Welcome to the third installment of HACK. If you’ve made it this far, believe me I know what you’re going through.
“All my traumas hinge upon some convoluted axiom.” —Mike Doughty
I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching this week about the difference between thinking with your mind and feeling with your heart. I’m wondering about how to safely access and explore higher dimensions. I’ve thought about paying more attention to the things I love rather than the things I hate, or rather, learning to accept the counterproductive futility of loving to hate that which is only love. So if these seem like the rantings of a self-absorbed egophile who mistakenly thinks himself clever, well, you’re probably right. Nevertheless, I need to release the poison. It’s medication time.
Classic Rock as a creative musical force died a slow, painful death sometime in the 80s. It has since been resurrected and prowls the airwaves in zombie-like determination to stay relevant. Nevertheless, it’s classic rock. There are thousands of timeless songs that deserve infinite replays. And then there are those horrible, god-forsaken tunes that just won’t go away–ever. “Overrated” is the word used most often this week. I speculate that these songs have poisoned our collective unconscious to the point where we seem brainwashed to believe that they’re good.
I don’t actually hate these songs inasmuch as I recognize them as part of the One Creative Source that nourishes all our thoughts into reality. I don’t dislike any of the band members; since they are human beings I’ve never encountered face to face, I have no firm ground on which to stand and judge them. Plus I have barely enough musical talent to fill a nursery rhyme, so what the heck do I know?
Nevertheless, I’ve disliked these songs for years and have therefore concocted erroneous and subjective arguments for why they suck, no matter how many times you tell me that The Rolling Stones earlier music was way more creative than what they play on the radio. Thankfully, the Universe as we currently experience it seems to operate on the interplay of dualities. So for every classic rock song that poisons my soul there’s an appropriate antidote.
POISON: ‘Blinded by the Light’ by Manfred Mann
Either way it’s a catchy refrain except that it’s repeated so many times during the song it just becomes meaningless and mind numbing. It has no depth. Nor do the rest of the lyrics. Here’s a sample:
Madman drummers bummers,
Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin’ kinda older,
I tripped the merry-go-round
With this very unpleasin’, sneezin’ and wheezin,
the calliope crashed to the ground
The calliope crashed to the ground
It just strikes me as someone who has a vague idea for a song but does not have enough lyrical talent to have it make sense, kind of like my poetry. By calliope I assume they mean the musical instrument and not the Greek muse of poetry. Although I could totally see Calliope crashing to the ground while listening to this song. Ba-dump!
All in all the lyrics have enough basic rhymes and vague imagery to pretend at being a classic. It’s not. It’s crap. The only redeeming quality about this song is the guitar solo and the song is at its best during the instrumental parts. Then, for some reason the piano goes into a brief sample of ‘Chopsticks.’ How…clever?
The point is that this song is too overrated for my taste. I need an antidote.
ANTIDOTE: ‘Goodbye Mary’ by Supertramp
He feels alone but he also knows that he’s free and he can move on. He says goodbye to them, wishes them well, and the whole thing feels kind of empowering. It blends smoothly into a catchy refrain that doesn’t play itself out, even though it’s repeated numerous times. That’s because the song has a consistent build; the increasing tempo leads straight into a groovy (yes, I’m using that word) guitar jam to close out the song. The one thing I can see people not liking about this song is the falsetto. I have no problem with falsetto if it sounds good.
Is this one of the best classic rock songs ever? No. Is it a good jam? I think so.
POISON: ‘Benny and the Jets’ by Elton John
OK, I’m giving it a fair listen now and the lyrics are pretty good. I’m still not exactly sure what the song is about other than a band called Bennie and the Jets and Bennie is a woman, right? Maybe I just need to do more research and you Elton John fans out there can set me straight. I really don’t care. This song annoys me. It just gets more irritating the longer it goes on, especially when Elton John starts singing everything in falsetto. Yes I know I just said I had no problem with falsetto…sometimes. His voice is fine for the first half of this song and then it becomes something I’d play to round up a pack of dogs, which hopefully I will never have to do.
It’s mainly the refrain that irks me to no end. From the part where he starts stuttering B-B-Bennie to that piano riff pounding my skull. It’s like when someone bangs a bell and you can hear the ringing in your ears even after it’s stopped vibrating. I just can’t get it out of my head. Thankfully, there’s only one song I need to play to get something out of my head.
ANTIDOTE: ‘Can’t Get It Out of My Head’ by Electric Light Orchestra
I like how the song starts with the epiphany and then explains how this guy’s “whole world is gone for dead” because he’s either unwilling or unable to recapture the experience. When I tell people I play this song when I can’t get another song out of my head, they inevitably reply, “But what if you can’t get ‘Can’t Get It Out My Head’ out of your head?” I’ve never had this problem. I can listen to this song because it doesn’t have the same fucking beat over and over again and doesn’t wear out the refrain like a 30 year old whore. I can listen to it once and when it’s over I feel a sense of completion. My brain is sonically satisfied. That is until…
POISON: ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by The Rolling Stones
Most of my Stones exposure came from the radio and I admit to never really exploring their entire discography. Consequently, these are the only Rolling Stones songs I like: Paint it Black, Wild Horses, Can’t Always Get What You Want, Beast of Burden, Get Off of My Cloud, and maybe a couple others I’m forgetting right now.
