuse for this behavior is that my appreciation of music came relatively late in life. When I was young – a time when I should have been rocking out to “Centerfold” by The J. Geils Band or “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – my favorite songs were “Ebony and Ivory” and “Hello.” This was my dark secret. I was sure that if I told anyone at school it would result in daily beatings by a gang of denim-clad AC/DC fans.
My first two years of high school weren’t exactly stellar from a music standpoint, either. While other people were watching MTV, I was poring over baseball statistics and listening to Rush Limbaugh (I know!). This may go a long way toward explaining why I was never invited to a party nor had a girlfriend in high school – no one wants to hang out with a 15-year old Republican.
Things got a bit better after that, thankfully. Once I started driving and listening to the radio, music became a bigger part of my life. Today I have an appreciation for all kinds of music and my iPod contains everything from classical to metal to rap (and yes, even some country). Some people might say that my taste is quite eclectic, while others might say that I am too stupid about music to be discerning. I suspect that both might be true.
If I put in the time to listen to any song enough (although I have no idea how many times is “enough”), I find that I will come around and enjoy it. This is probably common. It explains why many older people are stuck in whatever musical era happened when they had the time to listen to new stuff enough to enjoy it. This is also why many parents find themselves humming Wiggles tunes when their kids aren’t around.
An example of this was my first Air Force roommate, who was constantly playing Pink Floyd. I used to make fun of him for liking Pink Floyd and constantly moaned about how awful it was to have to endure it day after day. But after he moved out I found myself at the music store picking up some Floyd tapes. Yes, I’m a hypocrite, but I like what I know.
That doesn’t mean I know it well, however. For example, I once bet $20 that the Beatles wrote the song “Hazy Shade of Winter” (it was Paul Simon) and then, later laid cash on my memory that The Doors didn’t have a drummer (they indeed had a drummer, John Densmore, but no bass player). Once my friends found out that my ignorance could be profitable they began to jostle for position to feed me drinks and argue about music. The lesson, which took far too long for me to learn, is that I am an idiot.
My biggest issue these days is that I tend to clutter my iPod with songs that I think I “should” enjoy instead of songs that I do enjoy. Everything I read says that Blonde on Blonde is a great album, but I had it on my iPod for two years and never played it on purpose. Not once. But I take up space with it due to my fear that some imaginary music critic (who I imagine is wearing a beret and really small dark glasses) will pick up my iPod and find my character lacking. It’s preposterous. Since it’s all so subjective, who would be so presumptuous as to judge someone on his or her taste in music?
I would; at least when it’s Nickelback. I looked at my beloved wife, her eyes closed as she sang, and said, “Get my attorney on the phone. I wish to begin divorce proceedings.” College DJ or no college DJ, some things just can’t be tolerated.