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Talk Amongst Yourselves

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A couple of Wednesday morning conversation-starters…

*The first thing I wanted to address is my embarrassing holes. This is a family blog, so, no,  this has nothing to do with my nostrils (which are real and exquisite.) It’s about holes in my…musical history, let’s say.

I’ve always loved music. Like, even when I was really little. But, of course, it’s when you get older that you have control over your listening habits.

When I was a teen, I had the same diverse taste I have today. But I tended to fixate on a handful or so groups/artists at a time and completely immerse myself in their works, while letting other artists go unlistened-to. YES, unlistened-to. So there are these weird, embarrassing holes in my musical history.

It seems like when you love music, there are artists that you must be familiar with. I hear the names over and over again. Some of them are from decades past–think Big Star or Captain Beefheart. Or they’re a bit more contemporary–think Nick Cave or Elvis Costello. But, see, for whatever reason, I know next to nothing about the aforementioned artists. And, honestly, I’m not sure how I missed them, even with my rabbit-holing habits. I just did. Now, there are a lot of artists out there…here’s a REALLY embarrassing one: THE SMITHS…I never got to know. But it seems like all “music people” know them. Could I get to know them? Sure. But there comes a point where getting to know them feels like homework to me. Like that classic movie you “must see.”

Does anyone else have this problem? Does anyone else have…embarrassing holes?

*Moving on, I have some questions for “Walking Dead” watchers. SPOILERS ARE MENTIONED, PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION.

  1. What are your thoughts on the return of The Governor? It seems like the show did a great deal to humanize him in one episode, then turned around and had him go Hyde in the next. Did that seem jarring to you? Do you think it was smart writing?
  2. Do you have any interest in knowing about the zombie virus? Did the government create it? Was it airborne, was it injected? Are the babies who are being born right now (Judith) infected with it? If every last person is infected, isn’t fighting on rather futile?
  3. What did you think of the symbolism of The Governor hanging laundry between the tank and the trailer?

Talk amongst yourselves.

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  • The Smiths were a better than average, but not great band from Obrunistan.

    http://jpohl.blogspot.com/2013/10/music-it-is-universal-not-just-property.html

  • YES, unlistened-to.

    Owner of a lonely iPod…

    /falsetto

    • LOL!

    • rea

      Your hard core Yes fan (which I confess to having been in my youth–I still have a lingering, i f perhaps misguided, affection for them) scoffs at “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and refers you to Tales of Topographic Oceans.

      • It happens that OoaLH was being played endlessly on MTV during the semester when I reached my peak at 4-man foosball, playing roughly two hours per day and winning about $25 per day on bets. I perfected my double-bank shot from the two-man defender line while singing falsetto along with that song.

        Memories, like the corners of my mind
        Amber-beer-colored memories….

        • Bartleby

          Wait, wait, wait…double bank shot? Please to be explaining, but definitely not because I’m playing foosball for the first time in years (a decade?) on Saturday.

          • Technically, it was a triple bank, but the first bank was a flourish just to annoy people. I (1) held the ball behind one of the two men (usually the one closer to me, but I did it using both men), (2) slammed it straight backward, so it bounced off the wall next to our defending goal, (3) hit it forward on an angle as it came back past my man, so it banked into the side wall on the same side as the man, banked off the opposite side wall, and went towards the goal. A good goalie could stop it if he knew what to expect, but if I got it on goal it was blocked maybe ten percent of the time.

            I spent a lot of hours working on that. The payoff came when I was visiting friends at another school (a university, not a polytechnic like my school) and after I sank three of them in a row the guys we were playing quit with “Fucking engineers and their fucking angles” as their goodbye.

            • Bartleby

              That is awesome, and the story at the end clinched it. I’ll be trying several poor attempts at the shot this weekend, and will likely score a few own goals.

              Thanks for explaining it.

              • Start doing it without the backwards hit. After you get the feel for the angle that hits the double bank, adding that extra step is easy.

                My foos partner had a double bank from the three-man offensive line that was mind boggling – the ball traversed the full width of the table twice to go forward about 8 inches – but I could never learn that one.

      • toberdog

        +1

      • If you were only an enlightened Yeswhole, you’d know that this negativity toward 90125 goes against the spirit of Yes.

        • Michael Bloom

          How does that alleged spirit of Yes manifest itself in the way the band actually behaves? I think a case can be made that they’re just a more abstract and erudite version of new age twaddle. And I say this as someone who has already worn out two copies of Close to the Edge.

  • What are your thoughts on the return of The Governor? It seems like the show did a great deal to humanize him in one episode, then turned around and had him go Hyde in the next. Did that seem jarring to you? Do you think it was smart writing?

    I assumed the “humanization” was simply another aspect of his sociopathy. We already knew he was capable of putting on a show of normality, so why would we think that his “nice” actions a week ago were anything else?

    • Barry Freed

      I don’t think that was a show of caring but the genuine thing. That’s what’s made the return of the Governor in full blown sociopathic mode such a hard thing to see albeit inevitable.

      • I guess this whole topic hinges on that distinction. I don’t believe he’s capable of real caring anymore. I think the last vestige died with his daughter’s reanimated corpse.

        Of course, I could be wrong.

        • Barry Freed

          Meghan is the surrogate daughter and she reawakens in him those human emotions and attachments, that’s why his return to psycho mode (in order to protect this new family) makes him into a tragic figure instead of just a monster.

          • Yeah, I see your argument. It just doesn’t quite ring true for me, emotionally.

            Actually, that’s the way I’d describe the gov: his human emotions died and Meghan has animated zombie emotions.

      • Exactly.

      • Medicine Man

        I agree too. What we’ve seen in the last two episodes is actually pretty consistent with what we saw of the Governor in Season 3. I’m actually quite relieved that they didn’t try to write up a two episode redemption story for a character who has done what Brian has.

        I do agree that the last two episodes have been very jarring though. The transition from the pitiable character of Ep6 to the psycho killing for his own reasons in Ep7 feels like a huge head fake.

    • Icarus Wright

      A puerile attempt at providing layer and texture to a villain. If Guv survives the rest of the season and further character development, he might be worth caring about.

    • Yeah, I didn’t think he was faking it. At all. I thought that was genuine. Which makes his sudden turnaround kinda disappointing for me.

      • Medicine Man

        I don’t think it is a turnaround so much as reveal that he was lying when he told Martinez that he’d changed.

        They’ve used these two episodes to elaborate a little bit on exactly how he’s a broken individual (and why), though the ending of the last season gave us a pretty good look at what truly motivates him.

  • Anonymous

    I thought a lot of the governor’s actions were driven by plot rather than character; he would be going along in one direction and then do something “surprising” or dramatic just in time for the act break.

    There didn’t seem to be an internal life or thought process there.

    Intentional or not, maybe that makes for an accurate portrayal of someone with severe mental illness. As a viewer I just found it frustrating.

    I find the type of conflict we’re headed to next week more compelling if both sides have motivations and grievances that make sense, at least from their own perspective. Two groups of basically good people tricked into conflict by one crazy, amoral guy is easier to write, but less interesting to me.

    They also seem to want to redo the battle at the prison from last season, which was a bit of a fizzle.

    • Barry Freed

      I disagree, I think he’s made that return to character because he cares about his newly adopted family. He’s become a tragic figure on that account whereas before he just seemed to be a full-blown psychopath.

      • Anonymous

        A tragic family story from the outbreak was part of his original backstory and motivation. Admittedly, his portrayal last season did less to

        I’m not seeing him as all about protecting his new family either. His indecisiveness shows that: join the camp, leave the camp, kill Martinez so I don’t have to be a leader, then kill Pete so I can be.

        Pretty much the writers have decided any action is in character for the governor, as long as it’s violent, with bonus points for betrayal.

        Attacking the prison is not about keeping his new family safe, though he will sell it that way.

    • Medicine Man

      I sort of agree and disagree with Barry.

      The Governor is effectively a psychopath. Most psychos have a kind of internalized, insane-troll logic to their violence and the show has given us ample clues as to the Governor’s thinking. In his mind he is doing everything he can to protect his people. Knowing this does make him more tragic, while not making him any less of a psycho.

      I strongly agree with you last statement though, Anonymous. Whatever his stated reasons, Brian is still trying to avenge or protect his dead daughter. He *is* the Walking Dead.

    • Dirk Gently

      Pretty much agreed here: he is a tragic figure because he genuinely wants to move on, but is brought back in by virtue of his attachment to his new family and the circumstances in which he finds himself.

