Bigger And Deffer

Bigger And Deffer

I’ll admit this straight out: I’m an exaggerator. It comes from being a storyteller and a bit of a clown. That’s part of who I am. So, of course, my version of the truth, my retelling of events, even my perspective on the world, tends to be a bit fabricated. Call it artistic or poetic license. (Though my friend Pat is the only one I know who actually holds the latter.) Fortunately, I am not a liar and don’t just make things up for the sake of appearances. I try to make my version of things more enjoyable for my audience (be it readers, my homies, or even my mom) but I think I keep the basic facts consistent and intact. History is just a set of lies agreed upon, right?

But lately, I’ve been struggling with the difference between exaggeration and outright lying and where you draw the line. When does exaggeration go too far? And why does it appear that we are a society of liars? What affect does this have on people and the way they behave?

A year or so ago, a coach in one of the pro sports league got fired because of the stretching of the truth: He had claimed to be a decorated soldier in Vietnam but wasn’t. He used this story to motivate his players, and it worked until they found out that he had come about as close to gunfire as I might get to, say, soy milk. But hey, he was creating a persona—one that was, in fact, true. The guy was a damn good coach and a damn good motivator. . . to a point. Was what he did right? If he was a good coach—everyone concerned seems to agree he was—why did he have to resort to doing this?

I don’t really know the answers here, but in thinking about it, I see the key to be persona. Yes, that must-have of the 21st Century, even more important than the Right Car, Right Clothes, or Right End Table. The Right Persona is something that people cultivate, groom, baby, tease, and generally construct their every waking moment around. And not just sports stars, rock stars, movie stars and political stars, but you, me and the girl next door. Marketing thrives on the whole idea of persona; psychiatry wouldn’t exist without it; and most people would be a whole lot happier if they understood it, but they don’t so they’re not.

Consider why we make most judgments. For instance, why do we dismiss a pop icon like Britney Spears as something akin to calorie-less Diet Pepsi? Is it because we are cultivating the persona of haughty music snobs, or is it because she’s really vapid? Or why do we, on the contrary, go around trying to tell music snobs that ‘lil Brit is the Second Coming of Madonna? Is it because she’s a brilliant artist and performer, or is it because we want to prove that we’re even smarter music snobs? How much of what we do or think is really us and how much is just feeding the persona?

Here’s another thought: How many rock stars do you know? Probably very few. But how many people do you see every day that walk around thinking that they are rock stars? Last time I was at a nightclub, I saw about six Ziggy Bowies. Must be the thing these days. Strange that I see these same people taking my order at the local coffeehouse and, other than their dirty apron, they tend to be wearing the same clothes, hair, makeup, etc. (Disturbing enough to bump into the Thin White Duke at the bar, but even more strange to have him toast you a bagel.) And what about the guy who always wears the slick vintage clothing and the porkpie hat? Or the nation of Beastie Boys I see in every city park skateboarding? It’s all feeding the persona.

Why do we care so much about persona? We as a people have become so obsessed with outward appearances because of the pervasiveness of political correctness and the same personality-less corporate genericity that afflicts everything from music and movies to hotels and restaurants. People are afraid to be cast as anything other than a type—types get cast and reinforced in everything, from the IBM culture to the black-dude-who-dies-first in the summer action thriller. Call it a lack of imagination or a lack of anyone ever really getting to know anyone in our decentralized suburban culture of mind- your-own-business and sequester yourself in a gated community, interacting only via the Internet. So people pick the type they think will get them where and what they want and stick to it at all costs, even the cost of subverting their own thoughts. Those that deviate from type (i.e. a pro choice Republican, an openly gay teen pop idol, a workaholic CEO who likes to wear shorts and Hawaiian shirts to the office, etc.) become outcasts, untrusted, and definitely not rewarded by our “the buck stops there” society. The converse is rebellion for the sake of rebellion (something that I’ve been guilty of for most of my life) the Rebel Without A Clue syndrome that causes all the piercings, tattoos, and other aspects of persona that say little other than, “I’m going to do the opposite of what you say.”

