Thursday, July 9, 2009
Musical dictatorship rules the road
Of all the virulently infectious songs by Abba that grate on me, “Lay All Your Love On Me” is the gratest. Once it gets in my ears, nothing short of a full frontal lobotomy will dislodge it.
There’s so much bad music roaming free in the world that it’s hard not to go through life in a defensive crouch. You hear it in the grocery stores, in the banks, on commercials. It’s nearly impossible to escape.
And now it’s even worming its way into a place that used to be my supreme musical sanctuary, my car.
I’ve never been a car guy, per se. The only things I’ve ever known about motor vehicles is how to drive them and how to wash them -- and I don’t wash ‘em.
To me, the car is simply a costly contraption poorly designed to transport me and a really cool sound system around the countryside. Either alone or with my tunefully tasteful wife, nothing beat a long drive with my iPod, its 7,746 song library and miles of highway out in front.
That all began to change with children. Now, tomorrow we’re taking our daughters to Washington, D.C. (with an overnighter in Hershey) where the great totems of the nation will confuse our oldest daughter into thinking she lives democratically free.
Unfortuntately for her and her sister, the drive down and back will be for them a musical gulag and I will be the kommandant.
In fact, I’ll wager the two will learn more about political science from a 4-hour ride in my car than they ever will at places like the National Archives.
See the 8-year-old, Josie, harbors a quaint notion that our music selections should be purely democratic. She believes each of us should pick four songs from tiny jukebox and pass it on.
But that would lead to anarchy. I’d pick four outstanding and tasteful songs from, say, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Robert Earl Keen or Van Morrison.
Then my wife would pick four dandy ditties from guys like Todd Snider, Joe Ely, The Dixie Chicks and Delbert McClinton.
Then it would be Josie’s turn. She’d pick four from Mamma Mia (maybe one or two from, gadzooks, High School Musical) and tension would ensue.
The baby would shout out things like, “Free Fallin’!” “Hey Jude” and “Mamma Mia!” As you can judge by her wide-ranging choices, her soft young mind’s already being influenced by others. Politically, she’s like a Rush Limbaugh dittohead who so far is incapable of conjuring independent thought.
I might try and show diversity by offering a four-song set from Queen, Elton John, Robert Cray and Suzanne Vega. And she’d pick four more from the four pale Swedes.
I might try and show her how sham democracy can be used to repress rather than liberate. I could make my four selections, “East Broadway Run Down” by Sonny Rollins; “Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Creedence; “Telegraph Road” by Dire Straights; and “Highlands” by Bob Dylan. The four songs clock in at a total of 62 minutes and 16 seconds, a musical total nearly 30 minutes in excess of the 10 saccharine tunes that compose the entire vapid soundtrack for “High School Musical II."
Instead, I think I’ll just give her a lesson on the exalted benefits of living under a benign dictatorship. I alone will select all the songs.
So the girls will get the opportunity to bask in the music of the varied greats like Elvis, Ray Charles, Alan Jackson, Lucinda Williams, The Stones, the Traveling Wilburys and others from what I, the Supreme Ruler, believe constitutes the greatest collection of music assembled in one iPod.
If I were to let an 8-year-old decide what the rest of us are to be subject to then we’d be at the mercy of what is fleetingly popular, but inevitably unhealthy to the overall good.
That kind of thing could lead to us all marching to the tune of instant icons like Sarah Palin or Miley Cyrus.
And I can’t tell which would be worse.