      With that said, I simply don’t buy the renewed effort to attack the prison. The flimsy excuse is that they need a more secure place, and he happens to know of one, where he can also get his vengeance. While this is technically believable, I find it to be a terribly disappointing and lazy resolution to his character. His “return” to psychopathy undermines the entire dialogue-free sequence of two episodes ago, where we are lead to believe that he is chastened and humbled—that perhaps he would still literally do anything to protect his new family, but that where he used to appear to get sadistic pleasure out of it as well, he is now sick to his stomach. I really liked that angle, and with the attack on the prison coming up, the writers have totally abandoned all of that, in addition to the “humanizing” work they did.

      In short: that we are debating this at all demonstrates continued weakness from the writers.

  • I still have massive gaps in my music history, but I refuse to call them embarrassing.

    Partly because I grew up in PR, partly because I didn’t get into music until a couple years ago, but partly because I couldn’t give less of a damn about anything except how good the tune is. I like Nick Cave, enjoy a lot of Costello, some of the Smiths, but I’m not a Beefheart fan and I don’t know Big Fish all too well. Conversely no one around my adopted hometown knows who Joaquín Sabina but I don’t tell them they should be ashamed of themselves.

    Dara O’Briain’s take comes close to my views: “Music snobbery is the worst kind of snobbery. ‘You like those noises? Those sounds in your ear? THEY’RE THE WRONG SOUNDS.”

    • Christ. Big Star. No idea how “Fish” got there. Maybe it was an autocorrect of “Fish.”

      • rea

        “Never travel far without a little Big Star . . .”

        • The disturbing bit is that it either implies I confused areas of knowledge and went for the movie Big Fish rather than any music at all, or that my brain thought “Hmmm, star . . . like starfish!”

          • I assumed you were going for the ska band.

            • Perhaps my subconscious knew of them. But what did I tell you? Gaps and holes, all over the place.

    • Adolphus

      I was working on a post that says pretty much the same thing, but noticed your post so: “What he/she said.”

      I have holes in my music history. What do I care?I am not a music historian. I listen to what I listen to, I like what I like, and I know what I know. My musical choices are not part of my self-image or self-definition or even my peer group’s choices of what I should or should not like or know. I do not hold myself out to be any kind of expert and never recommend music to others unless they ask. (although I did rock the 80’s One Hit Wonder category last night on Jeopardy) I know some things for embarrassing reasons. I didn’t learn of Big Star until I learned that the theme for That 70’s Show was a cover of one of their songs (with some interesting changes). So what?

      This is why I stopped going to record stores. Far too many Barry’s and not enough Robs. Too many people see music not for the joy it can bring to life, but as ways to puff up their own sense of importance and superiority and as stars for bellies because, let’s face it, those gates won’t keep themselves. To hell with that. Listen to what you want to listen to. Like what you like. Know what you know. To hell with everything else.

      • My musical choices are not part of my self-image or self-definition or even my peer group’s choices of what I should or should not like or know. I do not hold myself out to be any kind of expert and never recommend music to others unless they ask.

        This is basically my view of things. I don’t consider my musical choices, or my literary choices, or my film choices, or my TV choices, part of my self-image or self-identity.

        I reserve especial bile for the idea that I should regret in some way my music choices, or to be embarrassed or feel guilty about them. Again, Dara O’Briain: “[The phrase ‘guilty pleasure’] is an insult to top-quality pop. It is also an insult to guilt.”

        • Anonymous

          This is basically my view of things. I don’t consider my musical choices, or my literary choices, or my film choices, or my TV choices, part of my self-image or self-identity.

          Condiment choices, on the other hand…

          • Watching The Walking Dead always puts me in a mood for slathering my food in ketchup.

          • . . . are even pettier, and considering this blog, should have been included in the original. As should have choices in alcohol. ;-)

      • This is why I stopped going to record stores. Far too many Barry’s and not enough Robs.

        I stopped going to record stores because they all shut down.

        • Lee Rudolph

          I thought it was because the man said that the music wouldn’t play.

        • mark f

          When I worked at a record store a woman came in asking for Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant and Thanksgiving Massacre” (sic). I went and got her the Alice’s Restaurant record, which features “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” She complained to my manager when I could not produce her imagined separate, “The Thanksgiving Massacre.”

          In my experience customers like that are far more common than clerks like Barry.

        • Adolphus

          So I guess I just dated myself. I can remember when I was humiliated for asking for a Sparks album at my local record store and decided I had better places to spend my money. I guess that was a really long time ago.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      Dara O’Briain’s take comes close to my views: “Music snobbery is the worst kind of snobbery. ‘You like those noises? Those sounds in your ear? THEY’RE THE WRONG SOUNDS.”

      This! I mean we don’t tell people that their taste sucks because they prefer blondes, brunettes, Asian girls, black girls, guys, etc. and we don’t.

      You’re right about gaping holes in music knowledge not being a big deal. Even as a musician, I really don’t have an extensive span of knowledge of the artists in some of the styles that I play most (jazz and funk.) In both cases I have maybe a handful of artists that I know extremely well along with the bigger hits/standards of the genre but that’s about it. And it doesn’t really impede me in any way as far as playing and enjoying the music. I want to push myself to explore more (and it is something I have to force myself to do) to get ideas and a better all-around vocabulary, but I don’t really lose sleep over it. If I die only knowing 12 out of the countless Miles Davis songs, I can live with that. In popular music the gaps are even more severe.

  • Barry Freed

    Thanks bspence by filling a hole in this blog by posting on the Walking Dead when SEK let us down by failing to post on the latest ep and decided to post funny shit about his life instead.

  • CaptBackslap

    My EMBARRASSING HOLES are mostly with movies (e.g., I’ve never seen a James Cameron movie). People are regularly amazed at the movies I haven’t seen and occasionally dismayed at my lack of shame about it.

    • Denverite

      Aliens. Go see it.

      • T for Texas

        In a theater, if possible! (OK, OK, nobody has revival houses anymore, but still–the cinematography works really well on a big screen projecting celluloid images.)

        • T for Texas

          Oh, and I read “Alien” instead of “Aliens.” Both good movies–you should see both. (Great cast in the first one–besides Sigourney Weaver, there’s John Hurt, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, Tom Skeritt, Harry Dean Stanton . . . oh, yeah, Veronica Cartwright as the obligatory woman screaming instead of running before lights out. Hmmmmm.)

          • Denverite

            Alien is the (slightly) better movie. Aliens is the more impressive accomplishment. Cameron took a borderline classic and made a really good sequel to it in an entirely different genre, and turned Sigorney Weaver into the first female action star to boot. It’s as if someone came along in the mid 60s and made a sequel to Psycho — and that movie was a romantic comedy with Anthony Perkins as a convincing lead.

            (Plus, in Aliens you get to see Paul Reiser play the dastardly villain and SPOILER ALERT get eaten by a ravenous alien.)

            • Adolphus

              I actually thought that was Paul Reiser’s finest performance. He was a good corporate hack.

    • jackrabbitslim

      The Thing. Tonight. Seriously. You’ll thank me. After it creeps you the hell out you can lighten the mood with Big Trouble in Little China, which is among Kurt Russell’s funniest work and which we watched approximately six times while my wife was pregnant with our first son. She had cravings for action movies. And pickles.

      • Anonymous

        That’s John Carpenter. But yes, see The Thing if you haven’t.

        • jackrabbitslim

          Oh shit! I’m such a goon. Mea culpa. My recommendations stand. And if you stop watching anything directed by James Cameron after T2 you won’t be missing much.

          • CaptBackslap

            I have watched the hell out of Big Trouble in Little China.

          • Anonymous

            Yes. The 1982 version of James Cameron might have actually made a pretty good “The Thing.”
            I shudder to think of what he would do to that material today, although he almost certainly would have done a better job than whoever directed the awful 2011 prequel.

            • Barry Freed

              The prequel wasn’t terrible. By that I mean it didn’t take the “original” and shit all over it the way many remakes do.

    • maurinsky

      I have holes in both movies and music. I’ve never seen a Star Wars movie from start to finish, for example. I feel like I’ve seen them because I’ve watched so many episodes of Robot Chicken, though.

      With music, I tend to get obsessive about one artist and listen to every single thing they record, and ignore all other artists, or at least I did when I was younger. Now, if I here something and I like it, I download it. If I really like it a lot I will check out their other music, but unless there is a critical mass of songs that grab me, I’ll just stick to what I have.

      Elvis Costello is on my list of artists that I missed out on, but I have a few of his songs on my ipod and I really like them, so I’ll probably check out more of them. Pink Floyd is one that I missed, and I can accept that they are musically quite excellent even though they don’t grab me personally. I’m a singer, too, so I tend to gravitate towards singers whose songs fit well into my tessitura. There are some songs I love singing even though I don’t love the song.