Perhaps the saddest part of all this is that we as a people have lost our ability to look at ourselves and laugh. We can’t see anything outside our persona and our constant attempt to live up to the aggrandized vision we have of ourselves. The exaggeration doesn’t permit it. We surely can’t look up at the sky and recognize the insignificance of the trivial little world we construct in our minds and the few cubic feet of space that we occupy as we move about the atmosphere.

And sadly enough, when we exaggerate for persona’s sake, we’re bound to be found out sooner or later. My friends know I’m not quite as funny as I pretend to be. My ex-girlfriend knows I’m not quite as tough as I think I am. All those athletes on that team know that their coach was really just a regular guy who happened to be their coach.


After the worldwide acclaim heaped upon their 1999 release The Man Who, which officially launched the four nice fellows of Travis into the rock stardom stratosphere, it would be easy to expect a darker, more introspective follow-up, an album that would find the group eschewing the trappings that made their breakthrough great in favor of spooky, progressive rhythms and otherworldly moaning.

That would be easy to do, except Radiohead has already done it. Twice.

Instead, Fran Healy and friends have created a collection of songs to watch the clouds to. From note one of “Sing,” The Invisible Band is at once vaporous and solid. Healy’s quiet falsetto mingles with plenty of reverb and strains of synthesizers that are pushed way back in the mix, creating a diaphanous string of sound that continues throughout the record, from note one of “Sing” all the way to the diary-like closer “The Humpty Dumpty Love Song” (“You’ve got the glue/ so I’m gonna give my heart to you”). But if you recall the churning grit of 1997’s “All I Wanna Do Is Rock,” or have ever seen Andy Dunlop onstage, furiously rending at his guitar, you’ll know that Travis is not Spandau Ballet. They’ve got balls, mate. And though their new record is quite the pretty thing, it still retains the moments of straightforward rock that no longer exist for Rod Stewart.

While the grooves of “Sing” and likely singles “Side” and “Afterglow” don’t have the immediate resonance of “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” or “Driftwood,” they are perfectly crafted pop songs that should have no trouble making the group billions of quid. Their UK dominance hasn’t subsided since the heady success of The Man Who – they’re tagged to headline the Glasgow and Reading festivals this August – but it’s the US where Invisible Band‘s twee singalongs are going to explode. Currently on tour with triphop songstress Dido, the band is good-looking enough, rocking-enough, and yet just non-threatening enough to sell millions of albums to people in their late 20s who wear fashionable eyewear. The kind of IKEA-minded consumer whose last music purchase was VW’s compilation of music from its TV ads. For Travis’ simple, pretty music is made edgy by Healy’s insightful lyrics, and the instrumentation never cuts corners or goes for the blasé lite-rock melody. The Invisible Band is the perfect album to impress the new girl in accounting who rides a Vespa to work.

It’s good to see “Nice Rock” hitting at this moment in the pop music continuum. Nu Metal bellowers like Staind and Linkin Park continue to outstay their welcome. But the recent domestic success of Travis’ colleagues-in-Nice Coldplay, as well as solid Rock and Roll like that of San Francisco’s Train (“Drops of Jupiter” is the best song The Black Crowes never wrote…), suggests that Rock for the thinking person just might be clawing its way back into the record-buying consciousness. It’s difficult to envision Fran Healy and Travis converting any Papa Roach fans, or inducing The Backstreet Boys to hang up their tired dancing shoes in ignominious defeat, but they’re going to quietly make a lot of people who like real music happy, and I bet that’s alright with them.


At Least They Don’t Need Walkers

“Can vacuous, pre-fabricated teen pop bereft of any substantial musical merit really fill up seventy-nine thousand seats?” an anonymous scribe filling a slot in the “Goings On About Town” section of The New Yorker (June 4, 2001) asks in what is undoubtedly an arch rhetorical tone. The author is referring to ‘Nsync playing at Giants Stadium, which is described as “a venue normally reserved for rock royalty.” The answer to the question: “Just ask your little sister.” Implying, of course, that ‘Nsync appeals only to prepubescent girls. Which is undoubtedly the case. But why is this any different than damn near any exceedingly popular band, vacuous or not?

