Madonna Banned for Age and What This Means For Culture

Madonna Banned for Age

Although I love some of her early singles, I am not what one would consider a Madonna fan.  However, the above article is something I find troubling.  Apparently the BBC have declined to play her latest single due to that fact that her and her audience are too old. 

First of all this is completely senseless.  When I was thirteen I remember listening to the Doors, a band from my parents generation.  Even now many of my favorite artists are decades older than me.  This wasn’t just true of me, but all my friends.   I remember parties in highschool listening to classic rock and early 80’s post punk, despite the fact that even the early 80’s stuff came out when I was a couple years old.  (I was born in 1978.)

People like what they are exposed to.  If you are a kid and you hear something you like, you are going to listen to it if you have any sense of self.  If you don’t hear it, at any age, you aren’t going to like it.  Plain and simple. 

Age, like sex, race, and sexual orientation,  is just another way to divide people. 

Here is what I find particularly troubling about this:  When it comes to a pop artist, although it is still senseless and wrong, it does not necessarily affect the world in any major way.  However,  there are a lot of older artists that are effective at critiquing society, that speak truth to power.  Jackson Browne, Morrissey, Springsteen, Chuck D, and on and on have been effective chroniclers of what is going on in society.  They are all in their 50’s and 60’s at this point.  It is not hard to see someone in power using age to not play music, something that is not always thought of as political, in order to effectively silence political dissent.   “Oh we are not going to play anything off of Jackson Browne’s Standing in the Breach because we don’t play music by older artists.”  This is when Jackson Browne released one of the most intelligent albums of last year, which was also highly political on certain tracks.  The same goes for the rest of that list. 

Divide and conquer.   This is another fictitious way of dividing people, who may have similar beliefs, interests, and passions, in a way that is currently possible without looking like censorship.  Chuck D is much older than most pop stars, but he is the one bringing the thunder, preaching change, speaking truth to power.  A disenchanted kid, if they were to discover him, might be inclined to listen to him over the other music choices they are currently being presented with.  That isn’t to say that kids aren’t smart enough to find and seek things out on their own, but they have a better chance of finding someone like Chuck D the more exposure he gets.  Age is one of the last ways you can openly discredit someone without looking like a neanderthal.  

Music Awards Are None of Your Business

Music Awards Are None of Your Business

The above link is a recently published Morrissey rant at http://www.true-to-you.net, his official site.  It’s long, but full of laughs.  It is an attack on the Brit Awards, though many passages could serve as attacks on any awards show and the modern music business in general.  A sample:

In short, Britain has been encouraged to become a nation of idiots (which, of course, is what it is not). But why has British culture become so debased? Why is it that only ideas-free and factory-farmed ‘personalities’ are encouraged? Is it simply because we are all easier to govern as long as we are free of any content? Well, yes. The sudden, manic rise in loud and overquick camera shots (for a populace presumed to have zero attention span); television sponsorship; persistent sports news for events attended by no one; the obvious lusty dictatorship of the “royal” family (the one and only British institution that we pray for the government to ‘sell off’ – preferably to China)… it all adds up to an underpattern of controlled obedience, and the notion of the BPI awards being handed out by genuine musicologists becomes as ludicrous a concept as witnessing someone on the Brit Awards coming perilously close to actually making a worthwhile point. Meanwhile, if we mourn the unlikely possibility of positive change in pop music, or if we dare suggest that change is even allowable, we are treated like mental patients.

A constant for me, is trying to figure out how the music business feel into such decline.  I not only mean in terms of sales that is partially, if not substantially, due to technology, but also why the artistry and cultural relevance is in decline as well?  To me, it is an endlessly fascinating subject, not only because I am interested in music, but because I, along with many many other people, can sense that aspects of our culture seem in decline.   What are the artistic, economic, political, technological, and cultural forces that are causing this?

Morrissey, Jackson Browne, Buffy Sainte-Marie

#buffystmarie show. #moz #jacksonbrowne

A photo posted by Jesse Tobias (@8stitches9lives) on

I couldn’t help but post this picture of Morrissey and Jackson Browne together.  To top it all off they were both attending a show by Buffy Sainte-Marie.  Anyone that has read this blog for awhile knows that all three are favorites of mine.  All three are also writers who have a mastery of poetry and politics.  They have the ability to look out at the world and describe what is going on with unique insight.  They are original voices, first-rate melody writers, and absolutely fearless.

Look at the Facts by Buffy Sainte-Marie:

For America by Jackson Browne (Yes, the production is dated, but what a song!):

Last, but not least, Mountjoy by Morrissey (Mountjoy is a notorious prison in Dublin):

Walmart, Grey Skies, and a Street Corner Symphony

Slate grey Victorian skies
Come Back to Camden by Morrissey

I found myself buying pants at Walmart today for a funeral, on a day where the sky resembled the above quote.  Luckily it struck me as funny, instead of morose.  I am convinced if there is a God, that He has a strange sense of humor.  If you are afraid of death, and want to fear it less, spend some time walking around Walmart looking at the lost souls in that place.  Walmart is the endgame of the American dream.  It is where we got everything we ever wanted, for a low low price, and all we had to give up in return was our culture and a living wage.  I try not to shop there, but am low on cash myself and didn’t have a lot of time to play around with.  If you live long enough, there are times in life when being a hypocrite is the only option.

