July 30, 2004

Music Music Music!

Following upon Craig's statement that our choice of Sonny and Cher's Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves (among other songs) from ITMS had raised his opinion of our musical taste, I decided to shoot the horse altogether. So I'm going to take a tour through our iTunes music library and drop a few words about some of the things I find (the track counts are approximate):

Blues, 36 tracks: I've got a B.B. King album, and a couple of Keb' Mo' albums. What can I say, I don't like being depressed.

Children's, 126 tracks: We've got kids, which I'm sure hasn't escaped you. However, my iPod only sees kids' music that I'm willing to listen to myself. So we've got some songs from the Animaniacs cartoon show, a bunch of Veggietales tracks ("Oh, where....is my hairbrush?"), Grammar Rock, and a nifty album called Philadelphia Chickens by (of all people) Sandra Boynton.

Classical and Early Music, 435 tracks: I won't say much about this category, except to say that my tastes run toward the early end of the spectrum.

Comedy/Novelty, 241 tracks: Mostly novelty songs. I've got some Weird Al Yankovic; his spiritual father, Allan Sherman; Monty Python; Flanders and Swann; Ray Stevens; plus a couple of big Dr. Demento compilations. Which reminds me, I've got three Allan Sherman LPs that I really need to get transferred to CD. They're albums my parents bought back in the 1950's, and they've got some wonderful tracks that aren't currently in print--"Sir Greenbaum's Madrigal" is probably my favorite.

In fact, a quick digression. At one point, Allan Sherman was doing a stage show with Harpo Marx (they were next door neighbors in Bel Aire), and my parents went to see it. And at the end of the show, Sherman came up and announced that this was Harpo's last night on the show; he was retiring from show business. He was so affected by this that he got quite teary-eyed and couldn't go on, and Harpo came out from the wings, patted him on the back, and said something on the order of "There, there, Allan. It's not so bad." Then Harpo looked up, and said something like, "Hey, this talking thing isn't so bad either!" It was one of the very few times an audience ever heard his voice.

And the next die, Harpo died.

I've heard this story from my parents; and FWIW Sherman confirmed it in his autobiography, A Gift of Laughter, so I'm inclined to believe it.

But back to the tour.

Country, 176 tracks: I don't much care for country music, except as it shades over into folk music, but Jane rather likes it. So we've got her John Denver greatest hits album, her Dixie Chicks album (aaaaagh!), several albums by The Judds, for whom I have a fondness, and a whole bunch of Lyle Lovett. I'm not entirely sure that Lyle Lovett necessarily counts as country, always; he's hard to classify.

Easy Listening, 25 tracks: In addition to Allan Sherman, I grew up listening to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. All 25 of these tracks are from a single Herb Alpert compilation album, of which I'm inordinately fond.

I'd have put this in the Jazz category, except that a trumpet player of my acquaintance tells me that quoting Herb Alpert in improvisational jazz circles will get you shunned.

Folk, 977 tracks: The title of this group is almost certainly misleading. I've no Joan Baez whatsoever, and all the Bob Dylan is in the Rock/Pop category, below. We've got a few albums by the Weavers--

Another digression. When the folk revival came around in the 1950's, my parents got right on board. I grew up listening to the Limelighters and Harry Belafonte singing folk songs, and Allan Sherman spoofing them. But my parent's collection did not include anything by the Weavers or Pete Seeger. I rather expect that my father, a conservative soul, wouldn't allow them in the house. But damn, they could sing!

--and a great live album called Precious Friends: Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie. But by far the largest part of this group is English, Irish, and Scottish folk and folk rock. We've got Steeleye Span (164 tracks all by themselves), Silly Wizard (an outstanding Scottish band), Clannad (they got a little New-Agey toward the end, but their early stuff is fabulous), the Chieftains (you have heard of the Chieftains, right?), and a wide array of tracks by other performers.

May I just say, ITMS is no help in this area, at all, at all.

Jazz, 525 tracks: Mostly older jazz--Swing era, Dixieland, and so forth. I've heard very little that's more recent that appeals to me. The best album in the set is probably the Benny Goodman compilation The Complete Birth of Swing. But I've also got Art Tatum, Claude Bolling, Louis Prima, Fats Waller, The Manhattan Transfer, Louis Armstrong, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (they were neither original, nor from Dixieland, but they did make the first jazz recordings, and they're pretty darn good), Mannheim Steamroller (jazz? I dunno, they are hard to classify), and the inevitable Squirrel Nut Zipper (swing revival, don't you know).

Christian, 52 tracks: I never got into Contemporary Christian music all that much. I've got a little Amy Grant, some John Michael Talbot (who's very good), and the Steve Taylor album with "This Disco (Used To Be A Cute Cathedral)".