  • Denverite

    Slate (yeah, I know, sorry) had a “The Smiths Essentials” piece a month or so ago. Brought back some fun memories. You might check it out. Thirty minutes and it hit most of the high notes.

    • Honestly a Smiths essentials sounds kind of pointless to me. If someone were trying to get into The Smiths I would tell them to get The Queen is Dead and “Louder than Bombs” and see how those work for you.

      • Denverite

        You’d think, but there are actually a number of quintessentially Smiths songs that aren’t on those, especially from the first few albums. (Which makes sense because Louder than Bombs is mostly a compilation of B sides and singles from the first half of their career.)

        • No, I mean, I agree, just that if someone where trying to get into The Smiths that’s what I’d tell them to do.

          • nixnutz

            I think the Singles collection is pretty perfect for that purpose but I don’t like a lot of The Queen Is Dead.

  • Stuart Katz

    The problem of filling in musical “holes” is something I’ve given a great deal of thought to. I am a 52-year old, and I have been very into music for the last 35 years. I started filling in the big holes with the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide in college (VU, Dylan, Hendrix, etc.).

    At this point I am still filling in holes, only they’re a lot smaller than yours (my current playlist includes Bill Fox, the Blues Project, and Family). I have many thousands of records, and I devote a lot of effort to finding and plugging the holes. I read Magnet and the Big Takeover, and I haunt the internet for suggestions (reviews of reissues on Pitchfork are helpful). Occasionally I take recommendations from acquaintances, although frankly I don’t know anyone who knows more about music than I do.

    This is how you fill in holes:

    1. Stop listening to things you already know. By this time you should have memorized everything from the Beatles, the Stones and the Who, so you can play it in your head whenever you want to.

    2. Listen to music whenever possible. Listen in your car. Play it at home on a continuous loop. Listen to your iPod.

    3. Gather information. See the sources mentioned above. You might start with whatever editions of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and the Trouser Press guides that you can lay your hands on.

    On the subject of giving up: at this point I have well over 200 records on my iTunes wish list. I only have about a half hour a day of car listening time. I am interested in devoting more time to listening to classical, especially opera.

    Most significantly, there is sense of diminishing returns. The feeling of hearing the Velvets or the Clash or Elvis Costello for the first time are becoming less and less frequent. Also, sometimes you have to admit that the moment has passed. I think the Smiths are great, but I am not sure I would be able to get into them now if I had not first listened to them in the 80s. Part of growing old is about learning to let go.

    • Re your item 1, I have a serious question, that is not meant to denigrate your position: why? If I get pleasure from listening to the stuff I know and like, why shouldn’t I? Obviously it limits the amount of time I can listen to new music, but I’m not sure why one is better than the other.

      • Stuart Katz

        Listen to whatever you want. I don’t care. However, saying “I like what I like” just means that there are hundreds of records out there that you would love every bit as much as the stuff you love now, but you haven’t heard it because you’re listening to Hotel California for the 800th time. That’s your choice and you can do what you want.

        • Obviously my attempt to not be offensive failed.

          Here’s what I don’t get: why do so much work if the end result will be that I’m listening to something new “that you would love every bit as much as the stuff you love now”?

          • Stuart Katz

            I’m not offended. I didn’t mean to offend you, sorry.

            Why listen to things you haven’t heard before? Anyone who is into music remembers the feeling you had when you first discovered something great. Dylan. Hendrix. Beggar’s Banquet. etc. etc.

            As great as those artists and records are, that feeling fades with time. If I listen to White Light White Heat today, I still love it, but I can’t recapture that feeling of discovery and being blown away that I had the first time.

            The quest for new music is the quest to feel that feeling of discovery again. You’ll be disappointed 80% of the time, but 20% of the time you’ll be reminded why you love music so much.

            • mark f

              Either way I’m going to die long before I get to the end of my Amazon Wishlist or my Netflix queue, and hundreds and thousands of worthwhile books, records and movies will come out after that. I’ll never get to all of it no matter how much effort I put into trying.

            • Uncle Ebeneezer

              The quest for new music is the quest to feel that feeling of discovery again. You’ll be disappointed 80% of the time, but 20% of the time you’ll be reminded why you love music so much.

              That’s a good point. And why I try to check out new stuff and even get out of my comfort zones, from time to time. There is nothing as cool as discovering a new love. Especially when it’s a band/artist that has a lot of material and upon exploration you find that most or all of their stuff is just as good as the first song that pulled you in.

        • jackrabbitslim

          I can only stand the GipsyKings version of Hotel California. I thank the Coen brothers for introducing it to me. I just hate the fucking Eagles.

          • Bartleby

            *stops cab*

          • Oh good, another Eagles subthread.

            • I’m gonna try not to lose my temper.

              • I’m not gonna lie, I was a little proud of what I created with that offhand line.

          • DrS

            Ugh, the fucking gipsy kings. Please, take them and the fucking eagles

          • Sherm

            I’ve hated the Eagles for so long, that I actually found myself enjoying some their music and some of the old clips of them when I stumbled across the Eagles special on Showtime a few weeks back.

        • Adolphus

          But “liking what I like” doesn’t mean listening to the same song 800 times. It means, to me anyway ymmv, that you move from music to music, song to song, and artist to artist based upon similarities, cross references, recommendations from like-minded friends, tracing influences through decades and generations, serendipitous exposure, and, yes, even recommendations from Amazon/iTunes/Spottify/Pandora etc etc. What it doesn’t, again to me, is making artificial lists of artists or music and listening to them because some corporate suits at Rolling Stone tell me I should. If that works for you great, enjoy. But it reminds me too much of school where too much of art, music and literature was ruined by intellectual snobs who not only thought I should love what they, and their curriculum committees, loved but should also love it in the same way they love it. To me this is more restrictive than a more organic exploration of art (any art). My “I like what I like” philosophy has lead me (on my own path, in my own way, and on my own timetable) to jazz, classical, opera, klezmer, sea chanties, folk music,and even Tuvan throat singing. All you and Bspencer seem to care about is the wafer thin group of musical genre’s that include some combination of guitar, bass, drum kit, and (maybe) keyboards. (Both kinds of music Rock AND Roll).

          Which is fine if that works for you. Have fun. Enjoy. But my “I like what I like” method of musical exploration has lead me around the world and back through centuries because that’s where I wanted to go, not because someone else wanted to take me there.

          (seriously though. Tuvan throat singing. Genghis Blues. Rent it, steam it, Youtube it. Wonderful stuff.)

          • Stuart Katz

            Don’t know why you seem critical, you and I are obviously of the same mind. The goal is to listen to things you haven’t heard before – how you get there, and what you will like when you get there, is unique to you. My list is no more “artificial” than yours. As for your rather snooty statement about the breadth of your musical taste, don’t even begin to presume what I do and do not listen to.

            As for the corporate suits at Rolling Stone, it was a bit too much detail, but yeah, the later editions of the Record Guide suck but the first edition is invaluable for a newby. And if you don’t want to listen to the Velvet Underground because Rolling Stone recommends them, you’re as clueless as someone who listens to a band just because Rolling Stone recommends it.

  • Stuart Katz

    One more thing. On Captain Beefheart. Go listen to Safe as Milk.

    • Barry Freed

      This . Then just about all of Beefheart.

    • Will do.

      • Michael Bloom

        You’re not necessarily going to “get” Beefheart, certainly not on one listening, possibly never. The elevator pitch on Beefheart is that his most radical music (e.g. the Trout Mask Replica double album) presents a sort of cubist view of the blues: he and the Magic Band do this already rough-and-tumble American vernacular music as if from half a dozen camera angles at the same time. For aficionados, it works. For most people it’s just too much information to absorb all at once.

        And I dunno as I’d start with Safe as Milk; I recommend Clear Spot.

        • nosmo king

          Great album, Clear Spot! User friendly Beefheart, produced by Ted Templeman who later produced Van Halen’s debut (and previously was with Harper’s Bizarre). Beefheart tried to sell out gracefully but nobody was buying. If “Big Eyed Beans from Venus” doesn’t slam you to the floor you’re already dead — that’s the most furiously rawkin’ song these old ears have ever heard.

          If you’re looking for the Captain’s magnum opus, get thee to “Lick My Decals Off Baby”. Takes the scattershot brilliance of Trout Mask and compresses it into a single album battering ram. The band is better, the Captain is focused, and it leaves me breathless.

          Then go get “Doc at the Radar Station”…

        • I guarantee you I listen to stuff weirder than Beefheart.

  • I blame the holes in people’s musical knowledge on the creation of the cassette players (first, of course, was the clunky 8-track’s), then Sony Walkman and boom-boxes.
    At least, certainly, my own music holes.

