Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Birth of the Blues, Reds and Greens.

While I'm listening to Cocteau Twins I am thinking about my musical influences and how I came about them.

The Beatles were unavoidable.  Their music was everywhere, and even a 7-year old couldn't avoid them.  Lucky for me.

Their subsequent British Invasion clones and American counterparts would shape my thought as a young person of the 1960s, and I found myself drawn into pop radio and its influences, mostly because I exhibited no independent thought.  Once I did, however, my mind wandered.

Chicago Transit Authority would be later (and better) known as Chicago, and their music was foist upon me by their radio popularity and their popularity among the young hipsters in my high school.
That led to bands like Focus; Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Grand Funk Railroad who became popular among my high school friends - and me, in the case of Focus and ELP.  I remember being on my school bus one morning asking a seat-mate if he had heard "Hocus Pocus" by Focus.  It was a nice Doctor Seuss-way of introducing friends to new music, but in another way, I was seeing into the future.

I was a subscriber to Circus Magazine as a kid, and I remember a headline proclaiming "Keith Emerson's Favorite Cup of Blood: Genesis."  That led me into that end of what we called Progressive Rock music.  On another occasion, I was laid up with the flu and had read about Yes drummer Bill Bruford defecting to a band called King Crimson.  A new LP called "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" was out and I sent a courier to fetch it for me.  Undoubtedly, I felt better after I heard it.

The whole King Crimson ordeal led into a myriad of bands too lengthy to detail here:  Gentle Giant, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Kansas, PFM, Finch and their brethren.  I never recovered from the Crimson influence, and in their wake I was left feeling unsatisfied by subsequent bands who were labeled "edgy" or (God forbid) "Avant-garde."

That led to one afternoon, driving home, in the late 1980s that I heard Cocteau Twins' "Donimo" on our local college radio station WXPN.  In those days, one had to venture to a record store to find an album or compact disc of a band that we heard.  We were hunter-gatherers.  I ventured to the local record store to find these Cocteau Twins that I had heard and see what all the fuss was about.

It turned out that there was a huge fuss, and my search was fruitful.  In their wake I would discover such luminaries as Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, Colourbox and others of that era. It was the last of the great record company acts that were promoted by a label called 4AD.  They produced sampler CDs and promoted music, which is an idea that seems foreign now that television has taken over the music business.

I have recovered from that music promotion nightmare and have found myself regressing (?) back to the music of the artists that I loved.  Fortunately for me, at least one of those artists that I loved is still making music.  Her name is Kristin Hersh, and she still fronts Throwing Muses as well as my new favorite band 50FOOTWAVE.  Sometimes, going backward is a step forward.

What it shows is that you should never give up on the things you love because they will always be there in some form, and I am fortunate that Kristin is still inspired to make music.  It shows that we shouldn't give up on our ideas.  As much as TV shows like "American Idol" want to force-feed us crap, we still have the ability to choose.  Those choices are imbedded deep in our soul and our musical influences.

Do not let television or popular culture tell you what you like.  The thing that I have learned from these years of experience is that you should follow your heart.  Music is a reflection of your soul, and if you aren't true to your soul, you are just following the herd.

The artists I mentioned in this essay are minor in the grand scheme of music, but to me they are huge influences on my tastes and who I consider myself to be.  I would take them over any so-called popular music of the period.

I am artistically and musically stronger because they are a part of my life.

1 comment:

susan said...

Brilliant. "Do not let television or popular culture tell you what you like".

Yes! Yes. I like what I like and makes me happy to hear.

p.s. your taste in music rocks. I'd love to borrow your ipod! ;)