Friday, March 12, 2004

Zero Sum

Hopefully back from hiatus, if a trend of one posting can be seen as a trend, Aaron Haspel discusses his political and cultural odyssey. I will not comment on Aaron's politics, nor will I venture to argue poetry with him. In the former we would have to agree to disagree, and in the latter I am too ignorant to participate in the conversation. But when Aaron discusses the music of the late 1970s and early 1980s, I can't resist but to chime in.
In high school I refused to listen to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd: that shit was for the heads who wore cutoff jean jackets and smoked in the parking lot. I went in instead for Devo, Talking Heads, Sex Pistols, Clash, a few deservedly forgotten groups like the Fabulous Poodles ("Mirror Star" anyone?), and of course, as Professor Lee Roth would have predicted, Elvis Costello. Later on, when my ex-head friends sat me down with the headphones and forced me to listen carefully to Zep and Floyd, I was astonished to discover that it was good, really good, and that my own tastes at the time had held up spottily by comparison. The jean jacket boys were right, and I was wrong. It bothered me, as it would bother anyone. Only after several years of conscientious deprogramming could I listen to these bands without prejudice.
I fear that Aaron and I are "of an age", since I was in college when Elvis Costello and The Talking Heads first appeared. I saw Elvis on his first American tour, and was at the final Sex Pistols concert at Winterland shortly before their breakup and the eventual demise of Sid Vicious.

At the same time, I was listening to Floyd and a lot of British art rock, such as King Crimson, Roxy Music, and Brian Eno. It was not a zero sum game for me that required that I forsake the one for the other. I will admit that Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were considered passe at the time, even though I had listened to them a bit in High School. I only came back to the classic metal bands later. Also listening to freeform rock radio in those years, embodied by KSAN in San Francisco and KROQ in LA, there was nothing odd about hearing Roxy Music or David Bowie and the Talking Heads or Blondie in the same set.

Having grown older and wiser, Aaron states that the jeans boys were right and Zep rules, and that Punk and New Wave hold up "spottily" in comparison. I would say that Elvis Costello, The Clash, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, to name a few, hold up quite well, thank you very much. There is plenty of 70s metal that is a bit spotty. Yes Zep is a lot better than Flock of Seagulls, but give me The Talking Heads over Rush any day!

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