I was congested recently, thinking about my next post. Often, they’re lined up in a nice little row of topics I’d like to attack. Then sometimes, the row goes empty leaving nothing but empty spaces like fragments of a song cut off when a car window rolls up. I was going crazy last night bouncing around on a series of ideas surrounding my recent watching of Great Balls of Fire with Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder. The movie, while a heavily dramatized and condensed stab at a true story (even though co-written by Myra), had me in knots thinking about Billboard Top 100s (which by the way is topped by Flo-Rida (give him creative credit here people, he’s a rapper from Florida) featuring T-Pain right now) and charts. The whole movie makes this rockstar life look so simple in terms of printing the record, getting some money, heading out on the road, climbing the charts and then getting some more money. But the simplicity of the era, the build of distribution and the uproar over lyrics as lewdly suggestive as “there’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on,” is a far cry from today where songs are available before the album comes out and radio airplay is far more often than not sexually suggestive if not down right graphic. I invite the non-timid reader to take a look and see what it really means to “superman dat ho.” And for someone looking for intelligent rap, I challenge them to find a radio station willing to play an Immortal Technique cut.
In an attempt at some research for a post about historical Billboard Charts, I came across some very interesting data, but nothing that really felt substantially tied to something I actually wanted to write about. For instance, the number one song for 1997 was Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind“, which was a remake of his own original to Marilyn Monroe, re-released for Princess Di‘s death. So the sympathy, worldwide, sold the record in bunches. At number 3 on the chart to end that year? For coincidence or eerie destiny you have Puff Daddy’s/P-Diddy’s/Sean Combs/Whatever he wants to call himself next‘s tribute to Biggie, “I’ll Be Missing You.” Not only are they both posthumous tribute songs, but they’re both remakes. At least in Elton’s case, he used his own material…Puffy had to borrow Sting’s. Either the prevailing thought was that we were quite mournful and gobbling up tribute songs like they were lunch meat, or we just liked songs that reminded us of our past. Or neither. The charts are kinda fickle like that.
In stark contrast, the 1957 year end chart, right around the time ole Jerry Lee was getting ready to run in my ’80s nostalgia movie of the day, is filled with love and romance songs, often by the boy flavor du jour. Elvis‘ “All Shook Up,” two songs with “love” in their title, rounded out with a “Little Darlin” and Jimmy Dorsey‘s big band throw back, “So Rare.” So were the folks then more in love and romantic than we are now? Or are they less obsessed with death and tribute songs? Or are these all fictional connections of a paranoid sociological mind at work? Maybe a combination of the ten?
Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I had to compare the top album sales from those years…1997: Spice Girls, No Doubt (Tragic Kingdom), Celine Dion (Falling Into You), the Space Jam Soundtrack and Jewel (Pieces of You). In 1957, you have 4 of the top 5 as Soundtracks…musicals in three of those cases no less! Oklahoma, My Fair Lady and The King and I. What a bunch of soundtrack and musical obsessed bunch of folks those were! Or maybe the folks of ’97 were just obsessed with female singers, or melancholy material (after all, the Jewel cd is pretty sparse and sad and Tragic Kingdom is pretty much all about breaking up.) But while these are all interesting observations, again, they’re not substantive in any way other than some mild curiosity about trends or trivial data collection about Billboard.
And so the debate over what’s to come next (not to mention a pack of oreos and Mission Impossible 3) leaves me tossing and turning and bolting out of bed at 3 am to realize that in all this worry about posts and targets and complaints and opinions and mixing and matching and topics topics topics, there’s no way I’m ever going to write another post! What am I gonna do, spend the next 6 months pouring through all the historical trends Billboard allows me, Excel spreadsheeting it and trying to draw conclusions for the perfect blog post? I’m gonna say no to that right now.
And that’s when it hit me…remember the music, and the music lovers? So now, at around 4 am having written feverishly for an hour on a mixture of action movie adrenaline, the unclotting of a writer’s block, and the type of free-wheeling, free-association game that this type of post allows my mind, I get to the point I started out to arrive at in the first place…I love music! Forget writing about it. I heard once from someone, somewhere, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” Not to say that I don’t love writing about it too, but I LOVE listening to it, and maybe in all this writing and hypothesizing on methods of distribution and the state of the industry, we might sometimes forget the commodity that we’re actually talking about. So let’s not forget the music, shall we? I invite all of you who who have made it this far through my late night ramblings to comment or email me with their five answers to the following questions (and don’t be surprised if we have the start of the new topic germinating right here before our very eyes):
1) Think about one song that you tend to listen to when you’re happy. What is it, when was the first time you remember hearing it, and what about it makes you smile?
2) Think about one song that stands out in your mind from a movie or tv soundtrack. What movie/show is it, did you know the song before or only after you heard it on that source, and what song is it?
3) When it’s storming, like it is now over here in CA, what song suits your mood?
4) What was the last song that you reached the ending of and restarted immediately so you could hear it all over again?
5) With summer and BBQs still a few months away, what song can’t you wait to hear once the boat’s on the water, so to speak?
That’s better. I think I can sleep now.