    Before, outside of records at home, if you wanted to listen to music, you turned on your radio.
    AM and FM radio played a variety of music, from teenybopper Top-40, to long-play R&R, to something jazzy, to funk, to, etc. And you listened to them at home on your radio(s), or, if you were walking around, on transistor radio’s (boy, am I showing MY age!), or in the car, when you were driving.

    And everybody listened to most of the same music – with aficionado’s heading off into specialty areas.
    So, like with network TV shows, we all had something to talk about over by the water-cooler from day to day: ‘Hey, did you see _________________ last night?’; and/or, “Hey, did you hear the latest from _________________?’ And someone would say, “You need to check out __________________!”

    Walkman’s brought in ‘personalized’ portable music.
    Boom-boxes allowed you to share/annoy others with your ‘personalized’ portable music.
    Now, we can either listen to our favorite music over earphones, or hook-up our music source in PC’s, laptops, and portables.

    And that’s why we all have holes in our music. We now listen only to what WE like.

    For all the horror’s of having to listen to “The Night Chicago Died” on your radio, you also got the pleasure of hearing Stevie Wonder’s latest, or Paul Simon’s, or, whoever’s.

    • For all the horror’s of having to listen to “The Night Chicago Died” on your radio

      Jones Beach, summer of 1978, every goddamned boom box playing the Bees Gee.

      • sparks

        Heh, that’s one reason why I started listening to jazz as a teenager. Too much Bee Gees and Eurodisco following me everywhere.

      • At the Upstate lakes, and The Rockaway’s, too.

        On the Jersey Shore, you’d at least get some Springsteen thrown in once in awhile!

      • TribalistMeathead

        Every time I think I was born a generation too late, I remember that I would’ve had to cope with my favorite rock bands/artists putting out disco songs.

        • Sherm

          Yet, “Miss You” by the Stones is one of the songs that steered me away from disco and towards classic rock as a fifth grader.

          • TribalistMeathead

            I think Emotional Rescue is the superior Stones disco song, but I think I’m in the minority on that one.

            • Sherm

              “Emotional Rescue” is the first Stones album I ever bought. I was 12 years old. If memory serves, “Tattoo You” came out next.

    • MPAVictoria

      I really agree with this comment. I never listen to music on the radio, never had MTV in the house as a kid and my parents never listened to “modern” music so I have HUGE gaps in my music knowledge. I am legendary in my pub trivia league for never being able to answer questions about music correctly.

    • Anonymous

      On the other hand, I now go on YouTube and follow trails of music breadcrumbs all over the place. I listen to something I like, and other stuff that I’ve never heard by the band pops up. I listen to something new, and links to bands I’ve never heard of pop up.

      Without personal music devices, we wouldn’t get to this state.

    • Bill Murray

      Also, the fragmentation of radio into niche stations helped this along

    • I’ll get my iPod off your damn lawn, c u n d.

  • The Kenosha Kid

    Those holes of yours aren’t homework, they’re great stuff you’re missing out on.

    Captain Beefheart – Safe as Milk
    Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tender Prey
    The Smiths – The Smiths

    This isn’t “your musical education.” This is happy time.

    • Stuart Katz

      Well said.

      • Jon C.

        Yes. Exactly. Some new musicians can become a little like homework to me for the first listens before I listen compulsively. But I can’t imagine turning on The Smiths, say, and not immediately repeating the track or playing something else by them.

        Same for Big Star, for that matter. Putting on #1 Record now.

    • I am one of those “LISTEN TO ALL THE NICK CAVE” people, and so while I won’t disagree with the excellent selection of Tender Prey, I’ll toss “Let Love In” as an excellent starting point.

      • Barry Freed

        Listen to all of Nick Cave and listen to all of Captain Beefheart. Feel free to skip the Smiths (and I saw them a few times back in the day) but feel free to substitute New Order.

        • New Order’s another one. Never heard much of theirs. What I heard I found pretty fucking annoying.

          • Barry Freed

            Joy Division then?

            • See: New Order. ;)

              • Barry Freed

                BUTTHOLE SURFERS!

        • nosmo king

          Not all Beefheart– make sure everybody ignores “Unconditionally Guaranteed” and “Bluejeans and Moonbeams”. I’ve had a couple friends start with those and get turned off into “what’s all the fuss about”-land.

    • jackrabbitslim

      I felt the same way after I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I read it for self improvement but it turns out to be really fun tams funny and sad and etc.I guess those Pulitzer folks know what they’re doing once in a while.

    • Will give them a listen. Thanks.

  • Icarus Wright

    Do you have any interest in knowing about the zombie virus? Did the government create it? Was it airborne, was it injected? Are the babies who are being born right now (Judith) infected with it? If every last person is infected, isn’t fighting on rather futile?

    No.
    Probably government issue.
    Don’t care at this point, but will probably be dealt with in future episodes/seasons.
    Yes.
    Perhaps you’re missing the point: ‘Walking Dead’ isn’t necessarily a reference to the decaying-yet-ambulatory corpses.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    there’s something to be said for ditching the electronics, finding an open space in the middle of almost nowhere and letting all the sound that’s always there have the stage for once

  • Richard Hershberger

    I was raised on classical music. Popular music in its various genres simply wasn’t part of my consciousness. This was the late 1970s, so what forced its way to my attention tended to run to hair bands and disco. This lasted until college, when a friend put on Jesus Christ Superstar and I was amazed by it. This was 1982, so I was a bit behind the times. I mostly went back and filled in the 1960s and early 70s. Since then I am more aware of the current music scene, but my tastes run more on the lines of what you hear on public radio adult alternative format stations.

    I notice, though, that these discussions of holes run pretty strongly to popular music from the mid-1960s onward. The hole I have spent the past ten years seriously attempting to fill is baroque music. It turns out that Vivaldi wrote some terrific works that aren’t The Four Seasons and therefore never get played. (He also wrote even more uninspired filler, but that’s another discussion.) The first time I heard an Uccellini violin sonata it blew my socks off. Even people who plausibly consider themselves educated in classical music usually have never heard of Uccellini. And so on. The written record of Western music goes back to the 10th century. Worrying about holes in the past fifty years while ignoring the entire millennium previous to that seems limiting.

    • Leeds man

      Worrying about holes in the past fifty years while ignoring the entire millennium previous to that seems limiting.

      +1

    • Captain Haddock

      I was raised on classical music and played classical piano from age four. I’m convinced this is the reason I am incapable of listening to lyrics. That’s not to say I don’t like music with lyrics, but I never listen to what is actually being said — I naturally focus on the music and tune the lyrics out. Sometimes I try to force myself to listen to the lyrics, but that lasts for maybe 20 seconds before my brain takes off into lalaland with the music. While I’m sure this limits my appreciation of some modern music, I feel like I truly grasp the emotion of classical music. It flows through me and takes me to a different world. Lyrics just distract me.

      Incidentally, I listen to a lot of film scores. I’d rather listen to Hans Zimmer when I work out than Lady Gaga. A bit puerile but so be it. We each have our itches we need to scratch. Kant only listened to Prussian military music; I get my Gladiator soundtrack.

  • It’s funny you name those specific bands as where you have holes because I know the same exact bands hardly at all. I have Trout Mask Replica and the first Costello album, but that’s it for all of them combined.

    • mark f

      The first Costello album, while great, is a bit different than those that followed. With This Year’s Model he picked up The Attractions, a much more muscular band than he had on My Aim Is True. Here’s “Goon Squad” from Armed Forces.

    • CaptBackslap

      Big Star’s “Third/Sister Lovers” is absolutely incredible, and for extra appeal to you, it’s basically a vortex of despair.

      • Is “Holocaust” the saddest song ever written?

        Yes, it probably is.

        • CaptBackslap

          I can’t think of a sadder one, although Waits’ “Time” and Joe Henry’s “Some Champions” are close.

          • mark f

            Chocolate Genius, “My Mom

            • CaptBackslap

              My own mom had presenile Alzheimer’s, and I got that album out a couple years after she died, and when that song came on I was like NOPE, STILL CAN’T.

              • mark f

                Yup. Mine turns 60 in March and she’s never known her 3-year-old grandkid’s name.

                • Barry Freed

                  You both have my sympathies, that sucks.

                • Oh geez. :(

                • mark f

                  Thanks to you both. (I swear I was only trying to play the sad song game!)

                • CaptBackslap

                  Really sorry to hear that, Mark. It’s pretty much the worst thing.

                • mark f

                  Same to you.

    • Barry Freed

      You need to give Trout Mask Replica a listen just so you know the correct reply when someone suddenly blurts out, “fast and bulbous.”

