No, this is not really about music “history”. Even if I wanted to write about the actual history of music I would be lost in a sea of my own ignorance. Instead, I am writing this as tribute to the incredible moments of great songs. The moments that you get awed by the awesomeness of it all, and you either enter a frenzied dance session or a jaw-dropped hypnosis. The part of a song that defines it, maybe defines the band, and maybe even defines a genre or a time. These are the things that stay with you, and I have always wanted to share them. These are the particular parts, the fragments of a song that have solidified a spot in my mind as some of the greatest moments in music history. So without further ado, here are my new entries…
I DON’T BELIEVE IN BEATLES (AT 2:30)
Beatlemania received its final nail in the coffin with John Lennon’s God. Although John showed his disapproval of idol worship for some of the most memorable figures in history (Jesus, Buddha, JFK, and Hitler), the most shocking moment was when he uttered the words “I don’t believe in Beatles“. And John knew damn well this would rock his listeners, as he saved this line for last, and dropped the piano and drums abruptly after singing it to add to the dramatic effect. It was a sad statement to swallow for Beatles fans. However, as John knew, if he truly believed in the harms of idol worship, he would have to first take himself of the pedestal.
HOMOPHOBICS AIN’T ALRIGHT (AT 1:41)
Photo credit – Terry Richardson http://www.terrysdiary.com
Thirteen years before Frank Ocean’s quasi-reveal of his sexuality, three hip hop heroes would do their best to promote acceptance of the homosexual community. In 1999 Slim Shady dominated the rap charts, and his anti-gay lyrics would still have to wait two more years before being counter-balanced with an Elton John duet. In the machismo world of late-nineties’ hip hop, homosexuality was a far cry from being acceptable material. That is until our three favourite fuzzy-customed crusaders came out with Alive. Alive was a new track released to promote the Beastie Boys’ anthology album, and alongside a killer beat and awesome video, it came with some thoughtful lyrics. At about the 1:35 Ad Rock dropped his memorable rhymes:
Now who in the world do you want to fight?
It’s against the system, we should unite.
Homophobics ain’t alright.
If you learn to love then you might love life.
What other rappers do you know have the balls to rap that way? Good on ya, boys.
A VOCAL TOUR DE FORCE (AT 0:17)
Cobain and the crew sought a more natural, more abrasive sound when they went into the studio for In Utero. With the help of Albini, what they created was exactly that. Corrosive and healing, aggressive and shy, In Utero was a triumphant success of the furious will of Cobain. His stubborn refusal to be polished and mainstream allowed for some of the most memorable moments in grunge music to reveal themselves. All other Nirvana tracks may have proved that Cobain had to pipes to belt out his lyrics, but Tourette’s proved that he had to pipes to be down right demonically possessed. Cobain holds nothing back in what is by far one of the most impressive feats of tracheal fortitude ever recorded. Nirvana had never sounded this raw.
PHEW! (AT 2:34)
I relate very much with Thom Yorke’s occasional feelings of misanthropy. In his lyrics, and in his interviews, you can sense an overwhelming discomfort and dislike towards the ever-apparent undesirable characteristics of our fellow people. Dealing with my own bouts of agoraphobia, and general critical nature, I understand that this “outside looking in” state of mind can be eye-opening, but also very self-involved and unhealthy. Karma Police, to me, has always been about misanthropy gone too far, wherein we wish the world would have vengeance against the wrongs we perceive in others. And in my mind, the line “Phew, for a minute there I lost myself“, is a glimpse at the moment Thom believes he has become too angry, too vengeful, and is shocked by what he sees in the mirror. I always imagined it as a window into one man’s realization of his own troubled mind. It feels incredibly honest, deeply personal, and undeniably troubling. Whether you agree with this interpretation or not, I think we can all agree on the line’s power.
CRYSTALLINE GUITAR (AT 0:40)
Sunday Bloody Sunday may have fixed Larry Mullen Jr’s place as one of the best drummers out there, but I believe it was Where the Streets Have No Name that proved The Edge’s mastery to the world. Recording samples of music on his four-track recorder, The Edge wanted to create “the ultimate U2 live song”, something that fans would love to hear at a show. What he came up with he would describe as “the most amazing guitar part and song of [his] life”. I couldn’t agree more. Although the song was an admitted headache to compose, took half of the studio session for the album to create, and came damn close to being erased in anger by producer Brian Eno, what was pieced together was arguably the most beautiful song in modern music history. Adam Clayton’s bass is fast and focused and Bono’s singing is inspired, but it is The Edge’s perfection of his signature guitar sound that made this classic song soar.