While “rock royalty” is not defined, I’d like to suggest that regardless of which band it is that is thought to be capable of filling those 79K seats (New Jersey’s own Bon Jovi comes to mind; what else?), many of those seats will be filled by young girls—OK, those seats won’t be filled because they’ll spend the time during the show standing. Has it ever been different? Have stadia ever been filled by people other than young teens (with the exception of the Three Tenors)?

Perhaps “rock royalty” is a band like the Rolling Stones. Comparatively speaking, if the same answer was put forth (“Just ask your little sister”), your “little sister” would be 42-years old, working on her second divorce, with three kids in tow (some of whom would be ‘Nsync fans).

Rock on.

Radiohead: How Do You Afford Your Post-Rock Lifestyle?

In a particularly stifling scene from Radiohead’s 1998 tour documentary Meeting People Is Easy, director Grant Gee uses Thom Yorke’s numerous false starts while filming a drowning scene as a metaphor for his band’s sense of suffocation about itself existing in the vacuum of Rock Stardom. The clip for “No Surprises” features a close-up of Yorke’s pinched and pale visage inside a diving helmet as it slowly fills up with water. Now, apparently Yorke has Navy SEAL-ian breath-holding ability, having eventually held his breath for 55 seconds as the sequence was filmed. But through Gee’s camera, we watch as Radiohead’s principle headcase repeatedly reaches the brink of suffocation as the sequence is shot and re-shot, Yorke yanking the safety release valve each time he can no longer take it.

Radiohead haven’t exactly reached for that safety chain yet, but their behavior since the release of Kid A is starting to look like a cop-out on the scale of a Christo art installation.

Rock Stardom in 2001 is like some bizarro S.P.E.C.T.R.E. experiment gone horribly right. Through manipulation of globalized media, gossip, rumor, and the artist’s own personality/ability (depending on the, er, “talent” of said Rock Star), pop culture domination is achieved by shady characters in mahogany boardrooms (picture Donald Pleasance stroking a cat). Oh, and the Rockstar gets real paid. Through the efforts of operatives with evil moustaches – or Carson Daly – the world’s creativity is siphoned off into holding tanks and replaced with an international pop-culture poultice made out of Jessica Simpson, Aaron Carter, Jon Tesh, and Michael Flatley. Compared to Sumner Redstone, Dr Evil is a little bitch.

And the poor lads in Radiohead are stuck in the middle of this corporate game, like life-size chess pieces with pasty English skin. After the international acclaim garnered by 1997’s OK Computer, the band’s post-rock melodic experiments could no longer be wasted upon the ears of haughty record store clerks and people who wear shiny fabric. Radiohead’s success – like it or not – had made them a commodity. Sure, a skinny, strange commodity with odd traits and strong followings in far-flung locales. But a commodity nonetheless. To the ENCOM-like Capitol Records, Radiohead had become bauxite.

Even though you gnash your teeth each time Fred Durst appears on television, treading water in the Grotto with 14 Playmates fanning him with palm fronds, you forgive the son of a bitch because he’s a Rock Star and it’s part of the game. Hef’s Grotto is a destination of Rock Stars; it’s a rite of passage that occurs when The Man’s dealings have achieved the desired effect (i.e. worldwide cultural acceptance). Now here’s the bombshell: Radiohead has never visited the Grotto. They’ve never thrown TVs from windows. In fact, in Meeting People Is Easy‘s 90 minutes, Our Pals spend most of their time looking forlorn and fretting about how lonely they are (meanwhile outside the hotel, yowling pre-teen Japanese girls pile up like chickens in a factory farm). Is this the life of a Post-Modern Rock Star?

