Saturday, July 4, 2009

Toot Toot, Hey, Beep Beep

I admit that musically, I am stuck in the past. I came of age in the 70's, and so did my musical tastes (and maybe even the 60's, as I frantically tried to figure out what I had missed -- the Sixties came to Emery County quite late). So yeah, people have some fun with the songs I listen to as well as those that spontaneously appear in my brain and come out in hummed snippets during the day.

I was proud when my daughter learned to play Bad Moon Rising, Knocking on Heaven's Door, Born to be Wild, and Smoke on the Water in her guitar class. And I was gleeful when my son discovered I Am the Walrus. (We both agree it doesn't get much better than "Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye.") Every now and then, I can dismiss something my children are listening to by a wave of the hand and "Bah! That's just a cover of the real version!" And occasionally I have to admit that some of my music is silly, and less frequently I have to admit that I kind of like something they listen to (They Might be Giants, for example, or Mika. Of course, both of them are silly, too). So go the battles and truces of the Culture Wars in my family.

By now the astute reader will have discerned the real Achilles' Heel in my position, and that is Disco. As I was living through the Disco Era, I thought it likely represented the Beginning of the End of All Things. I didn't set foot into a disco until once in 1982, and haven't since. To me, the Bee Gees were the artistic equivalent of the Three Stooges. Donna Summer was a musical Mata Hari. I had to agree with the cast of Doonesbury when, in late 1979 they held an "End of Decade" party, and Mark Slackmeyer proposed a toast to "A Kidney Stone of a Decade." Disco had almost made me forget that the mid-seventies had brought me "Band on the Run" and "Benny and the Jets." I just wanted Disco out of my musical life.

Of course, I tried not to listen to it. I had my music at home but was still years away from having a car cassette player. And I was in college. I wasn't about to drive without music. So like it or not, it was there in the background, a soundtrack to my Bachelor's Degree: Alicia Bridges wanting some "Ack-shaaawn" mixing in with Zorn's Lemma. Can't be healthy. And as it turns out, it wasn't.

Now, years later, thanks to online music services like Rhapsody and iTunes Music Store, I have been able to deplete my children's college funds by buying up music from the 60's and 70's (OK, and a few from the early 80's). Sometimes I remember a song and go looking for it; other times I vaguely remember the name and need to listen to it; if I like it, I buy it. The problem is, I'm finding that I can listen to some of the disco songs from that era and like them. I've even spent good money on a few. These are songs I wouldn't have walked across the street to spit on in 1980. But today, they sound pretty good. Boy, do I feel like a sheep.

It was the radio, you see. Repetition and familiarity break down your natural defenses until your brain mistakes liking something for being familiar with it. It's like the first time you taste beer. It's bitter and nasty. The second time, too. But taste by taste, you get used to it. And then you like it. And then you're in trouble. I'm living proof that revulsion can become reverence through repetition (with disco, not beer. Honest). You can use that alliterative "revulsion-reverence-repetition" phrase in Sunday School lessons if you want, but please send me a nickel each time you do.

So people; if something is nasty, don't try it again. It will only lead to heartache. The second time you watch "Dancing with the Stars," your head won't hurt quite as much. Midway through the season, you'll start thinking that "According to Jim" is really funny. Just Say No.

PS. Don't inhale, either.