REMINDER: Brown Shoes Don't Make It

“Nothing is more despicable than the old age of a passionate man. When the vigour of youth fails him, and his amusements pall with frequent repetition, his occasional rage sinks by decay of strength into peevishness; that peevishness, for want of novelty and variety, becomes habitual; the world falls off from around him, and he is left, as Homer expresses it, to devour his own heart in solitude and contempt.” Dr. Johnson

“The first time Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy, 47, heard the phrase ‘dad rock,’ he was reading a Pitchfork review of his band’s 2007 album, Sky Blue Sky, which a writer said ‘nakedly exposes the dad-rock gene Wilco has always carried but courageously attempted to disguise.’ This was followed by a series of negative adjectives synonymous with dad music, including ‘passive,’ ‘domestic’ and ‘lackluster.’ Tweedy’s response, he recently told an interviewer from Esquire (a dad magazine if there ever was one), was visceral: ‘Ouch. Wow.’” Rob Tannenbaum

Homer: I was in a record store, and they were playing all these bands I’d never heard of. It was like the store had gone crazy. Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.
Marge: Record stores have always seemed crazy to me. Music is none of my business.
Homer: That’s all well and good for you, but I used to rock and roll all night and party every day. Then it was every other day… now I’m lucky to find half an hour a week in which to get funky. I’ve got to get out of this rut and back into the groove.


A few days ago Alaska Wolf Joe brought up the fact that we had not been to his preferred greasy spoon for lunch in some time. As I was between scheduled naps lunch seemed like a good idea. When we got there the placed was jammed and we were put on the wait list and told it would be 20 or so minutes before we’d be seated. To kill time we went to the nearby record store and looked around because, as AWJ said, “I’ve never spent time in one of these.”

Going up and down the aisles we came upon the display for the new Sonics release. For those of you who are not from the Greater Puget Sound Area, The Sonics were the local big-deal band in the mid-1960s. They bridged the gap between The Kingsmen and Jimi. Their local legend was cemented when they broke up and didn’t bother to reunite until last year. The new Sonics redux came with your choice of a cd recorded in modern hi-fidelity (mp4’s can be found here) or a 12″ vinyl release which only comes in glorious mono. Alaska Wolf Joe took all this in, picked up the vinyl, looked it over, and dryly sniffed, ” … dad rock.”

That lead to a lengthy discussion at lunch of what really constitutes “Dad Rock.” After an hour we came to the heart of the matter, but not before breaking the term into a few categories.

Per AWJ –

– The classic rock pantheon (Beatles, Stones, Zep, Skynrd et al.) is certainly Dad Rock, but it doesn’t define the term completely.

– Anything that Dad is listening to from the rock idiom (he prefers idiom to genre) is rock that Dad is listening to, but it doesn’t not necessarily mean what’s being listened to is Dad Rock. Dad Rock cannot be considered anything that is heard passively. Just because The Cars are playing on the overhead speakers at Home Depot doesn’t make it Dad Rock by default.

– Anything that Dad actively listens to – by his own choice – that can be considered to be within the rock idiom which Dad is listening to – because he wants you to think he’s younger and hipper than his actual age suggests – is therefore Dad Rock.

AWJ then added, “Look I know all that music was very popular with everyone back when you were in high school. Bowie never did anything bad, Floyd was fine until The Wall, and there’s Joy Division and Robert Smith so there’s lots to like even though rock’s creative process is dead.”

I had to stop him right there and point out that if I had experienced all those bands in high school I would have had to have spent 15 years trying to go from being a sophomore to being a junior. He was then surprised when I said that what we now consider classic rock was not universally popular during my teen years. That lead AWJ to ask, “So how did people consider it?”

Simple – there was good music and then there was loud, awful music. Good music usually meant sensitive singer/songwriters or the music your parents would let you buy. (e.g. Carpenters, Neil Diamond, Rod McKuen’s spoken-word albums.) That last one got him. After being stunned for a few seconds he said “I thought the band kids at my school were sheltered. Couldn’t they sneak it home?”

Yes, but eventually you’d get caught. Back when music was transcribed onto vinyl it came in large cardboard sleeves. Therefore if you bought Smell the Glove you had a fair chance of sneaking in the house, but sooner or later your mother was going to vacuum your room and then you were busted.

AWJ was quiet for some time. After his fourth cup of coffee (his prefered lunch at this place is the bacon cheeseburger and 6 cups of coffee) he looked up and asked, “Do you think those people evolved to have different musical taste?”

I really don’t know.

The ones I’ve heard from over the years only called to tell me how successful they’d become. The calls, all on their dime, revolved around awards, honorariums, certificates, and other accomplishments. Not that I was paying strict attention as I found that, if I concentrated on hearing Delibes’ Flower Duet in my head, all the angst attached to the call would disappear, no matter how long the phone call took.

Go ahead.

Try it.

Start this video, find the LinkedIn page of some one you can’t stand, and start reading their work history.

Isn’t it amazing how that works?

Not that the topic of music taste has come up much even in the most recent calls. Mostly I’ve noticed a subtle shift. The calls are no longer about careers. Now the calls are not-so-humble brags about how what a good job they’re doing of being old. They’re shopping for RV’s, sitting on the local board of whichever non-profit is dealing with their low-level ailments. They’ve got a bucket list and they’re checkin’ it twice, they’ll visit each grandchild per annum no less than thrice.

Now instead of Delibes I have muster this one up to get all Zen.

The idea is to eventually slide your graybeard hipster credentials into the conversation to disorient them.

But you’ll have to use caution.

Hang on we’re going the long way around the park –

As has been previously brought up in this space, The Perfesser has put forth the theory that Dylan fans are the Trekkies of rock-n-roll. If true, then rock-n-roll must have its equivalent of Civil War reeneactors. That would be those people who have selected a band, memorized their discography, and such minutia as the birth dates of the former members, and the bass player.

Don’t go there.

Instead, when these people bring up the holy-of-holies, front-row seats at Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, you can say, “Isn’t he touring with (name)? I remember the first time I saw him. He still had his own hair back then.”

If you’ll excuse me I have to go now. All this talk of grandchildren has left me no choice but to ask Alaska Wolf Joe if there was a lab section attached to that health class he took as a high school freshman.

While I do that you can dance to this.

One Comment

  1. Fearless Lieder

    Hmn… since I actively still play music I approach this differently. I suppose the “civil war reenact” comment could apply, although since I also *build* guitars, I could be put in a category of people who recreate, say, the Michelson-Morley experiment trying to prove they got it wrong and aether actually exists. We are delving into the arcana of late 1940s technology looking for the hidden quintessence or vital principle and then feverishly go on about it on weird forum websites.

    “Dad rock” sounds pejorative in the face of it, although no one feels that way about an earlier period of sudden creativity brought about by societal unrest: the Great American Songbook.

    During these peak musical periods, music becomes orgiastic or Dionysian. In between it is Apollonian and thus the domain of whatever passes for “hipster” at the time. Or, alternatively, I have fallen into the intellectual onanism of looking for hidden cycles when actually Sturgeon’s Dictum applies and at any point in time 10% of the stuff is good and the rest is shit.

    I gave up caring when the Crowded House song we had played at our wedding came on the musak one day when we were in the A&P shopping for laundry detergent.

    Om padme om.
    Resume normal activity.

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