Oh no. that was just the beginning. Only after the buzz for Kid A began did it begin to seem like the band had become too post-modern for its own forlorn good. Absurdly confusing websites written in bizarre languages. Scanty tour information. And shifty rumors that Kid A was – uh oh – a “concept album.” Indeed, the album’s icy, angular tunes distill Radiohead’s essence down to its most base form; they demand a patient ear. It would seem that Yorke and his fellow fame-sufferers had hit the panic button in the wake of OK Computer, pulling the safety valve to release the water in their diving helmets. Kid A’s minimalism would return them safely to the folds of psuedo-intellectual music listeners everywhere…

A self satisfied Thom Yorke to Capitol Records’ evil henchman Sark: “Do you expect me to rock?”

“No, Mr Yorke! We expect you to be popular!” (Maniacal laughter ensues…)

Capitol’s Master Control Program of a marketing blitz that propelled Kid A to a Grammy nomination was pure evil genius. Here was a dark, unhappy collection of songs that would devour Billy Gilman’s brains in one sitting, and yet the record debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The critical acclaim (Entertainment Weekly: “A+!”) was deafening. Kid A was so popular, Brian Eno was seen sitting in the Grotto next to Fred Durst. You could almost hear Thom Yorke screaming in intellectual pain. All of his efforts to disassociate himself from the pain of Rock Stardom, all of his band’s strides to create music that emulated the harsh glare of florescent pod lights, and what does he get? An F’ing Grammy nomination! Bollocks!

I have not yet heard Amnesiac. But given that the songs were recorded during the Kid A sessions, I’m pretty sure it’s not an uplifting collection of ska-inflected soul grooves. But enough about the music. The point here is not to accuse Radiohead of being musicians with a brain. On the contrary, their artistry challenges a listener willing enough to accept it. What they need to realize though is that being post-modern, or post-rock, or just plain avant-garde (and doing it for real, not as part of the act) in today’s global pop culture economy is pretty much impossible. Their commodity status was proved after Capitol successfully marketed their dropout attempt of last year. It will be interesting to watch Yorke and his mates’ reaction to the marketing blitz behind Amnesiac.

Is it post-modern for a Post-Rock Star to receive an on-camera massage by three Playmates? If I was Thom Yorke, I’d look into that.



On Saturday night, in row L-VV, two very different worlds collided. From the feathered top of his luxurious mullet to the silver tips of his black leather boots, the sullen, shifty-eyed roughneck in seat 75 had nothing in common with his fellow concert-goer in the next chair. In seat 76 sat a Graham Coxon lookalike nattily attired in Ben Sherman threads and a purple anorak. As he withdrew a fancy cigarette case from the folds of his corduroys, the fact that his body weight represented roughly the right leg of the hockey-hair’d yeti sitting next to him didn’t seem to fluster the brit-pop dandy. Just as nonchalantly, the resident of 75 lifted the hem of his long-sleeved Dio shirt (from the Majica Tour 2000. Who knew?), drawing from his acid-washed pocket a crumpled pack of smokes. And with a flick of his Zippo, he lit up a slightly bent Winston. Just then, bizarro Jarvis Cocker was in a funk. His Dunhill stuck unlit from the corner of his mouth. As he felt his pockets, a gruff voice next to him breathed hot cheese-fry breath in his ear.

“Hey man, you need a light?”

Such was the scene Saturday night as Oasis and the Black Crowes rolled into Detroit’s DTE Energy Music Theatre for a night of the rock. The “Tour of Brotherly Love” had been predicated upon the infamous petulance of each band’s sibling nucleus – the close-fitted Liam and Noel Gallagher uniting in denim with the bell-bottoms of Chris and young Rich Robinson. As their respective sets proved, both bands and all four brothers came to rock, not pout. But what was perhaps not predicted beforehand were the hundreds of unlikely meetings in the pavilion and out on the hill. Legions of hi-fiving Camaro rockers sharing close quarters with fancyboys in pegged jeans and caeser-cuts.

