JAIMIE VERNON: NO BITTERSWEET SYMPATHY

Vernon_1997

GrumpyCatThis week I was told not once, but twice, that I “sound bitter”. You mean an antagonistic hostility? Hell, yeah. Guilty as charged. The provocation for being called bitter was my two brutally honest music comments online in separate conversations.

The first was concerning The Who and that anyone who thought the band still “rocked” must never have heard them in their heyday – you know, when Who_Destructionthey were exciting, vital, and…well, still sporting all original members who actually ROCKED. The band is currently on tour and folks are quite pleased and enjoying this current ½ line-up with its surviving members doing the 32nd anniversary tour of their final show in various stages of disability (Townshend’s deafness, and Daltrey’s failing vocal range). Folks got their ass feathers in a knot because I dared ask whether The Who honestly and truly “rocked” or did The Who rock only when one considers their age, their visual and audio handicaps, and the nostalgic buzz one gets from observing same? When pushed, the answer from my detractors was the latter.

Letter_ZeppelinThe second ‘bitter’ branding happened in commenting on Led Zeppelin’s interview appearance on the David Letterman Show this past Monday where I thought Zeppelin were the epitome of grace and comportment while Letterman looked like that doddering old windbag Larry King in both being unprepared with any shred of knowledge and looking truly out of his league as the hipster everyone considers him to be. “Do you know how hard it is to conduct interviews?” someone opined. Yeah…it must have been so tough for Letterman who has spent 30 years talking to presidents of the United States, foreign dignitaries, movie stars, Gold medal winning Olympians and members of The Beatles to come up with something intelligent to say to yet another hit making rock band.

In both instances, by emphasizing my opinion to people who vehemently disagree with my assessments on both subjects the heated discussions ultimately devolved into a personal attack – ending with me being called ‘bitter’. I prefer to call it passion. Passion for honesty, creativity and definable talent in music that isn’t steeped in mediocrity.

OldRollingStonesI’ve done previous columns about the vacuous business that has become nostalgia-peddling so I have no interest in rehashing that…but I’m fascinated by the idea that people cling to it so desperately. The Boomer Generation has become really good at criticizing the newest trends in music but cannot shine the mirror back on their own sacred cows and say, in all honesty, “Hey, wait a minute. I’m getting half as much entertainment value as I used to at half the price.” Folks would rather see (and hear) a simulation of The Who’s former selves for $500 than something new and organic for $10 at the local pub. They’d rather watch the decrepit mummified remains of The Rolling Stones trot out predictable, laughable, cartoonish interpretations of their own back catalog and pay 10x the price for the insult because they copped their first boobie feel during ‘Brown Sugar’ in the 1970s. Mick Jagger actually went as far as to insult the fans from the stage in one of the sold out London shows by saying at one point, “How is it in the cheap seats? Oh, wait…there are no cheap seats!”

Why is this acceptable and even lauded? You would never put up with this half-assed, cynical shit from an athlete, or a movie star, or ballet dancer, or a bloody politician…but it’s okay for pop artists, decades past their expiration dates to insult you and shred a little more of their own dignity all in the name of continuing to siphon money out of your past.

Taylor_SwiftThis regurgitation machine leaves new artists – who have been inspired by your heroes – banging their heads against a glass ceiling of expectations. You’ve already pre-judged and disposed of them without ever listening to what they have to offer. The refrain usually goes like this: “New music sucks. Rap is crap. Taylor Swift eats donkey balls.” Which all may or may not be true.

But remember this, Grasshopper: You thought disco was bad and new wave was bad too and yet you didn’t toss out all music when that stuff became popular, did you? And the reason is that it was music that didn’t interest you – so you avoided it. So, why are you judging new music as if it was all made by Jay-Z and Justin Bieber? You want rock like you used to listen to? Then Alice_RabbitHolefollow the clues. Do a search on Google for “Bands influenced by Aerosmith or Led Zeppelin or Grateful Dead”. You will be sent down a wonderful Alice In Wonderland rabbit hole of choices. You can taste from the buffet without having to wait for the DJ to back-announce a new song you can’t seem to get enough of once every 7 hours from your favourite radio station.

