“The ball doesn’t roll for me, and that’s it. I don’t go near the bloody things.”

That’s Roger Daltrey talking. At first I thought he had a whole Clem Snide/”Ed”/new-sport-of-the-21st-century thing going and that the ball in question was a bowling ball. I must confess, however, that the notion had more than a little something to do with a recent experience on the lanes in the basement of a country club that I once tried to sue (long story—and no, I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of, a country club), a country club in which GloNo‘s own Sab sufficiently outraged a group of salesmen that they nearly ganged up on him to kick his ass (but who succumbed to free booze and the discussion of sports instead—but they still remember the night in question). Anyway, about my bowling: If the lane was about four feet shorter, I’d have probably knocked down a few more pins. The ball would travel in an unvaryingly straight vector down the center, only to hook four feet out. Unfortunately, I was teamed with some of the aforementioned salesmen, who were not, to put it mildly, amused by my performance.

No, Daltrey wasn’t talking ten-pins. He was talking about pinball. The venue is Maxim magazine. I’m as big a Who fan as anyone on this site. Yet being male, I’ve got to admit that I would pickup Maxim for issues totally unrelated to deaf, dumb and blind kids. I suspect that I’m not unique in this regard. Yet the Who are out touring—again—so there it is.

As you may have noticed (assuming that you’ve ventured this far), much of this is about me or other GloNo-related folks. Which is the point. You could probably care less whether I am a 300 bowler or have a tendency to drop the ball on my foot.

Isn’t it rather asinine to equate Daltrey with Tommy (despite the end rhyme)?

What is the extent to which we care about the musicians as musicians versus the musicians as individuals (e.g., people who play pinball or bowl or whatever)? I don’t want to go down the road worn down by the bare feet of the New Critics (you may remember them from an English lit class), who said that a poem should be analyzed only to the extent of the words on the page, who held that all other information (e.g., historical context; biographical information) is irrelevant, but dredging up the angles indicated by that quote (and couldn’t we imagine, “So, Mr. Daltrey, how do you feel when you’re on a beach? More real than usual?”) makes me far more sympathetic to that point of view.

The music matters. The performers are incidental. (And in some cases, not incidental, but coincidental.)

Let me tell you about my bowling. . . .

12 thoughts on “Strike”

  1. Taking one approach to all interactions with art is limiting. While it might seem satisfying to decide upon a single philosophy (a “religion”, per se) I don’t think it can really be done. Certainly, it shouldn’t be to decide that performers are incidental. Sure, everything starts with the music, but it surely can’t end there because music is not made in a vacuum by robots (no matter what Radiohead might like to think).There are some artists I like more because of things like politics (Public Enemy), backstory (Jack Logan), looks (the aforementioned Daltrey in the aforementioned Tommy), and a variety of other reasons. Some bands I could care less about anything other than the music (Black Sabbath). And how do you separate the Sex Pistols–a truly terrible band–from the social context within which their music fits? I think our relationship to the music can and should be colored with other factors, when it’s relevant. Daltrey’s pinball skills aren’t, but Daltrey’s upbringing (working class family and all that) are.

  2. Here here, Sabu – I say ‘right on!’I’m still amused to hear things like Daltrey talking about his pinball skills and, well, I dunno – Ringo talking about calamari?

  3. I’m pretty into Ringo talking nonsense in 1980’s “Caveman”. The only caveman you’ve ever heard with a British accent. Still, he’s more believable than the lyrics to Pinball Wizard.

  4. I’m still stunned by the statement “the performers are incidental.” If not for the performers, where’s the music? You can’t have one without the other.And I think the New Critics missed the boat, but assmuming that everything a writer puts on the page reflects his upbringing or background or personal philosophies is a mistake, too. In literature it’s called “fiction” for a reason. It’s made up, and while writers surely draw on life experiences in their work, they can observe enough stuff thas has absolutely nothing to do with them to invent whole worlds. Other writers are almost entirely autobiographical. Similarly, and for example, when Jeff Tweedy sings the last line in “She’s A Jar,” I certainly don’t assume he hits his wife. I’m sure he knows some people do hit their wives, and he has ideas why they might do it, but that’s not him in the song, that’s him singing the song. Yeah?

  5. Jamie: The performers may be incidental because it could be that, oh, Townshend might sing “Pinball Wizard,” and consequently, Daltrey would be irrelevant to the discussion of crazy flipper fingers.Jeff: Does Daltrey’s upbringing make him a better singer? Would he be less good if he’d went to Oxford? Do you tolerate music that you don’t “like” because you know that the people making the music are in some way affiliated with your sociopolitical perspective. If someone were to hear “God Save the Queen” by the Pistols and knew nothing about them, would it be likely that they wouldn’t like the music becase it was, as you put it, “terrible”? If that’s the case, then what’s music got to do with it?

  6. Rock and roll has never been purely about music. It’s attitude and style and class and all kinds of stuff. That’s what make the Flying Burrito Brothers a rock and roll band rather than a country band. Right?

  7. Mac:As I said, “everything starts with the music”. And where it goes from there, whatever other information about the music and its creators that’s ingested along with the music, can certainly affect the listener and their reaction/interaction with it. While Roger wouldn’t be a better or worse singer if he went to Oxford, it probably would have made the dynamic of The Who less interesting. While I don’t listen to music I don’t like (who would?), I enjoy some bands like U2 and The Clash more because of what they stood for when making the music. Furthermore, some music that’s probably less interesting when listened to in a cultural void takes on a greater import because I know the stories behind it (a lot of old country like Hank Sr. comes to mind). Where the Sex Pistols are concerned, I think they were a terrible band. There were hundreds of better punk bands before and after them (many from Detroit). But they happened to get famous. This is not to say that they didn’t make some passable music, but most of it, when stripped of the context (their fame, the importance of punk rock, etc.) sounds like shit. The shock value of a song like “God Save” might be enough to draw someone in to figuring out what the Pistols were all about (it was for me), but the music is second rate.Jake:Nail on the head, homie. And that’s why people still listen to The Sex Pistols–because the MC5 never said fuck on the BBC.

  8. sab: So let me get this straight: You liked U2’s music when they were political in a radical sense but you like U2’s music less when Bono is bumping around with Kofi looking for the release of debt for third world countries? Does this mean that, say, “Under a Blood Red Sky” sounds less good now than it did then–and I emphasize *sound*–?Does all this mean that Jack Kevorkian does better pictures of dead people than your run-of-the-mill Sunday painter?

  9. No, the music sounds the same regardless. But there’s more to music than sounds. There’s more to rock and roll than music. And while Jack’s art isn’t better, it is more interesting because of who he is.

  10. there’s certanly a faction of fans who are there to hear someone say fuck in public. hence the advent of preformance rock ala kiss and the sex pistols. when music becomes second to preformance or message or costumethat’s ok but it ain’t R&R to me. it’s theater or politics. I would be hard pushed to define at what point one becomes the other but my feet know.The Who are a perfect meld. Their antics never exceeded or replace the music.

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