The bland glitter rock of Spacehog opened the show. These morons in oversized 70s aviators don’t wear their influences on their sleeve – they stole their influences’ shirt. When vocalist Royston Langdon’s tiresome yowl was mercifully silenced, it was not clear whether the band’s Bowie’d out histrionics had done anything other than remind people that Spacehog’s shining moment – their 1996 single “In The Meantime” – still sucks. But soon enough, the simple black Oasis banner dropped, and a hokey, country-fried “Strawberry Fields” instrumental led the lads onstage. The intro was an interesting choice. The brothers Gallagher didn’t make it clear whether they were pulling one over on their Midwestern crowd, adding in a banjo over the rhythms of their beloved Beatles. Were they trying to get hip to the Crowes’ southern harmony? Who knows. At any rate, no banjos, free-jams or gospel preaching were present in Oasis’ muscular set of rockers. Choosing to focus on their more aggressive material (“What’s The Story (Morning Glory)”; “Acquiesce”) was a good plan. Many mullets shook to the sounds of Noel’s clean Les Paul solos. And Liam was up to his old tricks, at once taunting and energizing the crowd with his snidely stoic stage persona. But for a few “cheers” here and there, the brothers were silent. However, in prawpa roight fooking roughkskstah fashion, Noel did find time to dedicate one of his own songs to himself. For the Man U set with Union Jacks unfurled, the band’s set was a real gem. Besides opener “Go Let It Out” and the atmospheric “Gas Panic!,” the entire hour was taken up by older material. In perhaps another nod to their touring partners, the end of Oasis’ signature “Cigarettes & Alcohol” morphed into Jimmy Page’s towering riff from “Whole Lotta Love.” 40,000 britpoppers and AC/DC rockers pumped their fists in unison.

Despite their continued international dominance, Oasis has seen a steady decline in US album sales since their “Wonderwall” salad days. While 1997’s Be Here Now was critically panned everywhere, last year’s Standing on the Shoulder of Giants was a much stronger album, and helped the boys reclaim some domestic street cred. However, they seem to have settled with their established US audience of brit-rock freaks and the occasional shmoopy couple whose special song is “Wonderwall.” The Black Crowes have followed a similar path. After the heady success of 1990’s Shake Your Money Maker, the Crowes moved away from the muddy Rolling Stones vibe that made that album great, eventually drifting into a Southern-style jam band complete with organ and gospel backup singers. Like Oasis, their LPs have seen steady sales within their fan base, but with a twist. Since Chris Robinson, et al are really the only band out there consistently blending weed, distortion, and classic-rock jamming into a marketable stew, they attract a cross-section of the American population that likes its Coors Light cold and back of its neck warm. So the Tour of Brotherly Love isn’t that bad of an idea after all, from a demographic standpoint, even if it makes the crowd mix a little funny. Case in point. A middle-aged couple in flannels and Zubaz were overheard as they waited for beer. She had never even heard of Oasis, and theorized that Liam Gallagher was gay because he played the tambourine (?). Her husband shuffled his feet, shrugged and said “I liked the beat. They rocked.”

And back in row L-VV, the blue smoke from Winstons and Dunhills mixed in the air as the Marshall Stacks blared. Perhaps no new friends were made, but at least everyone had Rock and Roll in common. And that ain’t Hard to Handle at all.


Songs for Big Dame Hunters

Since I’ve already gotten into a knockdown dragout discussion of the essential integrity of vinyl records with Phil Wise and Jake Brown of the crew, I know this little posting culled from the linkmastas at will be of interest to at least two of our frequent readers. One of the points made while the boys had me on the floor in a sleeper hold was that LPs are worth collecting just for the cover art. If that’s the case, then Show and Tell Music ( has made having a large and weird record collection that much easier. All you have to do is link to it! Will of Show and Tell has a gallery of all the wildest covers in his record collection arranged by general subject area, and even the most cursory browse through some of the covers will reveal some forgotten gems of the thrift store bins. Will also includes commentary about each album on display, including whether or not the album between the sleeve is any good, which is not always the most important consideration when you’re talking about Evel Knievel’s spoken word album, or Laussmann’s Lousy Loggers Band, or The Plastic Cow Goes Moooooog. If you don’t have time to browse endless thumbnails (a little too tiny for my taste), take one of the theme tours — some of the covers in the Girls section could easily replace Herp Alpert in my Desert Island Discs.