That bygone world where you flipped on the radio and heard back-to-back rocking ‘new’ music by AC/DC, Boston, Cheap Trick, etc. no longer exists. It’s not handed to you on an FM silver platter anymore where you could ingest hit after hit while cruising on a Sunday afternoon with your friends in a beat-up 4-door Maverick. Now you have to make an effort. Now it takes Rock_signpostsome responsibility on the part of music fans to seek out and absorb. It’s how music fans did it before the Beatles exploded; researching, sharing, and investing in your favourite artists. Ironically, the internet makes it easier than ever and all I hear is the whining and complaining about how hard it is to find good music. Stop lying to yourself and stop bullshitting the world. Many of my contemporaries and I have discovered great new music, so why haven’t you? It’s time to get yourself a new music wardrobe.  There are sign-posts you can follow. It will take an investment in your time and tolerance – because there’s no getting around the fact that, yes, there is shite music out there now (just like there was crap like “Sugar Shack”, “Palisades Park” and “My Ding-A-Ling” before it).

College radio, Satellite radio, and web radio a ala http://www.radiothatdoesntsuck.com all have freeform and pinpoint genre channels to chose from.

ROC179.cover_rival.inddYou’ll also be surprised to find that Classic Rock magazine out of England is filled with nothing but music that you like. Lots of old guard stuff you’re familiar with and lots of new acts who are carrying the torch.  Hell, Rival Sons – the greatest Zeppelin tribute act since Whitesnake – graces the front cover as the best rock act of the year.

I also recommend you read the rest of the columns in the daily ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ blog franchise particularly from Segarini and Frank Gutch Jr. These gents are finely aged and still get boners for music coming from kids 1/3 their age. Hell, so do I. DBAWIS_ButtonExpand your tastes. You don’t have to like Electronica, Hip Hop or Tween pop. And why would you anyway? That music was never made for you. But a lot of other new music is made for you – regardless of whether you’ve mellowed out or still expect Who-like stage antics and histrionics.

The only thing standing between you and great new music is your own unwavering snobbery and, let’s face it, outright laziness. Below is a few clues. Go to the videos. If you don’t dig what you hear, click on the suggestions Rocker In A Wheelchairposted next to the videos from the YouTube page. The rabbit hole will take you to something you may finally like. If you don’t, then maybe it’s time to get your wheelchair out and turn your hearing aid off because, obviously, your refusal to change and your constant need to scream “get off my lawn” to upcoming talent is nothing but a bitter pill you have swallowed since the music passed you by.

ARROW-HAZE – “Crisis”

THE RIVAL SONS – “Pressure and Time”

JOE BONAMASSA – “Driving Towards the Daylight”

WOLFMOTHER – “Woman”

THE TREWS – “Not Ready To Go”

ONE-EYED DOLL “You’re a Vampire”

THE RESPECTABLES – “Sugar” (featuring Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar)

ELBOW – “Grounds For Divorce”

WITHIN TEMPTATION – “All I Need”

CLUTCH – “Electric Worry”

RED FANG – “Wires”

TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION – “Pissed Off And Mad About It”

UNSUN – “Whispers”

BLACK KEYS – “Gold On the Ceiling”

=JV=

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 34 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com

9 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON: NO BITTERSWEET SYMPATHY”

  1. What? Boner! I haven’t had a boner in years, you young twit! No, wait. What’s a boner? Isn’t he a politician or something? As usual, I wish I’d written this column. I could use an editor, Jaimie. My lawyer will call your lawyer, okay? Wait. Do I have a lawyer? Where are my keys?