    • elvis’ latest album is a collaboration with the Roots. It is, as usual, pretty damn excellent. At least to me.

  • mark f
  • kg

    No SMcG yet? All this talk of holes should be like a beacon.

  • Gus

    There will always be holes. Don’t worry about it. But at the same time, for Christ’s sake get you some Big Star.

  • Sherm

    The Smiths are a hole not worth filling. Elvis Costello as well, although he has a few good songs. I never understood why the Smiths and Morrisey were so damn popular. I cannot recall hearing a Smiths song and not turning it off within 30 seconds.

    • Denverite

      It’s the dissonance between the generally happy pop-rock and the completely macabre (and usually very clever) lyrics.

      Plus Johnny Marr is a pretty good guitarist.

      • nixnutz

        I didn’t like them when they were current but I got into them in the last few years. It started because Marr is really pretty incredible and has an interesting style, and the rest grew on me, including eventually Morrisey’s overwrought vocal style.

        I still don’t love every song but the highlights are amazing.

        I haven’t ventured into the solo stuff because it’s missing 60% of the appeal but yeah, I’m glad I came around.

    • Barry Freed

      You are as right about the Smiths as you are wrong about Elvis Costello.

      • Sherm

        He has some good songs.

        • Barry Freed

          He has some good songs albums

          FTFY

          • Sherm

            Costello is one of those performers I liked quite a bit but never loved back in the 80s and into the early 90’s, but I just never find any reason to listen to him anymore. Not sure if its because my tastes have changed, or his catalog is not deep enough to survive all these years, or a combination of both, which is most likely.

    • I haven’t heard much of The Smiths, but what I have heard sounded droning/whiny. Not exactly bspencer kinda stuff, ya know? I tend to like stuff that kicks you in the ass or the gut or the heart.

      • Bartleby

        I haven’t heard much of The Smiths, but what I have heard sounded droning/whiny.

        I’m not that familiar with The Smiths, either, but didn’t they basically invent emo? It’s not music that encourages happiness.

        • I can’t tell if this is snark or not but just in case, uh, not really? Emo emerged out of the DC hardcore scene in the mid-80s and most of the sonic markers come from really american shit like pop punk and beardo flannel music.

          • weirdnoise

            “beardo flannel music”? Is that related to shoe gazing music? Or chin stroking music?

      • Sherm

        Agreed. First Wave on SiriusXM plays the Smiths and Morressey all the time, and I can’t turn the channel quickly enough.

        • Thlayli

          Same here.

          Billy Idol, also. They play a truckload of Billy Idol, for some unknown reason.

      • Barry Freed

        Drony and whiny is pretty much all of the Smiths even though Johnny Marr is an excellent guitarist.

        Gang of Four.

        How about the Butthole Surfers if you want an ass kicking in the gutheart?

        • Richard

          Smiths are not very listenable (but have a huge cult following especially in my neck of the woods, East Los Angeles). Big Star were good but overrated. Never got Nick Cave. Beefheart had his moments but Trout Mask Replica is very overrated. Saw Beefheart live once, in 1969 or so. Played at a decibel level so high that it was painful. Costello has been erratic but the highs are great. First album was a game changer for popular music.

          • mark f

            Someone made a reference to the Big Lebowski soundtrack in this thread already, so here’s another. IMO Beefheart is better when he’s more straightforward.

          • DrS

            (but have a huge cult following especially in my neck of the woods, East Los Angeles).

            The latino tough guy fandom of the Smiths/Morrisey is fascinating.

      • Denverite

        You might borrow a copy of Louder Than Bombs from someone and just listen to the first half. It’s mostly upbeat, at least as far as The Smiths go.

      • Well, my main knowledge of the Smiths is from the first maybe quarter of the “Louder than Bombs” compilation, and it seems rather punchy/kicky. “Is It Really So Strange?” and “Sheila Take a Bow” are two of my favourite songs. Sort of absurdist/punky with, perhaps if you squint, a dash of angst. But the tunes play heavily against that angst.

        Love ’em.

        • Yeah, I mean, people peg The Smiths that way because Morrissey is a sadsack who writes a lot of pretentious nonsense, but that ignores how funny a lot of their music was.

          Really, the dourest The Smiths ever got was “Meat is Murder,” and that’s less whiny and more preachy.

  • mark f

    Nick Cave’s Grinderman playing “No Pussy Blues.” An awesome performance.

  • stratplayer

    I’m a huge fan of power pop (I play and write in the genre myself), but I have to say that I find Big Star to be colossally overrated. Bands from the same era like Badfinger or The Raspberries completely blow Big Star away in my admittedly subjective estimation.

    • Richard

      Raspberries were awfully good.

    • nixnutz

      I like all those bands, they’re all somewhat similar in that they have a few songs that are way better than the bulk of their catalog. I would say that The Raspberries and Badfinger have more great songs (although it’s like 2 or 3 vs. 4 or 5) but IMO the remainder of their catalogs are not as good as Big Star’s. Or, as I hope is obvious, not as appealing to me at least. But they’d all go well on a mixtape together. You could put on some Bread as well, I won’t yell at you.

      I’d put the Flamin’ Groovies in the same category, you can’t fuck with “Yesterday’s Numbers” or with “Thirteen” but a band like the Stones or the Kinks has 30 songs better than those bands’ second-best songs. Still I’m glad they exist and I’m glad there are hundreds more out there for me to discover, that’s pretty much what it’s all about for me.

      Also, if you’re a Power Pop fan, do you know The Lolas? They are to me the most underrated band going, not the best but in ratio of greatness to recognition they’re off the charts.

  • OMFSM, you must listen to this band and read these books and watch that T.V. show or you will be an uncultured hole filled boob.

    /OneupmanshipAsshole

    • hole filled boob

      Your ideas intrigue me…

    • Barry Freed

      Nothing wrong with asking and she asked.

      • Totally. But I absolutely understand where Shakezula’s coming from. These sort of threads do sometimes invite one-upmanship. But I think most folks know me well enough to know I’m not impressed by that sort of thing.

        • Barry Freed

          And I was so going to tell you about this one really cool band…

          • Starring a mom who found one weird trick with a zither.

            • Barry Freed

              Local too.

            • Pervy MacPervy, M.P.H.

              I am interested in your newsletter and would like to subscribe.

          • Hey, I’m ok with learning. Just not interested in competing.

        • Sherm

          Is it one-upmanship, or plain arrogance, i.e.: my subjective opinions and tastes are superior and more refined than yours. That shit gets old.

      • Nothing wrong with sarcasm and poking holes in the idea that people should be embarrassed by not knowing about this or that Thing.

        • Barry Freed

          Are you saying you haven’t watched The Thing?

        • Not know the Thing? IT’S CLOBBERING TIME!

        • Barry Freed

          BTW, I get where you’re coming from to but with me it’s always been about sharing my enthusiasm for something that totally grabs me. If it comes across as hipper-than-thou one-upsmanship assholery that’s not intentional.

          • Right, and I really get into things too (I could drone the fuck on about The Smiths).

            But I have yet to find a way to convey my enthusiasm that doesn’t (upon reflection) feel like I was being one of those condescending douchebags who you suspect doesn’t really care about whatever Thing beyond the fact it gives him (or her) a chance to be a condescending dbag to other people. You know, those people who are always losing interest in things when they become popular?

            (Also, I watch no TV so I get “OMFSM, I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU HAVE WATCHED SUPER FANTASTIC MUSICAL ZOMBIES!?” a bit too much.)

            I think we agree those people should be ironically pelted with body jewelery.

            However, my husband is one of those people who is really good at conveying enthusiasm for whatever Thing he’s into.

            Perhaps I’m biased, but he has a very engaging way of talking about things that leaves me feeling I’ve learned something without being lectured. And afterwards, I can use that whatever he’s told me to better appreciate X, Y, or Z. (For example, I can now ID several drummers by their snare style.)

            And of course, meeting a fellow enthusiast is always fun.

            • Uncle Ebeneezer

              One way to avoid the d-bag tone is just to remember that a person may or may not like what you suggest. I try to be more “if you like X, check out Y. You might like it, though there are some significant differences” and less “OMG you HAVE TO…” Though like anyone when I’m really excited to share something with someone I probably oftentimes come across poorly as well.

              Which drummers can you ID by snare? That’s very cool.

              • That’s a variant of the one thing I’m comfortable with (and mind you, I often do get carried away and only later think – Damn, I must have sounded like an ass or deranged or a deranged ass). “I thought that book [that you like], was a lot like [some other book or author].” Or, “I really like that band [that you like]’s lead singer’s solo work.” If the person knows about it, we can talk about it and if not I’ve given them a tip.

