Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Dupe's Facsimile

I used to marvel, while living in the UK, how nothing in pop music ever seemed to get discarded. You had a No. 16 hit in 1978? Well, of course you can go on tour in 2005 with some expectation of ending up in the black; of course you can! Recently, I was horrified to discover that the same thing now goes on here in my own country, until I realized that the Black Crowes — whose new album the Woodstock radio station I listen to in the car because the only NPR you can get is the station in Albany, and it stinks, plays constantly — actually sold something like 30 million records in their heyday, in spite of the fact that they were and are to The Real Thing — Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and that whole bunch — approximately what Fabian was to Elvis, a dupe's facsimile.

How can anyone voluntarily listen to these characters’ pallid 60’s-style Southern soul? How would one go about writing a more tuneless song than “Jealous Again,” which WSTD has been playing as though its loan officer gets songwriting royalties?

But stop the presses; there’s another song, roughly along the same lines, I don’t just disdain, but actively loathe, and have loathed for 36 years now. If you set out to write a really awful song, how could you hope to sink as low as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Sweet Home Alabama"? It’s not just that it’s tuneless, but that it maintains the identical level of tunelessness through both verse and chorus, and there is no middle-eight! Why interrupt something so good? Then you toss in the fact that the words are stupid at best — they contain this brilliant assessment of Alabama’s vile segregationist governor, George Wallace: Boo, boo, boo — and belligerent at worst (the Neil Young business), and you’ve got one spectacularly awful piece of pop music.

Not counting the really obvious stuff, like everything KISS ever recorded, or everything Motley Crue ever recorded, I believe "Sweet Home" may be the worst song in the history of popular music, but as I type this, it occurs to me that America’s "A Horse With No Name" is probably even worse. Melodically, it makes "Sweet Home" seem like Paul McCartney near the height of his powers, and in 38 years, no one has ever been able to convince me that In the desert you can remember your name/ ‘cause there’s no one there for to give you no pain aren't the worst two lines in the history of songwriting in English.

Gosh, what fun to vituperate wildly on a gorgeous October morning; why stop now? I think Marilyn Manson has real panache. I’ve never enjoyed the music much, but I think the presentation’s fab, and I like that he was romantically entangled with Dita Von Teese. Thus, when I noted recently that he was a big fan of HBO’s Eastbound and Down, I thought I’d give the show, about a self-deluded former major league baseball player, another chance.

No sale. I’ve watched the first two episodes of the new season now, and smiled — not laughed — exactly once. Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers is an unspeakable dickhead; I get it! But I’m not very amused by it, not at all. There is absolutely nothing about the guy that isn’t loathsome. Compared to Kenny Powers, Don Draper is my buddy in the UK Rod McDonagh, the nicest guy in the world.

You’ve led me astray, Marilyn. I won’t get fooled again!

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