  2. Awesome column, JV.
    1.The ‘Classic Rock’ format is still alive and well in Detroit, however. WCSX 94.7 will still give you all the YoushookmeallnightlongMorethanafeelingCarryonmywaywardsonAbacab you need. They just sprinkle in a little WithorwithoutyouSynchronicityIIBurningdownthehouseShesabeauty in there with it.
    2. That is not The Who. It’s just sad.
    3. The Rival Sons video gave me vertigo.
    4. Elbow? Nice!
    5. Letterman was ill-prepared. But he wears his tastes on his sleeve. If it would have been Warren Zevon, Nick Lowe or Jackson Browne, he would have been way more interested.
    6. CBC Radio3 = a treasure trove of great new music.
    7. Heh heh…you said boner.

  3. Hey Jaimie
    Enjoyed your piece very much…Toronto alone has a very good live scene that many people take for granted…and I’ve been called bitter for having an opinion before…btw when I was 10 Sugar Shack and Palisade park were in my personal top ten …the Chuck Berry tune not so much

  4. ….who’s keys are these?…..great column verm!

  5. It’s probably unfair to compare these new bands to the biggest bands from the classic rock era. Do they have the playing ability and songwriting skills of the Beatles, Zep, the Who or the Stones at their peak? No. Sure, Rival Sons can pinch the start of the riff to “Out On The Tiles” and make a whole song out of it but it won’t make them Led Zeppelin. But it will make them a good rock band for these times, which is better than nothing. I think most of this stuff would be middle of the pack music back in the day, not the top of the heap, will a band come along that can claim the high ground? Dunno. The people I know who paid to see the Who recently enjoyed it, nothing wrong with that, it’s their money. I saw Aerosmith for the first time 2 weeks ago, with my money, and they were great, Steven Tyler is why, an incredible singer by any standard. I watched the Stones video with Jeff Beck from the recent show, and boy was it lame in my opinion, but that won’t stop folks from going to their shows. But it makes me glad I saw them with Mick Taylor, and the Who with Keith Moon, that’s for sure.

  6. Thx Jaimie – bitter works for me. Another great honest post.

  7. The only bad thing here is the music quit playing when I posted.

  8. Jaimie, I salute you. that is all.

  9. Rocker999 Says:

    Great article, Jaimie. Your take on the nostalgia thing was bang-on the mark. The only thing I disagree with is the reason. Not to mince words, but the reason people want and will pay for “older music” is frankly, 90% of the “rock music” created in the past 15 or 20 years sucks. It’s not the “modern” player’s fault . . . it’s just that in the 35+ run of rock music, just about everything good/great/half-baked/incredible/bad [wave]/deliberately bad [punk] and everything in-between has been done. Modern players don’t have the luxury of living in a time before Zep 1 or Electric Ladyland came out, going down to Sam’s the day it came out, buying it, hearing it for the first time . . . and having their minds blown. This, and other rock landmarks, created an extended period of inspired music, which unfortunately as with all things, has a shelf life (age is one factor indeed . . . most great rock artists started playing when they were 15, and now they’re 65 to 70). It happens. It’s life. The fact that new players can’t create new music that doesn’t suck isn’t their fault. If a player is, say . . . 34 today . . . he probably grew up listening to Pearls Jam’s guitar players around 92/93. Not much of an influence to build on compared to Page, Hendrix, Beck, et al. Fundamentally, rock has been tapped. It’s a complete art form. The body of work is historic and total. I’m not bitter about it. A bit disappointed the “run” had to end, but the fact remains, just about anything created from the late-60s to the early 80s is ten times better than 99% of the “new music” of today. That’s why younger people would rather go to dance clubs than live venues . . . and it’s also why true music fans want to listen to older music . . . because it’s better. Plain and simple. No deeper explanation is needed. Perhaps at some point in the future a new generation will be in the right social and economic “boom time” and create something worthy. But for now . . . rock is still the name of the game, and the good stuff has already been done.

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