                Crap, you would ask. Aside from Stewart Copeland the only two I can think of right now are the 311 and Soundgarden dudes.

                • Uncle Ebeneezer

                  Interesting. I’m not sure if I notice the way they play their snares, per se, or their snare tone. Chad Sexton (311 guy)’s snare tone is really distinctive and he does alot of rolls and stuff on it. Copeland and Cameron (Soundgarden) I usually recognize from their patterns across the entire kit, but now that I think about it they do have pretty distinct snare tones and/or playing. Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins) I would also know from a mile away just by the snare tone/playing.

                • nixnutz

                  I don’t know if it’s the same thing but when I listen to The Descendents I usually find myself focusing mostly on Bill Stevenson’s snare. It’s fascinating.

            • Adolphus

              I can’t find it, but John Hodgeman had a great bit on this on The Daily Show when Borders went out of business. A nice rant about the employ-ability of the Condescending Nerd.

              “Thanks for cluing me into Philip Dick AGAIN. What’s the matter? Sold out of Confederacy of Dunces this week?”

              Good stuff.

              • Adolphus

                Oops!I guess I did find it. I should have edited that part out. Sorry.

  • I am old, and kind of sad that I stopped finding new music – when? I still think of REM as that new band the college kids are listening to. I hear about bands, hear a song or two, but they don’t resonate the way the old standbys do (or new bands that sound old, like the Carolina Chocolate Drops.)

    It used to be, when I got a new record, I’d listen to it 3-4 times before I could say I liked it or not. I had to get used to it, see if I’d start singing along. Now, I don’t bother. If it grabs me, it’s probably because it’s a cover of a classic. Otherwise, I put on a new Bob Dylan bootleg show or something.

    I do regret it, but there it is.

  • bradP

    A lot of artists are best listened to with an understanding of their entire body of work, and a lot of songs require complete devotion to provide their full reward.

    No shame in sacrificing some music to fully enjoy other music.

    And the Walking Dead has never been about coherent characters. The characters have always been written to move the plot and environment.

  • KmCO

    I’ve always loved music. Like, even when I was really little. But, of course, it’s when you get older that you have control over your listening habits.

    When I was a teen, I had the same diverse taste I have today. But I tended to fixate on a handful or so groups/artists at a time and completely immerse myself in their works, while letting other artists go unlistened-to. YES, unlistened-to. So there are these weird, embarrassing holes in my musical history.

    I think you’re my sister from another mister. Like, SERIOUSLY. But seriously. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been enchanted my music since my earliest memories. I grew up listening to a lot of what my parents listened to, so I’ve always been drawn to music of the ’60s and ’70s. By my early teens, though, I was picking and choosing bands and genres that I personally liked. I went through a disco phase (don’t judge) when I was 13. By the time I was 15-16, I loved a lot of the bands that I love now, notably Pink Floyd. I’m still over the moon about Floyd (ha!), but I personally regard their earlier, pre-Dark Side Of The Moon era to be their absolute best. In more recent years that I’ve discovered some truly obscure and/or foreign bands from yesteryear, and I absolutely adore some of them. The Moody Blues are pretty well known, but their early album In Search Of The Lost Chord is somewhat more obscure, and it’s the shit. I had a love affair with it when I was in college. Another one of my top favorite bands of all time is Omega, a Hungarian space-rock band whose output spans over forty years. To generalize massively, pretty much anything written in a modal scale, with plenty of organ and theremin is bound to make this girl squishy with delight.

    As far as bands that I’ve “missed” go, well, I will admit that I haven’t heard much Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits. I know that, as an intense musicphile, this is unacceptable, but it is what it is. Bspence mentioned Elvis Costello in the post. I’ve listened to some of his stuff and had to stop–I honestly find his music to be obnoxious. I consider myself hipstery enough to be expected to have heard lots of the Pixies and Pogues, but I got nothin’ on them.

    • Denverite

      There was a pretty good Pixies two-disc release about a decade ago. Disc one is greatest hits, disc two is a good live show. NME (I think) said something along the lines of “if you’re only going to buy two albums this year, buy this one twice.” That’s going to get you like 85% up to speed on the Pixies. They really kind of set the stage for the grunge and alternative explosion in the early-to-mid 90s, so it may be worth a listen.

      As far as the Pogues go, my next door neighbor was really into them once upon a time. I borrowed a few albums. Some of the songs are funny and some are even good, but I wouldn’t spend money on them.

      • KmCO

        Cool, thanks for the info. I just might check the Pixies out.

    • “Sister from another mister”

      *snort*

      Heh. Ditto on Tom Waits and Cohen.

      I was obsessed with Pixies, however.

  • Man, you honkies sure like some honky music. Blazing new trails with the Smiths, Costello, etc.

  • Lee Rudolph

    My musical history is, essentially, nothing but holes.

    My parents were, as I see it now, pathologically uninterested in music. If it weren’t for one of our boarders during my first and second years of life, I might never have heard any music before I started school; she sang Little Red Wagon Painted Blue to me. My mother read to me from A Child’s Garden of Verses but never sang. My father had one song, St. James Infirmary, but sang it very rarely, and not at all, I think, in my early childhood. I don’t think there was a radio in the house at that time, and there was certainly none in the family car (a Model A).

    I suppose there was some music in kindergarten, but I don’t recall. By first grade there was a music class once or twice a week, with the teacher playing piano and we pupils singing; I have vague memories of some of the repertoire, and the wonders of Google have found me this lyric, apparently by one Dana Burnet—no doubt I could find the tune too, and maybe I will.

    My land was the west land; my home was on the hill,
    I never think of my land but it makes my heart to thrill;
    I never smell the west wind that blows the golden skies,
    But old desire is in my feet and dreams are in my eyes.

    My home crowned the high land; it had a stately grace.
    I never think of my land but I see my mother’s face;
    I never smell the west wind that blows the silver ships
    But old delight is in my heart and mirth is on my lips.

    My land was a high land; my home was near the skies.
    I never think of my land but a light is in my eyes;
    I never smell the west wind that blows the summer rain—
    But I am at my mother’s knee, a little lad again.

    Somehow I doubt that’s still taught in the Cleveland Public Schools.

    Around then, maybe the next year, my father got a new Ford, which did have a radio; now, when we’d take evening rides (him and my mother and me), we’d have it on, to listen to Gunsmoke, not to music. Also around then, my father’s mother (who lived a few blocks away, and who became my day-time caretaker when my mother went back to teaching school) was given a brand new record player by my aunt and her husband, and the (very) old one devolved upon us, along with her few 78s. I played them to myself what seemed like incessantly, but I can’t remember a thing about them (I think they were non-vocal).

    It was around then that I acquired my first record of my own, bought (after much pleading) at the movie theater where my mother and I had just seen 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which makes my age 6), a 45 of the only song in that movie (according to IMDB), Whale of a Tale, sung by Kirk Douglas. I played that even more incessantly, for a while. My next record was also a Disney 45, Sink the Bismarck, bought 6 years later.

    In the meantime I did listen to some other records, mostly at my grandmother’s house, on her new record player; she was very partial to Tennessee Ernie Ford. We also acquired a television and eventually came to watch Ernie Ford, Dinah Shore, Sing Along With Mitch, Lawrence Welk, u.s.w. On the other hand, as I have whined about before (either here or elseblog, I can’t remember), my expanding musical experiences while living at home never did come to encompass any “classical” music, the tone being set by my earliest lost chance to do so, when in second (or third?) grade my parents were the only parents not to cough up the small sum (I think it was a dollar, maybe two) required to attend a mid-day, midweek children’s concert at Severance Hall with the rest of my class (and, I assume, music classes from all over the city).

    By junior high school I had a transistor radio of my own, and did listen to popular music on it. In 1963, away at an academic summer program, I attended my first classical performance, something performed at Marlboro by the pianistic prodigy Peter Serkin, one year my elder. Many of the other students at the summer program had guitars; when I got home I pleaded for one with my parents, who eventually sprung for a plastic baritone ukulele (tenor guitar, 4 strings). I got books of Folk Music, much of which I had never heard and never would hear, and taught myself guitaristic bad habits which persist to this day.

    My aunt’s husband acquired a “chord organ” at this time, and on visits (not infrequent; they only lived about 6 miles south of us, in the wonderfully appositely-named town of Middleburgh Heights) I would try to pick out tunes on it.

