Bird Dog over at Maggie's Farm.
What a wan word "like" would be for me to use, so I can't. I love Bird Dog. He's my brother fum anotha motha. We're friends. We get to tell the truth to one another. You can't tell the truth to strangers.
He's a fan of my boys' musical efforts. He links to their videos, and offers a word or two of encouragement for them. But he gets ideas. As anyone that lived in the Soviet Union from 1917 until 1981, or anyone at a prog rock concert with a drum solo pending, ideas can be a dangerous thing. You've got to look at ideas a lot before you settle on them. Paw them over. Pick them up and put them down and go back to them. Ideas you treasure without reflection are risky. They can be popped like a bubble in the bath simply by the introduction of competing ideas. That's why people with opinions I don't agree with are so closed-minded. They can't bear to hear the truth.
I risk ruining Bird Dog's day. Our friendship might be on the line, right here, right now. I can't help myself. He wants my sons to play Sultans of Swing, by Dire Straits, to perhaps prove their musical chops, their mettle, and mayhaps delight the Intertunnel with their precocious abilities. He wonders if they might be up to the task? Could they do it? Take up the Stratocaster cudgels? What a monumental, notable, and noble undertaking that would be!
I don't know how to break it to him any other way, so I'll just blurt it out: Sultans of Swing sucks. Hoover-quality suck. Outer Space with a pinhole in your capsule suck. Weapons-grade suck. Donkey balls. It's -- not good. But there is no way Bird Dog has ever heard that said. Sultans of Swing is one of those hoary old standards like Stairway to Heaven or Green Grass and High Tides or Freebird or Bohemian Rhapsody. The devotees of such tedious anthems never even consider that their love for them should admit the alloy of time and place, and consider that others who weren't listening to it on their eight track with a girl in a tube top in the front seat of a bitchin' Camaro when it first came out might not share their high opinion of it. It's Pauline Kael rock. No one I know doesn't like it.
It was my business for a long time to tell people that approached the bandstand that their favorite song was of absolutely no interest to everyone else in the room, and we weren't going to play it. It's a delicate thing to tell people that the song that contains both the name of their illegitimate children and their pit bulls, and whose album cover is featured on both a tattoo on their chest and painted on the side of their van, isn't very entertaining. Such information upsets people, like going to the monkey house at the zoo and throwing your poo at the apes. Those monkeys stop in their tracks and stare at you, I'm telling you.
Don't ask me how I know that.
But I know music. I didn't even have to ask my son to know what he'd say to the suggestion. I did ask, though, and he gave me a look of surprise and fear and disgust, one that said without words, "Dad, why are you flinging poo at me?" To a kid two decades into this century, Dire Straits is like a Stallone movie starring Richard Simmons. If Eric Clapton was a hairdresser, that's what he'd sound like.
Now, back when I was luxuriant of hair and bereft of fixed opinions about music, teachers tried to sell me some of theirs. I distinctly remember eighth grade. It was the first year I spent in public school. None of the other students could read or write or add or subtract, and thought the Ottoman Empire was a furniture store. They were fertile ground for any sort of bosh. Me, I was skeptical. My older brother was a musician with very good taste, and I got used to hearing good music, well played.
I had a music class. They call such classes "music appreciation," because in their hearts the faculty knows they're incapable of teaching children to play musical instruments or sing and dance, so they sort of shrug and tell the parents, "We meant to do that," and baste the students with their ill-founded opinions instead. I remember Mr. Sacco like it was yesterday.
He affected a style approximating Englebert Humperdinck, gone to seed. He had Civil War sideburns and high-water bell-bottom pants with garish socks and round-heeled shoes that looked like they were designed by some unholy agglomeration of Florsheim and Cardinal Richelieu. We slumped in our chairs, while he waved one --just one-- 45 record in the air, intoning,"This is the greatest record ever made," and meant it. He put it on, and played it over, and over, and over again. He'd stop it now and then at odd intervals by yanking the needle up to pontificate on some minor point of interest he found in the noise, a signpost to the entrance of entertainment nirvana that only men like him, attuned to such things, could discern, and then he'd slam it back down and the sound would wash over us again from the tinny speaker in the ancient record player he used.
He did this for weeks on end. He played that record for us a hundred times, maybe more, and never once looked at any face in the small crowd arrayed around him for a glimmer of approbation. It was the greatest song ever written, and that was that. There was no gainsaying it, and no opportunity to gainsay it, either. He'd wave his arms in the air like a conductor with palsy and hum along, and sing tunelessly along with it, and generally stop just incrementally short of soiling the front of his polyester pants with the whole thing every time he heard it. He never played another record that I can recall, and the only test I can remember simply asked a series of arcane permutations of the same question: Why this recording was the ne plus ultra of organized noise.
The song was Crimson and Clover, by Tommy James and the Shondells.
And so I must ask the question. It has been troubling me this morning. I must blurt it out, and exorcise it. Bird Dog, why do you want my son to play Crimson and Clover? You don't even have sideburns.