Life isn’t all dust and bones and skeleton smiles.  Earlier today I was walking my dog and The Persuasions Medley: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother / You’ve Got a Friend came on my ipod.  The clouds parted and pure joy reigned down.  The Persuasions are an a capella soul group.  Their masterpiece is probably the album Street Corner Symphony.  Here is the song:

The album’s title is perfect.  They create an entire world of sweet soul music with nothing but the human voice.  How can you be down when something like this is out there?

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there

Meat is Murder Turns 30

On the day that your mentality
Decides to try to catch up with your biology

Come ’round ’cause I want the one I can’t have
And it’s driving me mad
It’s all over, all over, all over my face

On the day that your mentality
Catches up with your biology

I want the one I can’t have
And it’s driving me mad
It’s all over, all over, all over my face

A double bed and a stalwart lover for sure
These are the riches of the poor
A double bed and a stalwart lover for sure
These are the riches of the poor

And I want the one I can’t have
And it’s driving me mad
It’s all over, all over my face

A tough kid who sometimes swallows nails
Raised on prisoner’s aid
He killed a policeman when he was thirteen
And somehow that really impressed me
But it’s written all over my face

Oh, these are the riches of the poor
These are the riches of the poor

I want the one I can’t have
And it’s driving me mad
It’s written all over my face

On the day that your mentality
Catches up with your biology

And if you ever need self-validation
Just meet me in the alley by the railway station
It’s all over my face

The Smith’s album Meat is Murder came out 30 years ago this year.  It is a front to back classic record, that still sounds unique both in pop music and in The Smith’s discography.  It is more muscular than their debut, but not as varied as their following albums.  I don’t know if I could say that Mean is Murder is my favorite Smith’s album, but it has been at times.  Morrissey’s wit, intelligence, and humor are in full effect on this record.  There are so many quotes on this album that are fantastic in and of themselves, that you can take out of context and still sound brilliant:

A double bed and a stalwart lover for sure
These are the riches of the poor

I chose I Want the One I Can’t Have, but I could have chosen any song off the record really.  Their take on the brutality Manchester education system on The Headmaster Ritual, or the darkly hilarious carnival portrait of Rusholme Ruffians, were both close to being posted.

If you are a guitar player or a musician in general this album is a must.  Johnny Marr’s guitar playing during this period sounds like nothing else in recorded history.  Sure, there are bits and pieces from all over the place, but the way he puts everything thing together is truly unique.  Even he has trouble playing anything this original now.  (My brother and I have tried to figure out things Johnny Marr has played and they are just bizarre.  Not only can they be at complicated at times, but they just aren’t things someone would normally play.  As well as being naturally talented, I think some of this comes from being young and not knowing exactly what he was doing.  Even when his parts are less complex, he often layers them in a way that is totally unique. I think also the fact that he wrote the music and that Morrissey wrote lyrics and melodies over top of his lyrics helped create The Smiths sound.  One would not come up with these parts if they were trying to think of a vocal melody at the same time.  I have also read countless times about the fact that even when someone writes something musically traditional, Morrissey will sing in places over music that a more trained songwriter would not do.  He’ll write a chorus over what would be perceived as a verse and vice versa.)

The rhythm section is also fantastic.  Andy Rourke, like Marr, has a totally unique melodic sense.  Mike Joyce plays rather traditionally and simply compared to both of them, but his solid foundation allows the other two musicians to branch out.  He is the offensive line to their quarterback and receiver.

Because of the intelligence of The Smiths, and Morrissey’s knack for paying tribute to films, books, and poetry, The Smiths are sometimes perceived as a university band.  However, in reality they were working class through and through.  If Morrissey’s portraits of working class life seem detailed, as on the aforementioned Rusholme Ruffians, it is because that is the culture they grew up in.

30 years on this recording still holds all of its mysterious power.  There has been nothing quite like it since it came out.  Truly original stuff.

Dan Patrick Risks Creating Small Mushroom Cloud in Austin

“Is there an asshole convention in town?” – Richard Pryor in Moving

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If you see a small mushroom cloud in the city of Austin, it will be because my head has finally exploded.  Lt. Governor Dan Patrick looks to be well prepared to raise the bar for stupidity in elected officials.  Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just do some research on him…

“I could say more, but you get the general idea.” – Morrissey

Soccer Player Kung fu and Southpaw Grammar

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Eric Cantonas Infamous Kung Fu Kick Inspires South Paw Grammer

I realized I just posted an article about the Smiths yesterday.  However, while lionizing the Smiths is commonplace in the press, the same cannot always be said about journalists attitude towards the Morrissey album Southpaw Grammar.  It is not only one of my favorite Morrissey albums, but one of my favorite guitar albums of all-time.  The duo of Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte not only create many memorable hooks, but also create a beautifully menacing atmosphere with the help of producer Steve Lillywhite.  It is the loud distorted cousin to Morrissey’s Vauxhall and I, my favorite album and also this albums predecessor.  While Vauxhall and I was largely reflective, this album looks outwards, often examining working class violence in England.  Yet despite these albums being opposites in many regards, there is a kind of dark reverb drenched atmosphere in the production of both albums that makes them complimentary to each other.

Somehow I never knew about Eric Cantonas and his Kung fu kick and its inspiration to Morrissey, or if so I forgot.  I found that piece of the article highly entertaining.  A great read about an excellent album.