    In 1964, away at a different academic summer program, and by then equipped with a genuine wooden 6-string guitar (it’s sitting a couple of yards from me now, but with irreparable damage of a few decade’s duration keeping it unplayed; the plastic uke cracked and was discarded decades ago), I attended my first folk concert, Joan Baez in a college auditorium. I had the (to me, novel) insight there, amidst the frequent applause, that some or all of the “uplifting” effects attributed to classical music and to church music (which reminds me that I did, for a few years on each side of puberty, attend—at my mother’s desire, though she was not a believer nor an attender, and my father was in effect a thoroughgoing atheist—a Presbyterian church, where I encountered hymns) probably come from the requirement to retroflect (not my term at the time) the emotional response that applause dissipates.

    The summer before I went to college (1965), my mother liberated a low-end, one-box stereo record player from her elementary school. I had some budget for buying records (there were still none in the house, of course, except for those two 45s; the old 78s had disappeared), and asked a friend I had made in junior high school (he went to another high school, but ended up going to college with me, and is now an eminent professor of philosophy there), who I knew to be “musical”—his parents had seen to it that he had piano lessons, and even his sister, for whom they refused to pay college tuition (she worked herself through Purdue and eventually became a Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor in California, but killed herself in her lab on the eve of her 51st birthday), had taken violin lessons—for suggestions. He told me to buy the Mendelsohn and Tschaikowsky violin concertos, so I did. As before, I played them incessantly.

    When I got to college (leaving my lousy stereo and my records at home, thank goodness) I found myself among people who were all musical, and who mostly all had good stereos. In some sense my huge musical hole started filling in then, but very unevenly. The following summer I got a jazz guitar (an Epiphone Blackstone; now downstairs, with bridge problems) and had three disastrous lessons before giving up on being taught music.

    In my sophomore year, when I was rooming with people I had chosen (rather than who had been chosen for me), nearly all the music in our suite (5, then after a feint at suicide 4, suitemates) was high-brow. I heard a lot of different stuff by Mahler, and a lot of one record of late-medieval music. No folk, no rock. Meanwhile, however, other friends were discovering the Jefferson Airplane, and I heard a lot of that too. Naturally the Beatles and the Stones were omnipresent.

    Those same other friends worked on the college radio station (non-broadcast: it went out to the dormitories over the AC wires, and when on occasion it would somehow leak to the surrounding town, the FCC would come down like a load of bricks), where I’d sometimes hang out with them; the station received huge numbers of sample albums, so I heard a lot of Zappa and Beefheart too. I was pretty much a taboo La Raza at the time; what did I know?

    Skipping ahead a few years, I acquired a couple of young teenaged (step-)daughters, one of them very entwined (at a very early age) with the Boston early music scene. So now I was hearing plenty of stuff from the preceding millenium. She’s now an associate dean of a university school of music, still doing renaissance and medieval music; she eventually branched out (via Monteverdi) into opera too, but that happened after she left home, so I’m still an opera-free zone. (I’ve seen one on TV, though.)

    Not counting the (many) early music concerts I’ve been to, I think I can count the concerts I’ve attended on my 20 digits: besides Serkin and Baez, they’ve included Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, the Band (with Van Morrison, drunk and incompetent, opening), the Cleveland Pops (yuck), Pete Seeger (three times), Leon Rosselson … maybe I don’t need my toes, at that.

    I don’t listen to records (or tapes, or CDs) much any more. I sing to myself a lot of the time, though, and have gotten back to guitar (with now 50 years of bad playing habits!); sometime between Thanksgiving and Xmas I intend to negotiate for lessons at a local music store, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand it. (I haven’t decided whether I should bring the Guild that I bought, remotely, from a friend’s roommate who’d left it behind while she went to Amsterdam and needed to sell it to finance her brand new heroin habit, when I was in graduate school, or the Japanese electric guitar that I got about 15 years ago from an undergraduate student who also needed money though I don’t know why and hope it wasn’t for the same reason.)

    • Richard

      I became a music fanatic when I was 16 (back in 1963) and have continued to be so to this day. Its a very rare week when I don’t see at least one live show (mostly in small clubs) and a month never goes by without buying at least several CDs, sometimes many more.

      I’m constantly looking out for new or old music that has escaped my attention (new artists from NOLA, balkan brass bands, etc). Lately been listening a lot to Maria Delores Prada, amazing Spanish singer, Pokey La Farge, midwestern old timey singer, Pine Leaf Boys, my favorite Cajun band and Brandy Clark, great new singer and songwriter from Nashville. No holes in my musical knowledge except for areas where I have no fondness and no interest (metal, current pop, prog rock, EDM and 90% of hip-hop/rap).

  • sylvainsylvain

    I used to be kinda evangelical about turning people on to cool music. I felt that if someone could just get into The Stooges Fun House then they could appreciate/understand someone like Sonic Youth.

    Then all the kids started getting into hip/hop, and I gave up.

    Then I moved to Europe, and got turned onto trance, just the overwhelming amount if it, and in fact I’m listening to a Nick Warren Global Underground set at this moment.

    And to be honest, sometimes the drugs do work.

  • Mr. Madame Psychosis

    Here’s Nick Cave singing about filling holes in the soul, sort of.

    A well-crafted take on politics, religion, bigotry, authoritarianism, existential fear, the logical reason for albino felines and more!! – one very entertaining little tune.

    Our town is very pretty
    We have a pretty little square
    We have a woman for a mayor
    Our policy is firm but fair
    Now that God is in the house

    _______

    Re: Walking Dead – Most of the time I’m like Quint asea, “I don’t know Chief whether he’s very smart or very dumb.” Then every once in a while it’s “Jesus. He’s gone under the boat. I think he’s gone under the boat.” Not very often but just enough to keep me watching.

  • Bruce Webb

    Stones vs Beatles

    Today this might seem like Bach vs Beethoven but back when I was 10 years old in 1967 these groups were the Boy Bands of our Middle School and you had to take sides. Me I was a Beatle and so hated any suggestion that those Rolling Stones people, whoever they were, could hold a candle to the GREATEST BAND IN THE UNIVERSE. Which sounds stupid I guess until you think that 10 year olds thirty years later thought the same thing the Jonas Bros or the Backstreet Boys or whatever and somehow I suspect MY ‘GREATEST BAND’ will be selling records back when those bands are forgotten.

    WHICH MEANS TODAY. Moving right along.

    A couple years later, say in 1969, and as a confirmed hater of the CONCEPT of the Rolling Stones, it came as a rude shock that some of my favorite songs they were playing on the radio like all the time and ones that I had liked FOREVER were LIKE, YOU KNOW by the band I loved to hate.

    So the Rolling Stones were a hole that was not a hole. By the time I was an early teen I knew all their songs but literally had not actually attached them to the artist in question. And I suspect that it true of a lot of people’s musical ‘holes’. You may not think you know a damn thing about Elvis Costello or the Smiths but chances are we could put together a short playlist drawn from both that would have anyone who listened to anything at all going “Oh yeah, THAT song, man I LOVED that song, you telling me it is by Costello?”

    Yeah and maybe you won’t feel quite as stupid as I did when I realized one of the greatest songs of my youth “Paint it Black” was by a group that I ‘hated’. “You telling me that is by the STONES!”.

    Now there are actual bands that can be described as ‘cult’ and which never got much radio play ever except on college stations or indie stations. And Captain Beefhart might fit there and perhaps even Zappa. But the Smiths? Or Costello? Well it is not like they didn’t have breakthrough songs on FM radio, even if maybe few if any actually hit Top 40 Pop status.

    • I’d extend that to all the people who either hate classical music or think they don’t know any, but actually know quite a bit thanks to commercials, movies, and Warner Brothers cartoons.

      What percentage of people who recognize the Anvil Chorus know it from Bugs Bunny?

      • Lee Rudolph

        Probably larger, what with die-off, than the percentage who know it from the Marx Brothers. Much larger.

    • Um. I’m sorry, but couldn’t you tell the difference between Jagger and Lennon?

  • Barry Freed
  • Mr. Madame Psychosis

    Alternatively, here’s Nic Cage singing. It may make you want to put a hole in something, or someone.

  • BH in NJ

    Music is never homework. If music is homework, you’re doing it wrong.

    It’s never been easier to give bands you’re curious about a listen. They’re just a Googles away. They’re Pandoraccessible.

    The Smiths: Start with “This Charming Man”, “The Queen is Dead”, “How Soon is Now”, “Ask”, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”.

    If you don’t like: all time cheerfully refunded!

  • James E. Powell

    Right now, today, this is a whole lot of fun and learning how Morrissey felt about it made me like him even more.

  • Karl

    I keep watching Walking Dead, but I can’t say why these days. I made the mistake of reading World War Z, so the idea of learning how the world functions in the zombie apocalypse is awesome, but I find it really hard to give a crap about brooding white dude and his poor decisions. I’m hoping the spinoff is the adventures of Carol, zombie killer who doesn’t put up with your mansplainin’.

