Yesterday’s post will explain what this is all about.
Way back when I was a teenager, I came upon a copy of the band’s first British album, Rollin’, in a secondhand bin.
I snapped it up. It was cheap enough, and I perceived it as a sort of entry point to a time and culture that did not directly involve me.
And soon enough I was checking out the tinny music and the wealth of fan-magazine biographical facts on the cover. (Did British girls in 1974 flock to Edinburgh to see the hospitals where their idols were born?)
But what stuck with me more than anything else was the band picture on the inside, which showed guitarist Eric Faulkner cheerfully holding a bass and bassist Alan Longmuir happily holding a guitar.
This cheerful defiance of unwritten rules offended some of my basic principles.
See, my dad is an electrical engineer by training. And while I did not inherit his mathematical talent, I inherited his fixation on details.
We were a family of liner-note readers and musical anal-retentives. When we listened to my parents’ favorite Paul Simon albums, we knew whether Richard Tee or Barry Beckett was playing the keyboard solo; whether he was playing it on a Hammond B-3, a Fender Rhodes or a Wurlitzer; and whether that was John Tropea or Eric Gale backing him up with tasteful guitar comps.
These goons can’t be real musicians, I thought. Clearly the music doesn’t matter to them. Their instruments are just props. They could just as well be posing with a soccer ball, or a loaded schoolbag, or a sack of potatoes.
I had a certain amount of derision toward their audience, too. Only teenyboppers would be so heedless and unthinking as to overlook such a visible discrepancy, I thought.
(This would have been before the Milli Vanilli scandal broke, so the willingness of teenage girls to let details slide hadn’t yet been driven home to me.)
And to top it all off, that wasn’t the only time the Rollers had played fast and loose.
The quickie Rollers paperback biography I’d bought for pocket change at the local library booksale had featured a picture of drummer Derek Longmuir, looking just as cheerful, strumming a Les Paul.
Poseurs, I thought.
# # #
As I get older, I’ve come to appreciate — maybe even envy, a little bit — the point of view of those heedless listeners who don’t care about the details.
I suspect they get what they want, and what they need, more often than we obsessives do.
They don’t spend time thinking about who plays what instrument — or even whether the guys on the album cover are playing the instruments at all. They don’t care whether the lead guitar is being filtered through a Leslie, a phaser or an envelope filter.
They just enjoy the music coming out of their stereos.
And I suspect they enjoy it at least as much, in the long run, as those of us who strain our memories trying to remember the names of percussionists and horn players.
The music is as much a part of their lives, as much a soundtrack, as it ever has been to mine. And it summons emotions and memories that are just as vivid for them as for me.
(I’ve mentioned before that I knew girls in high school who went to see Milli Vanilli perform “live” as part of the Club MTV Tour. I don’t know what those girls would say about it 25 years later … but I don’t believe any of them asked for their money back at the time.)
I’m not sure I’ll ever switch sides and join them. I’m not sure I could; I’m just not wired that way.
And even if I did, I don’t think the contents of Rollin’ would suddenly take a place alongside A Love Supreme or Astral Weeks on my personal hit parade.
It does seem like the non-obsessives take the shortest, most direct path to the enjoyment of music, though.
Maybe — with apologies to Eric, Derek, Les, Alan and Woody — maybe I’ve been the poseur all along.