eric talks music

a first in a series of guest commentaries

Pam and I disagree about music.

I am 4 years older, and I have a real different take on “Alternative Music”. I love the Smiths. She loves Jane’s Addiction. The only group we seem to be able to agree on is the Beastie Boys. She thinks that the groups I like are whiny dinosaurs with no lasting influence. I feel her music was created and marketed by an MTV factory. Add a few beers to the mix, and the next thing you know, I’m sleeping on the couch. In no particular order, here are my most influential 80’s songs.

Big Mouth Strikes Again, The Smiths. When I was a young man with a huge chip on his shoulder, this was the song that spoke volumes to me. I was crashing this huge party given by some of the local girls when I first heard this song. I was 15, drunk and everything hurt a hell of a lot. For some reason, Morrissey captured all of the anger I felt inside and Johnny Marr gave it a beat I could dance to. For years I referred to myself as “Bigmouth”. I have only recently shed the title.

Tenderness, General Public. I really think that this is the best single, ever. When I was young lad, only about 18, my best friend and I traveled to the heart of the University of Pgh and bought 12 singles. He bought “Would I Lie To You?” by the Eurythmics, and I bought the above. We came home to my cockroach infested hovel that night, drank Budweiser, put Tenderness on and put the turntable on repeat. We were both very much in love, and listened to lines like “I don’t know where to start and where to stop/ my love is like a buck, I can’t stop pushing it”. This was poetry to us.

Killing an Arab, The Cure. I had no idea what this song was about, but I was real into the chorus “Standing on the beach with a gun in my hand/staring at the sea, staring at the sand.”, but I read the Rolling Stone revue, and lo and behold, it was based on a book. I read The Stranger. It is, at surface, a very simple book to read. I can still remember the plot, and that was 12 years ago. I still can’t tell you the plot of any Cormac McCarthy book, even though I finished one yesterday. Anyway, I thought that The Stranger was simple. I learned in college that it was not.

The End of the Party, The English Beat. My old best friend who used to get me in the most trouble, Josh, and I heard the English Beat for the first time in about 1986. We had no idea what ska was. When we tried to describe it our friends, we said “You know, that music, with the English accent, that sounds like white guys singing reggae”. The piano solo at the beginning always makes me a little woozy. The first time I ever heard this song, I was making an awkward pass at girl. She said, “leave it till the end of the party.” I realized later that she meant “Wait till I get a little more drunk.”

Greetings to the New Brunette, Billy Bragg. Back in the days when I used to belong to the Young Socialists Party, Billy used to tell us not only what to believe, but how to love our women. When I told my new girl friend that she was the “new brunette”, she slapped me. I was better off with Trotsky.

Walk Together, Rock Together/ Bottled Violence, Seven Seconds/Minor Threat. As I tried desperately to fit in when I was in high school, I found myself with a group of people with mohawks and leather. I figured “hey, at least these guys like to party!”, but lo and behold I was wrong. They all had X’s on their hands and eschewed drugs and drink and sex. So all of the frustration which is usually released by doing these things was channeled into these high powered bands. It was punk rock with a message. I, however, was not real good at being straight-edge. I perhaps should have had a single line on my hand.

Bring the Noise, Public Enemy. Wow! What a fucking anthem! I heard this song my first year in college and the ALBUM did not leave the turntable for an entire semester
(sidenote: how sad this is listed under Anthrax in the Lyrics server. The white man keeps them down.)

If I Didn’t Love You, Squeeze. I spent the summer after I graduated from HS living on my own (this was over a rather loud argument that I had with my parents about a certain party, but that is another entry), and I had a tiny yellow Sony boom box and my girl friend and my best friend and my other best friend spent the summer wearing this tape out in my apartment, and we all fell in love. Unfortunately, nobody fell with the person we were supposed to fall in love with. Hence, we used to sing “If I didn’t love you, I’d fucking hate your ass.”

Straight to Hell, The Clash. Since I am only allowed to write about songs from the 80’s, I couldn’t include any songs from my beloved London Calling, but this song really redeemed this whole Clash album. What really annoys me is that for some reason, a band gets associated with certain songs, and everybody assumes that all of their songs sound like that. “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” are, in my opinion, the two worst Clash songs ever recorded. People, listen to London Calling and Give Em Enough Rope! This song doesn’t really have a story, just an editorial. Sorry.

B-Boy Bouillabaisse, a collection of tracks from Paul’s Boutique. I admit, I did not listen to Paul’s Boutique in the 80’s. When it came out, I bought it thinking that it would sound like Licensed to Ill. Obviously, it did not, and I let it gather dust for several years. When I lived in Ireland in 1993, I took this CD with me and literally wore it out listening to so often. There is nothing quite as ironic as walking through pastoral parts of the Emerald Isle while the Boys are yelling “Hot cup of coffee and the donuts are dunkin’/ Friday night and Jamaica Queen’s funkin”.

What do you think?

Please write Pam and tell her that my music is better than hers.

Thanks.

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