    • Dirk Gently

      Like this if you are a strong white woman who don’t need no man.

      But seriously, I would watch the hell out of such a show.

  • grouchomarxist

    My unfamiliarity with the vast majority of modern pop music pretty much dates from the late 1980s. Which is not to say that you lousy kids don’t know hoppin’ hell about real music: I’m sure there are a lot of talented and innovative people out there making great music at this very moment. Along with all the derivative dreck.

    So do I only listen to the same stuff over and over again? Not at all. In my case, what happened was that I started going “backwards” into the blues and jazz roots of the music that I loved as a teenager and younger adult. That in itself provides me with all sorts of new — to me, anyway — music to listen to.

    Plus I was lucky enough to have parents (and a school system) who exposed me to classical music. (Although without knowing it, my mother ruined opera for me: it’s indelibly associated in my mind with rainy Sundays of my childhood, trapped inside while Mom listens to “Opera at the Met” on the radio.) And somewhere along the way I picked up a fondness for early music, too, so like the commenter pointed out up-thread: I’ve got almost a thousand years of music to discover.

    But those are just the paths I took. It doesn’t mean I consider my taste in music is superior to someone who never listens to or even hates the same stuff that grabs me. (Although I do believe that listening to only one type of music is like having only one food in your diet.)

    So IMO it’s kind of futile to worry about the holes in one’s musical knowledge. There’s just too much of it to know in one lifetime, and part of growing older is that your tastes will change. The fun is in the random spark: the friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, the song or even just a few bars of a melody that you hear somewhere at just the right moment, the album art or whatever it is sends you off down that new path.

    As for The Walking Dead, I was late to that game and — since we dropped our cable tv last spring — won’t be seeing the fourth season until Netflix gets hold of them, ya spoiler-writin’ bastids.

    One thing, though, that I’ve yet to see them address is the full implications of the fact that if the survivors die for any reason they too become raging homicidal zombies. So how could you trust anybody? Particularly the older adults, who could easily pop off at any time from an embolism or a heart attack? (I.e. is Hershel just napping, or getting ready to leap up and tear your lungs out, Jim?)

    But really, people have been known to suddenly drop dead at all ages. (SIDS, anyone?) Even assuming they eventually manage to destroy the rampaging herds of zombies, this would have some pretty profound and lasting effects on personal relations.

    • I want more zombie 3-month-olds in the show.

      • grouchomarxist

        You laugh, but if three-month-old zombie poop is anything like that of their living counterparts …

  • tsam

    Elvis Costello is a hole in music, not your music acumen. Unless you like boring, unimaginative, repetitive, formulaic crap that Rolling Stone keeps telling you to like if you want to avoid being a total rear bagger.

    Nick Cave, however, awesome!

    Also, being a teen and clinging to small group of musicians inside of a genre is fairly normal, I think. The same happened to me–I missed out on a lot of good things, but luckily we have the internet now, so most of those good things don’t go away like they did before.

  • tsam

    The Smiths came with The Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order, etc…They were easy to miss because they really only appealed to the bat cavers and wavos.

    • James E. Powell

      The Smiths never got over in the US like they did in the UK.

      • tsam

        The bands I grouped them with weren’t very big either–especially when they were competing with Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis and the News, and hair metal.

        • James E. Powell

          Not to mention Madonna, Phil Collins, and U2

          • tsam

            Yeah–no shit. They didn’t stand much of a chance, not fitting into the regular radio format of the day.

            • Sherm

              Depeche mode was huge late 80s/early 90s.

              • James E. Powell

                Took the time to look it up. Memory is no good because I was only listening to college radio back then and did not always know who was selling big.

                Both Depeche Mode and The Cure had platinum albums. Depeche Mode’s Faith & Devotion was Billboard No. 1.

                In contrast, The Smiths never cracked the Billboard top 50. New Order did a bit better, but not close to Depeche Mode or Cure.

  • tsam

    BSpence…

    Have you heard Bauhaus? If not, look up Telegram Sam, Double Dare, Flat Field, Dark Entries and Spy in the Cab and see what you think.

    That stuff was in the vein of The Smiths, but didn’t ..um.. well let’s just say Bauhaus is a cornerstone of my teen soundtrack, which ranged from punk and speedmetal to Simon and Garfunkel and The Violent Femmes (BACK BEFORE ALL YOU THOUGH THEY WERE COOL)

    • Actually, I think you sent me “Telegram Sam” awhile back when we were talking music. I don’t recall either loving it or hating it.

  • Medicine Man

    Bspencer:

    I think the writing of The Walking Dead would benefit from making the motives and thought processes of a few of their male leads a little less opaque. The fact that both Brian and Rick’s thinking has to be inferred most of the time really contributes to the feeling that they are writing the characters around the plot rather than the other way around.

    I’ve thought about it quite a bit and I can make a good guess at what makes the Governor tick, but prior to this last week’s episode I could not guess what direction this plot line was going. If you have well developed characters who behave consistently that should not be the case at all and we’ve had a whole season to get to know the Governor already.

    So, yeah, I think some elements of the writing are a bit weak and as a result this subplot has been pretty jarring due to the lack of cues about the direction of the plot.

    • The fact that both Brian and Rick’s thinking has to be inferred most of the time really contributes to the feeling that they are writing the characters around the plot rather than the other way around.

      I think you could very well be right, but it’s such a disappointing thought. That’s just Bad Writing 101.

      • Medicine Man

        I remember feeling the same way after Rick’s decision regarding Carol. Didn’t see it coming; still not sure why after the fact.

        I just hope there is some explanation/payoff down the road.

        • Yeah, I didn’t like that either. Seemed very un-Rick-like.

          • Medicine Man

            I actually felt the same way about the entire situation, starting with Carol’s fateful decision. At least we got a clear look at her motives though, unlike Rick.

  • Tom Servo

    Everyone here needs to listen to Ween. They are not a “cosmic goof” or a novelty. They are incredibly talented, they can do an ode to any genre. They occasionally play it straight but rarely do. One of the big misconceptions is that they’re always sending up or parodying something. Sometimes they’re just being themselves.

    Listen to The Mollusk. It’s their most accomplished record. Chocolate and Cheese gives you a bunch of out there tunes that show you their range. White Pepper has some straight up sweet love songs.

    Watch them Live in Chicago. Look up “Don’t Laugh I Love You” (my favorite Ween song) and “She Fucks Me”. Marvel at how they can be so goofy, so sweet, so dark, and just so talented, sometimes all at once. Seriously, do it.

    • Tom Servo

      Their song “ocean man” was on the spongebob movie soundtrack. One of their songs was on the X-Files movie soundtrack. They wrote and performed “Homo Rainbow” for that South Park episode.

      If you don’t listen to them, you’re missing out on one of the most outrageously talented bands of the alternative rock era.

    • White Pepper got A LOT of play at casa de bspencer for quite awhile. I STILL love “Flutes of the Chi. ” ween is great.

  • grackle

    I have ultra-many holes but I figure there’s Bach and then there’s everybody else – so no problem.

  • Medicine Man

    On the subject of music: I’ve really grown fond of Clutch in recent years. A good, not-so-famous rock band with quite a bit of variety in their style of (rock) music. Ye olde wikipedia lists their genres as hard rock, funk metal, blues rock, stoner rock, southern rock, and hardcore punk, which I think about covers it.

  • Dirk Gently

    I get sort of snarky and annoyed whenever I encounter these discussions about musical greatness or musical “holes”. This is for a few reasons:

    1. It’s just so easy to go from “you should listen to this genuinely high quality and enormously influential stuff” to High Fidelity style snob-wank.

    2. Maybe this is just a reflection of my own ignorance, but it seems like all these “holes” are built purely around white guy rock predilections. Where, here or in similar threads, are the Smiths or Nick Cave NOT mentioned, but pioneers in folk, country, rap, etc. are?

    3. I don’t like the judgment that seems to come into play in these discussions (movies are in this, too). For starters, most of these holes are about either belonging to a powerful media subculture, or about understanding its influence within that medium. Unless someone’s “hole” is particularly egregious in terms of just not being able to engage with the culture at large (I would put things like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, the Bible, Superman and Batman, the biggest Beatles songs, etc. in this category), it’s not really a hole in any meaningful, day to day sense, unless someone fancies themselves an expert or aficionado. Furthermore, why is it always CINEMA and MUSIC that get this treatment (books to a lesser extent), and not, say, videogames? (I think the answer is pretty clear, just raising the point.)

    I guess I’m just resentful of the haughtiness with which people approach culture.

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