Glorious Noise Reader Feedback

Recent visitors to Glorious Noise might have noticed that if they click on the “Discuss” link at the bottom of a post, they’ve been getting nowhere for the past couple of weeks. I apologize for that. The interactivity is what makes this fun and interesting.

I implemented a new, temporary commenting system tonight. The only reason I bring this up instead of leaving it behind the scenes where this sort of technical update belongs is that the new system has pop up ads. As dreadful as they are, we’re going to have to put up with them until our old commenting system comes back to life or our gracious webhost installs a particular scripting application. The pop ups are the annoying cost of an otherwise free webhost that allows PHP scripting. Believe me, they bug me as much as anybody so I will get rid of them as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the old comments are not available under this new system, but I will attempt to restore them as soon as the old system is resurrected enough to do so. Thanks for your patience.


The sign outside the festival makes it seem so simple: DETROIT TECHNO.

Inside the first tent, an ecstatic club kid flails about as a wall-projected corporate logo swirls behind him and the DJ’s vibe emanates from the hatchbacks of two loc’d out economy cars. As the beats crescendo, smoke fills the tent, making it difficult for the users at the Be Your Own DJ kiosk to see the miniature turntables on their monitors. Evidently the spinning corporate oval feels the music, too. It begins to morph between its corporate identity and that of an amorpous color wheel which splays reds, browns, and jarring yellows across the skinny frame of the raver busting his nouveau running man before it. Welcome to the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival, sponsored by Ford. Counterculture meets corporate culture in the streets of the Motor City, and the beats echo through empty buildings.

The sins of Detroit have entered the vernacular. The automotive corporations still call the city home. But the decrepit outnumber the vital buildings in an aging downtown that can only whistle with the ghosts of its boomtown past. There is life here. The city burns with a sense of urban cool that seems borne from its hardscrabble existence. Unfortunately, sometimes it just plain burns. Despite a recent downtown resurgence of sports teams and theatre districts, despite the city’s proud subculture of punks, pimpdaddys and DJs, it’s D-Town’s cliched and sad downfall that remains its calling card. As if apologizing for the city’s woe, the sad, deserted visage of the 88-year-old Michigan Central Train Depot greets highway visitors with empty windows and 18 deserted stories of Indiana limestone.

Detroit Techno has always been about imbuing soulless beats with the sunny grooves of Motown’s stable of artists. The electronic music internationally known as the Detroit Techno sound does its best to combine the Motor City’s industrial heart with the soul of its ever-enterprising culture. Motown was a part of this, as was Detroit rock pioneers like the MC5, Iggy Pop, and even Bob Seger. DJs like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Carl Craig are superheroes within the community, having established and developed the music while fiercely protecting its hometown affiliation. The Detroit Electronic Music Festival is derived directly from Detroit Techno’s pride – both for itself and the city it thrives in.

Held over three days Memorial Day weekend in an outdoor plaza shadowed by skyscrapers, DEMF 2001 was a free event showcasing not only local DJ talent, but also an international array of electronic musicians, either influenced by or paying tribute to Detroit Techno. Three stages featured a non-stop onslaught of beats, scratches and grooves, with instant dancefloors happening all over as the rain poured down. Over a million people, mostly kids with something to prove, made the trip downtown to hear the music. Over a million people added a bottom end to the soundwaves reverberating through normally empty downtown streets.

This year’s festival featured a major corporate partner in the Ford Motor Company, on board to promote the Focus, a flashy little thing aimed at the very demographic that was shaking its pants off to DJs on three stages. Ford’s presence was not as overt as it could have been. Backing up the Focus TV campaign, futuristic signage hung about proclaimed ‘DETROIT TECHNO’ over a shot of the car in action. The aforementioned ‘Focus Tent’ featured plenty of smoke, beats, and (surprise!) a few Focus floor models for the Great Unwashed to check out. But for the most part, Ford’s sponsorship, even its siphoning of the DETROIT TECHNO tagline, seemed to be more about supporting a good thing than milking it for sales.