Jeez, I haven’t even gotten to this overrated band’s most overrated song, ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ Yes, we get it. You’re the Devil, you’ve been around for a long time. You know all those bad things that happened throughout history? That was me, Satan, messin’ with y’all. Whooo-hooo! That goddamned (pun intended) woo hoo is the most annoying part and it just repeats itself over and over again like a train heading toward a cliff. It has the same monotonous beat all the way through until Keith Richards attempts a solo but apparently didn’t snort enough paint thinner to finish.
OK, bad metaphors aside, here’s the thing that gets me. Why am I supposed to feel sympathy for the Devil? At one point the Devil says:
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
Basically what Satan is saying here is that because he’s caused so much suffering in the world, you better show him respect or he’ll claim your soul for eternity. Yeah, I can really sympathize with that.
ANTIDOTE: ‘The Knife’ by Genesis
Trespass has only six tracks and most of them are good. However, the last track ‘The Knife’ took Genesis to the next level. Even without Hackett, original guitarist Anthony Phillips managed to make this song a kick ass jam. In contrast to ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ ‘The Knife’ is about a psychotic, megomaniacal warlord giving a speech to rouse his troops.
Some of you are going to die,
Martyrs of course to the freedom that I shall provide.
Gabriel has a convincingly angry edge when he sings the lyrics. The guitar is just all over the place, creating a field of military chaos as a backdrop to the frantic energy of the ever changing segments of this song. ‘The Knife’ is a true, underrated classic.
‘Sympathy for the Devil’ tries to reveal all the evil Satan has instigated. He only ends up sounding like a conceited jerk. ‘The Knife’ conveys a sense of true evil: fear-mongering, power tripping and violence. Those are human evils and they are real. To place the blame on something we invented that could account for those evils is both a denial and a refusal to take responsibility for our own vile acts, such as this next song…
POISON: ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ by Thin Lizzy
Then we hear the singer reminisce about some hot dancer who apparently slapped some guy named Johnny in the face. Now, I don’t approve of females slapping males, the same way I disapprove of men hitting women. When I see a woman slap a guy in a movie it really pisses me off. It’s a double standard. Nevertheless, unless this woman was a psychotic bitch (I’d bet on it) then she wouldn’t just slap a guy for no reason. Here’s what I picture: she was dancing, this guy Johnny either said or did something inappropriate that earned him the slap. So when the chorus repeats “The boys are back in town” over and over again, am I supposed to feel excited or threatened?
These boys (maybe men still trapped in adolescence) remind me of guys who hang out with each other in packs because they lack the intelligence or attention span to do something creative with their free time. Instead they prowl the town in an obnoxious display of the alpha male mentality. Maybe I’m projecting my own immaturity into these arguments since I’m probably an Omega Male.
As for the music, it’s garbage. Don’t get me wrong, I like Thin Lizzy, I just don’t like this song. It’s provincial, predictable and pitifully lacks any emotional content whatsoever. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a loner myself, but it seems that the proper remedy for ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ should be…
ANTIDOTE: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen
All the poor bastard needs now is the…
POISON: ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin
I think it’s the lyrics that bother me. Led Zeppelin is another band that sounds to me like they really don’t have anything important to say yet their songs like to play at being profound. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is a perfect example. Everyone seems to think it has some special meaning. If I’m not mistaken there are years of fans attempting to break down the lyrics. What I think really happened is what I think happened with many of Led Zeppelin’s songs…they came up with something that sounded like it had meaning and then filled in the gaps afterward. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Most of my life script involves Post Creative Rationalization. Nevertheless, I still feel that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ gets a bit more credit than it deserves. I will say that it’s nowhere near as bad as ‘Freebird,’ which I have intentionally left out of this list and will not even link to it. It’s bad enough that I even said the word.
Anyway, other than the cool title the rest of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ lies on the whispering wind that’s blowing out the bustle in my hedgerow.
ANTIDOTE: ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ by Bob Dylan
POISON: ‘Hot Legs’ by Rod Stewart
I can’t. I can’t do it anymore.
Hot Legs. Hot Legs. Hot Legs. Hot Legs. Hot Legs. Hot Legs. Over and over and over again.
I refuse to read or really listen to the lyrics…ever. In fact I just played the song all the way through and I will not do it again..ever. It’s the kind of song that gives classic rock such a bad rap, yet it’s always played on classic rock stations. IT WON’T GO AWAY.
Rod Stewart had three good songs: ‘Young Turks,’ ‘Forever Young’ and ‘Reason to Believe.’ And I look to find a reason to believe that the rest of his discography has any artistic value.
I need something for the pain, something light and fluffy. I need…
ANTIDOTE: ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ by Crosby, Stills & Nash
POISON: ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ by Van Morrison
ANTIDOTE: ‘TB Sheets’ by Van Morrison