Soundtrack, 261 tracks: I called this category "Soundtrack", but really it's mostly show tunes: from SIngin' in the Rain (the greatest movie musical of all time; in fact, it's maybe the greatest movie of all time), Guys and Dolls (the Broadway recording; the movie's lousy IMNSHO), Camelot (ditto), Fiddler on the Roof, Little Shop of Horrors (the movie, this time), The Music Man (also the movie version), Evita (Broadway), The Sound of Music (movie, of course), The King and I (this one's Jane's, really), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (Broadway; the movie was a travesty), Man of La Mancha (a childhood favorite--just for the sound, as it went completely over my head. Fortunately.), and, finally, West Side Story (Broadway).

And, finally, the biggest group of all:

Rock (including pop generally), 2383 tracks: I grew up in the 70's; the disproportionate size of this category was, I suppose, inevitable. Here are some highlights, in no particular order: Al Stewart, The Band--

A digression. In early 1986, Jane and I went to see Crosby, Stills and Nash do a reunion concert.
The warm-up band was, unbelievably, The Band. It was a sign of the times that almost nobody in the audience had any idea who they were. And The Band came on stage, and played so well, and had so much fun, that the audience gave them a standing ovation. After that, the CSN show was a complete anti-climax. To this day, I think of the evening as the time we saw The Band in concert; and honestly, it's probably the rock concert I remember most fondly.

Richard Manuel, one of the The Band's singers, died just a few weeks later.

--The Band, a little Beach Boys, a lot (more than I need, really) of the Beatles, Billy Joel's Innocent Man album, a Blasters collection (I love the song "Border Radio"), several Beat Farmers albums, a bunch of Bob Dylan, a bunch of Bruce Springsteen, a little Chuck Berry, a little Clash (London Calling, if you care), some Creedence Clearwater Revival, Twin Sons of Different Mothers (but no other Dan Fogelberg, as it happens), a little CSN&Y, some David Bowie, some David Lindley, a bunch of Dire Straits, Don McClean (you gotta have "American Pie", you know), the Doors, the Doobie Brothers, selected albums by Elton John, Emerson Lake & Palmer, and Eric Clapton, Elvis (Costello, not Presley), a small smattering of Genesis, Fleetwood Mac and the Eurythmics (one album each), Harry Nilsson's classic album Nilsson Schmilsson (which you must go buy, right now), a little James Taylor and Jerry Lee Lewis, a truly staggering quantity of Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin IV, a bunch of Michelle Shocked, too much Neil Young, too little Oingo Boingo, some Paul Simon (with and without Art Garfunkel), a bunch of Pete Townshend, too much Peter Gabriel, too much Pink Floyd (the post-Roger Waters albums have completely failed to grow on me, and I'm tired of Dark Side of the Moon, but Wish You Were Here is still a favorite), the Pogues (who I could have put with the folk albums, but they are perhaps a little too boisterous), the Small Faces, Southern Culture on the Skids ("Camel Walk" is one of the all-time silly rock songs), a little Steely Dan, a little more Talking Heads than I really need these days, too little from They Might Be Giants, probably a little too much from Tom Petty, not nearly enough from the Travelling Wilburys (but that's not my fault; they only released two albums, and I've got 'em), just enough U2, some Van Morrison, and a bunch of Warren Zevon (he's such an Excitable Boy). Oh, and the Who. Lots and lots of The Who. Not to mention lots of tracks by folks I didn't mention.

No Rolling Stones? No Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger just makes me tired.

More than you wanted to know, I'm sure; congratulations for making it this far!

Posted by Will Duquette at July 30, 2004 01:38 PM

Deb said:

You mean to say there is another John Denver fan out there!!!! My husband brought me home flowers when he died a few years ago.....

Mark D. said:

This is by no means more than *I* wanted to know! What a delight, and thank you for sharing (said without any irony whatsoever.) I suppose I am going to have to get involved with ITunes eventually, but I'm afraid I'm a bit of a luddite when it comes to sound reproduction - still have, and play, a bunch of LPs which have yet (and never will) be out on CD. And yes, I know how to transfer them myself, but....

Speaking of which - when you do transfer your Allen Sherman, could I send you "B & P" (Blanks and postage - my wife is very active indeed in U2 trading, so I know that much)?

And I'll mention two of your artists close to my heart - Steve Taylor, of whom I have all albums and whose musical acuity I rate very high; and Steely Dan, ditto. If you haven't tried their new (not most recent) album Two Against Nature, I commend it - it's like 20 years never passed at all, which is a Good Thing.

Mark D. said:

Oh! And Flanders and Swann: "'Twas on a Monday morning, the gasman came to call...." Hooray!

Will Duquette said:

Re: Flanders and Swann, I'm afraid my favorite is "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear":

She lowered her standards by raising her glass, her courage, her eyes, and his hopes.

Re: Allan Sherman, sure, though I've been planning to get those albums converted for years, and it might be more years before I get around to it.