There was a sublime moment in the evening of the second day. As frenetic breakbeats cascaded out from the Motor Lounge stage, the club kid proletariat grooved beneath a giant, windswept American flag. Behind the stars and stripes was the sheer limestone wall of the (soon to be demolished) Ford Amphitheater, upon which a flickering hologram projected itself, larger than life. The spiraling image shifted from the blue Ford oval to a rainbow color strobe to a drivetrain schematic to a Blade Runner-esque florescent cityscape image and back to the spinning blue corporate logo. It was as if Ford could feel itself mixing with the kids dancing below, shape-shifting between its 9-5 identity and the freewheeling rainbow of color that signified the DEMF’s never-ending groove. Finally, just beyond the amphitheater, the neck of a great steel crane jutted out, silhouetted against the night sky. As the beats and sounds of two stages met and mixed in the airstream, all of the faces of Detroit co-mingled in a single image of pure potential.

And the people danced.


The Song Remains the Same

Is a band’s most popular song ever its best?

For some people, the question really is no question, as they suggest with more than a little heat that the answer is obvious: Yes. A friend is unwavering in his insistence that Led Zepplin’s best song from all aspects is “Stairway to Heaven,” which is undoubtedly its most popular. Even though that prom-schmaltz is derided and other examples of better Zepplin tunes are provided (e.g., a song that has much the same structure as “Stairway”: “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”), he stands unmoved. Indeed, he digs in his heels.

While many of us come down on the negative side of the question—perhaps exhibiting a crypto-elitism that may be unbecoming—and could spend plenty of time citing better B-sides (now proverbial B-sides, as 45s are only in the bins of used record shops and so that notion is essentially behind us), perhaps the answer really is yes, but not for the reason that my Zep-loving friend thinks.

It might seem as though the most popular song would be the one that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Consequently, there is a bigger group on the top side to be appealed to. Because of the breadth of the possible appeal, we quickly assess that it must, perforce, be bland. However, as I am writing this, I am on an NWA airplane on which the video entertainment includes a documentary titled “Elvis Remembered.” Presley, certainly, appeals to a diverse group of people, social classes, levels of education, wealth, and even age notwithstanding. There are those who write for GloNo who think he is certainly the King. There are those for whom “Soap Opera Digest” is War and Peace who share the same belief.

The ability to cut across such a wide space is undoubtedly an indicator of an unusual degree of talent. Consider, for the sake of argument, that there was a performer named “Melvis.” Further, that his career had the identical time span of Elvis’s. Let’s assume that from the points of view of both talent and proficiency, Melvis was a better musician than Elvis. But Melvis was appreciated only by the cultural cognoscenti. They applauded his recorded and live performances in journals that have an annual circulation measured in three digits. Not only did Melvis not appear on “Sullivan,” because of the timing of his career, there weren’t even cable-access channels.

Who, then, is better: Elvis or Melvis? Elvis is (was) undoubtedly more popular. Even if Melvis actually existed, he would barely exist in the public consciousness and would therefore be essentially irrelevant.

Although it might seem easier to appeal to the masses than it is to collect the laurels from the learned few, the opposite is more likely the case. A subset of individuals (i.e., the few) is related by a common idea, notion, worldview, what have you. It is merely a matter of identifying what that something is, then fashioning a congruent object. It’s like Cinderella’s glass slipper: there are plenty of women with feet, but the Prince was only interested in one pair. Fitting narrow limits can be easier than dealing with wide boundaries.

Consider the inherent difficulty of creating not merely something that’s one-size-fits-all (which tends to be a situation wherein there is an inverse relation between breadth and suitability to any given individual) but something with mass and individual appeal. That is undoubtedly a sign that whatever it is that can do that must be able to rise above other objects in the same class: Elvis, unquestionably, trumps Melvis.

And “Stairway to Heaven” really must be Zepplin’s best song.

But I still don’t like it.

Rock and roll can change your life.

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