If you've read any of my prior ramblings, then you know that I explore the topic of musical credibility a lot. It's in my nature. Should you and I like what we like, regardless of critical stature, or should we concentrate on artists with a certain level of critical credibility?
Here's the general answer from your average record store geek: Of course you need to have standards. Popular music is shit, and it always has been.
I'd be lying if I told you I have been immune to that sort of musical peer pressure, but I'm okay with it -- because ultimately that pressure has resulted in a better music collection and a better understanding of the art.
However, I'd also be lying if I told you there weren't a few things that go against that theory. A few guilty pleasures. Read on and I'll surely embarrass myself with nine of them.
Would an Elitist Admit to This?
Usually, this is the point in the blog where I explain the method to my madness. But in this case, I'm going to keep it short and say simply this:
I'm not afraid to embarrass myself for your entertainment, but I still need to maintain some credibility with my elitist colleagues and savvy readers, so I've allowed myself a "credibility saver" within each admission.
1. I listen to my Jefferson Starship Greatest Hits album more than I listen to all of my Jefferson Airplane CDs. I've grown to like Airplane a lot over the years, but I grew up with those Jefferson Starship songs, so I gravitate toward them more often. People in my profession do not say this.
Credibility saver: To be crystal clear, I do not mean Starship, the third iteration (from hell). "We Built This City" may be the worst song ever written.
2. I once owned a Michael Bolton album. Yes, in high school I had a taped copy of Michael's self-titled major label debut album. I liked the song "Fool's Game" (MTV, as usual, was responsible) and admittedly, about 60 percent of the album (which was more guitar-driven than any subsequent efforts.)
Credibility saver: Twelve seconds after I heard the sacrilegious cover of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" off his second album, I realized the error in my ways and bailed. I have never heard any of his other albums. Really. Sorry, Mike.
(Note: I literally cannot say or hear the name Michael Bolton without thinking of the hilarious Office Space and the term "assclown.")
3. Sometimes when my wife and daughter are watching The Voice, I acknowledge talent. Maybe I'll say something like, "That kid's pretty good," in spite of whatever over-played, totally obvious cover song he or she is singing. I realize I'm not giving up a lot here, nor will I say more, but just mentioning that stinkin' show in this blog opens me up for peer harassment.
Credibility saver: The other things I say more than offset the rare compliment. Overall, the show epitomizes one of the main reasons todays artists have a tough time matching those of the '60s and '70s (fake artist development versus organic artist development).
4. I still enjoy side two of Loverboy's first album. Hate the first side, didn't even rip it, but I'll be damned if songs like "D.O.A." and "It Don't Matter" don't still amuse me. One night at Casey's, my buddy, a Sony rep, saw it on my iPod and ripped me a new, er, ear. I stood behind it then, so I guess I'll do the same here.
Credibility saver: I'm not sure I have one, but it still sounds good to me, keyboards and all.
5. There still are some disco songs that make me move. Yeah, I know, the entire genre did horrendous things to the pop music landscape, and for the most part it's unbearable, but what can I say . . . Sometimes it's hard not to get down and Boogie Oogie Oogie or do a little Staying Alive strut or Turn the Beat Around.
Credibility saver: I could also name disco songs that make me want to bucky all over my shoes for the next two hours, and then write a 1,000-word blog on all the damage disco did to music in general (and thankfully, the groups that ultimately saved us from it).
6. One of my favorite box sets ever is full of pure cheese. Rhino's Have a Nice Decade: The 70's Pop Culture Box amuses me to no end, yet it's loaded with songs that would embarrass me if you were doing a scroll through my digital library. Here's the deal: I won't defend songs like "Chick-a-Boom" or "Billy Don't Be a Hero" as high quality, but they bring back a ton of great childhood memories.
Credibility saver: Although there are some hilariously bad songs on this comp, and a ton of worn-out hits, it's worth the journey for songs like "Treat Her Like a Lady" (Cornelius Bros. and Sister Rose), "Ride Captain Ride" (Blues Image), "Dancing in the Moonlight" (King Harvest), "What You See Is What You Get" (The Dramatics), and about 40 more wicked 70's chestnuts.
7. One of my favorite concerts ever was Huey Lewis and the News. As you can imagine, with more than a quarter-century in the music business, I've seen a thousand shows in a hundred different places. When it comes to a raucous party show, I haven't seen many better than Huey and the boys at the North Dakota State Fair in my hometown of Minot, North Dakota on July 24, 1984.
Credibility saver: Never in the history of the fair had a show sold out, and this was perfect party storm. The State Fair is nine days long, and in those days that meant eight country shows and one "not country" show. (I hesitate to use the word "rock.") So any Minotian that had any rock partier whatsoever in them would go to the lone non-country show every summer (Jay Ferguson? Why not?) But never had the fair brought anyone as red-hot nationally as Huey and the News -- Sports was on about its eighth single/video at the time.
People came from all over the state; it was so packed they had to roll out the fire engines to hose down the crowd. I called the ND State Fair office and verified that it is still their largest crowd ever: 17,000-plus. (Sorry, Black Eyed Peas and Taylor Swift, that's official.) My friends and I were in an extra-festive mood that night, and the band was great. One of the great nights of my life.
8. There's a few albums I deliberately left of my "80's Albums That Still Hold Up" list. First, I took the '80s out behind the barn and kicked the shit out of 'em in High School Music: A Reunion From Hell. Then I listed 21 '80s Albums That Still Sound Good. However, I left out a few that I wasn't as comfortable about, and I've been racked with guilt about it ever since.
Let me get 'em off my chest: Aldo Nova Aldo Nova, Men at Work Business as Usual, David Lee Roth Skyscaper, Sammy Hagar Standing Hampton, and Sting Nothing Like the Sun.
Credibility saver: Other than the old "I like what I like" excuse, I'm at a loss. All I can say is that at least I admitted it now, and perhaps preemptively confess that there are probably even more (don't tell Sari and Cheryl, please).
9. I really like some of my wife's music. Look, I wouldn't trade my wife for all the gold in Smaug's lair (Hobbit reference, thanks to HBO playing it daily), but overall her taste in music runs to the "shaky credibility" side. Sure, she likes some easy-to-vouch-for artists like Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder . . . but I'll admit to James Taylor, Incognito, Brand New Heavies, Sade, Carole King, and even a couple of showtunes from Rent and Godspell.
Butt saver: My wife is my first-line editor, so she'll read this before you do. (I appreciate the reading from both of you.) With that said, I'd like to note that though Mrs. Record Store Geek's definition of "great music" is a bit looser than mine, her passion for that music is very strong. I'd also say that most of her artists have really, really good voices. That's not always the case with some of the critical darlings.
Enough Embarrassment for Today, Kids.
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There it is, admissions of my guilty pleasures for your reading amusement. Surely that's enough to prove that I'm not always swayed by peer pressure.
Hopefully my moment of weakness doesn't take me off your list of credible music recommenders. (Read last week's 11 Albums to Help You Explore The Blues if you need to reenergize your faith.)
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.