Friday, November 22, 2013

All Right Now

Not so much.

I grew up on classic rock. AOR was a mainstay. Despite owning all the Beatles LPs, for instance, whenever one of the local rock radio stations would hold one of their "all Beatles all the time" holiday weekends, playing every Fabs song in alphabetical order, I'd leave the radio on for the duration. Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Doors, Black Sabbath, the Eagles, Deep Purple, Styx, these were my lifeblood in junior high and high school.

Even at the time I had more sophisticated tastes as well. In addition to the Beatles, there were the Rolling Stones and the Who, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie and Jackson Browne and Pink Floyd. There was also a fair amount of prog, which, hey: the heart wants what the heart wants. Later, I got into jazz and punk and post-punk and alternative and classical and so on and so forth.

I was a music fanatic pretty much since I can remember. Sousa music in the park on the Fourth? I'm there. Cocktail pianist at someone's wedding reception? I'll just sit and watch. And yet for the first few years after I graduated college, I more or less did without music, as my stereo and CDs and LPs were down in Greensboro, North Carolina and I was up in New York City. So I had a walkman and a few dozen tapes, but that was about it. And this when grunge was just starting to explode, so there was some mighty interesting stuff happening, and I missed much of it.

A few years later, I got back into music again for a few years, from around 1993-1995. But then life intruded once more and I pretty much had to duck back out. And when I resurfaced, in the late 90s, I found myself consumed by jazz, listening to almost nothing but for a few years. After that, it was classical, which was almost all I listened to for several more. (Oh, Shostakovich, you are the seductive one.)

And then it was the mid-Naughts and rock and roll pulled me back. I caught up on a lot of the stuff I'd missed and more: thanks to a pair of books (1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die), I got invested in really investigating some major artists I'd only had collections of before (Aretha Franklin, the Byrds) or artists about whom I'd heard for literally decades but never listened to before (Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, both of which...WOW. Hawkwind and Tim Buckley, which...not so much).

But I also made a point out of seeking out current artists. So I fell deeply in like to love with the Decemberists and the Wrens and Bon Iver and Iron & Wine and Smith Westerns and Kathleen Edwards and Japandrois and Low and Janelle Monáe and Tennis and Real Estate and Camera Obscura and Kanye West and so on and so forth. There is so damn much damn good music coming out these days. I decided that, no hard feelings, Steve Miller Band, but I really don't need to ever hear you ever again; I listened to you for literally hundreds of hours growing up, and that was good enough. If I ever need to hear "Fly Like an Eagle" again, I can almost certainly "hear" the entire thing from beginning to end with my mind's ear.

But after a few years the excitement of discovering started to wear off just a bit, and I had to realize there was one problem with most of today's best artists, or at least, the ones I'd discovered: almost none of them...welll...rocked. They were often exquisite, gorgeous, sophisticated, warm and inviting...but sometimes you just really wanna hear someone kick out the jams, you know? Sometimes you wanna hear "That's the Way" and sometimes you need to hear "Achilles Last Stand." And give 'em their due: classic rock often did just that. It rocked.

So much as I didn't particularly want to listen to Bad Company again (cf. Steve Miller Band), I had to admit my appreciation for their rockitude, for Paul Rodgers' killer voice, for the great (so great!) drumming of Simon Kirke, for the killer riffs of Mick Ralphs. So when "All Right Now," by Bad Company's predecssor, Free, came on the other day, I kinda smiled. It's got that great voice, that great (so great!) drumming, and the absolutely fantastic guitar riff by Paul Kossoff.

And then I listened to the lyrics.

There she stood in the street
Smilin' from her head to her feet;
I said, "Hey, what is this?
Now maybe, baby,
Maybe she's in need of a kiss."

I said, "Hey, what's your name?
Maybe we can see things the same.
"Now don't you wait, or hesitate.
Let's move before they raise the parking rate."

All right now, baby, it's a-all right now.
All right now, baby, it's a-all right now.

I took her home to my place,
Watchin' every move on her face;
She said, "Look, what's your game?
Are you tryin' to put me to shame?"
I said "Slow, don't go so fast, don't you think that love can last?"
She said, "Love, Lord above,
Now you're tryin' to trick me in love."

All right now, baby, it's a-all right now.
All right now, baby, it's a-all right now

Maybe it's because I've got a bunch of daughters. Maybe it's because the world has changed. Maybe it's because I have. But these lyrics are just so damn rapey. And I don't think it's an either-or proposition, not in a million years. But if it is? If I have to choose between rock that rocks but is rapey or rock that doesn't rock but isn't? I'll go with today's more laid-back artists, in a heartbeat. 'cuz no matter how great the voice or riff or drumming, this is just gross.

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