Some of my friends think I'm a music elitist. Totally untrue.
After 25 years in record stores, and a lifetime of being a music junkie, I know more about music than the average bear. I cannot deny that. But an elitist? No way. I'm not even a decent critic. I can ramble poetic for hours about music that I love, but I can't bring myself to dog the bad stuff (at least not in print).
As a matter of fact, true music elitists and critics look at me with disgust. Hang around a few more minutes and I'll prove it to you.
Are Elitists Born or Made?
How do I know I'm not an elitist?
First, I know 8,000 of these people. All over the Valley. All over the country. Friends, acquaintances, colleagues, good customers and bad. Some of my favorite people in this whole world are total music snobs (the High Fidelity video above is just barely an exaggeration).
Second, I know me. I don't give a fuck what critics think. I'm listening to Foghat's Stone Blue as I write this sentence (great album, still holds up). I think the fact that the Steve Miller Band isn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a crime.
Anyway, I've spent my entire life using these two pieces of knowledge to help me participate in one of my favorite pastimes, annoying and arguing with music elitists.
It's not tough. We're talking about some serious geeks here. Obsessive, passionate, opinionated bastards who will get all worked up at a moment's notice. Pushing their buttons isn't that hard.
But it sure is fun.
Want me to show you how it's done?
Sorry Jack, But You Don't Know Jack.
Before I give you a few statements guaranteed to work up your average elitist critic, I want to make it clear: I'm not just making these up for the sake of harassment. These are statements I would stand behind in a record store/barroom debate.
5. Once rock legends hit 45, they can't write a great rock 'n' roll album. Sorry, but it's true. They might be able to create some lyrical depth, but they can't rock with enough consistency to put together an epic album.
The Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Neil Young . . . the list goes on. Critics want them to be great again, and they'll give four out of five stars to anything they do, but it's all bullshit. Rock 'n' roll just ain't a game for the old, no matter how great you were.
Here's how it goes in reality: You try the new Bruce. You say, "Hey, that's not bad." Then you listen to The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle again.
4. David Gilmour was just as important to Pink Floyd as Roger Waters. I could write a separate blog about Roger's amazing lyrics and songs, but without Gilmour's one-of-a-kind guitar and voice, how many people would have heard 'em?
Like most of rock's legendary collaborators, neither is as good without the other. However, I've spent big money and traveled to see as many configurations of the band as a pup like me could see (I'm too young to have seen them before the breakup), and if I had to chose one of the two primary Floydians to see live, it would be Dave. Shit, it took three guys to cover Gilmour's parts during The Wall tour.
Alternate Pink Floyd critic-offending statement: The Syd Barrett era sucked compared to the Gilmour era.
3. Nirvana is the most overrated group in rock history. This one is easy. No critic or elitist dares to dog Nirvana, but to me, they don't even belong on the list of top 100 bands of all time.
They had the perfect album at the perfect time. Then their main guy died young. That's it. I thought they were overblown then, and I still do.
In Record Store Land, at the time, the elitists claimed that Nirvana was God and that Pearl Jam was a knock-off. Personally, I thought Ten was better than Nevermind then, and I still do. (Truth be told, at one point I told my employees that if they played either album again, I would throw said CD across the room.)
Was Nevermind important? For sure. But as it turns out, from that point until Cobain's demise, Nirvana couldn't hold a candle to Pearl Jam. And Lord knows how much lower Nirvana would have fallen had Cobain not pulled the ultimate crash and burn. (In the meantime, Pearl Jam kept their shit together and became one of the few '90s bands to grow to legend status).
2. Paul wrote more good songs without John than John did without Paul. (Note: That's McCartney and Lennon. If you didn't know that, you shouldn't be reading this.)
Actually, the first by-law in this game is that you can piss off most critics by saying anything bad about the Beatles -- but a close second is never say that Paul was better than John.
I won't say anything bad about the Beatles, but I will say that I like Paul's after-work way better than John's.
Don't get me wrong, I'd take what John stood for in a political minute. I often imagine no religion or no government. But when it comes to tunes that have made me happy post-Beatles, even within the timeframe of Lennon's life, both Paul (and George) have done a better job.
Has Paul made an excellent album since Wings? No. But neither have any of his legendary contemporaries. See statement number five.
1. The vinyl resurgence is massively overblown.
Is that jerk-off bad-mouthing vinyl?
Somewhere, a hipster (I call 'em "Mumfords") just felt a disturbance in the force.
Admittedly, this is my favorite "under the skin" hipster-elitist harassment topic.
Because if there's one thing every music elitist has to do these days, it's tout the shit out of vinyl.
I know it conflicts with my record store ownership, and we wouldn't have nearly as many cool indie record stores in this country without the vinyl resurgence, but I'm sorry, I still see it as a fad. I don't see vinyl growing very far beyond the ranks of the hipster nation.
Why? CDs are better. More convenient. Better-sounding. Full digital capabilites. And thanks to the consistently greedy record labels raising LP prices to take advantage of the resurgence, CDs are even cheaper these days. (Note: I don't pay for air, so files aren't really an option for me).
How You Feeling After Hearing That?
Are you getting worked up? Is your blood boiling?
Perhaps you are the music elitist, my friend.
It's okay, because like I've said before, it's all relevant . . . and it's all irrelevant.
Still, I can make these statements all night. If you wanna debate 'em, or make a few of your own, join me on the Facebook page (or buy me a beer). We'll have some fun.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.