Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Why Oh Why?

OK, here’s a thing. Why do I own LPs by bands that I don’t really like? And, even worse, why did I buy them in the full knowledge that I didn’t really like them?

It must be that there are some bands in life that you just love to hate – and in my case Steely Dan is one of them. The anonymous person that reviewed my book in a local paper condemned me for calling them a ‘slick, bland, middle of the road’ act but frankly, if I have to listen to ‘Do It Again’ one more time, I swear I will commit a crime usually associated with a long prison term with no remission.

Paradoxically, I would be quite happy for ‘Ricki Don’t Lose that Number’ containing, as it does, ‘Skunk’ Baxter’s immaculate guitar solo to sit comfortably in any ‘top’ list you care to name, so how does that work? I’ve never really got to the bottom of this type of relationship. Another is Supertramp. ‘Dreamer’ really irritates me to death, yet I note that ‘Crime of the Century’ still nestles in my vinyl collection, as does ‘Breakfast in America’. For God’s sake, I even went to see Supertramp in concert when I was at Reading University in the mid 1970s and I didn’t really like them then, so why do I own these things?

Is it peer pressure, or something more sinister? If you backed me into a corner and threatened a Chinese Burn, I’d be forced to admit that there are probably two reasons and neither of them are particularly edifying.

First, there is the theory of musical relativity. This states that at any given period in rock history there is no absolute quality, only relative quality, an entirely different kettle of fish. In a period of piss-poor music, like ooh…the mid 1970s, anything that shows a glimmer of invention becomes the bee’s knees by default and my inclination is that Supertramp and Steely Dan fall into this category. I mean, where was the competition?

Second, there is undoubtedly a ‘critical acclaim’ influence whereby a few music hacks sitting in their isolated offices decide to have a bit of fun and agree amongst themselves what the new ‘in’ sound is going to be, publish glowing tributes for months on end and we all follow lest we be branded philistines. Guilty as charged, I’m afraid, which is why I have LPs by both the defendant bands sitting in my collection, m’lud.

In mitigation, I haven’t bought them on CD, honest!


Perplexio said...

I dig both Steely Dan and Supertramp... but with Supertramp I tend to agree with you about Dreamer. It's one of my least favorite Supertramp songs. My favorite Supertramp album was Crisis? What Crisis?!. There were no big hits on it but I found it to be the most consistent from start to finish. Some of Supertramp's albums were somewhat lopsided a few excellent tracks weighed down from a few real clunkers. Crisis? What Crisis?! wasn't like that at all. None of the songs were as good as the best stuff from Crime of the Century or Breakfast in America but none of the songs were as weak as the clunkers on those albums either. Each song was as enjoyable as the previous.

As for Steely Dan, I got into them largely via my favorite band, Toto. A few of the guys in Toto got their start in Steely Dan. Bass player David Hungate & drummer Jeff Porcaro both started out with the Dan. They later met the rest of what would come to be Toto when working together on Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees album.

musicobsessive said...

I seem to remember having 'Crisis' on tape but can't really remember it. Oh dear, what an damning comment!

However, I also like Toto, especially IV. I'm still trying to separate the harmonies on 'Africa'!

Perplexio said...

I saw Toto live once (back in 2006) they put on a fantastic show. I even did a telephone interview with former/current lead singer, Joseph Williams back in 1998. Joseph was their lead singer from 1986-1988 and rejoined the band this past year for a benefit European tour to raise money for bass player Mike Porcaro who was diagnosed with ALS last year. Incidentally Joseph's father is the very famous film score composer John Williams. Incidentally original member and Mike's younger brother, Steve Porcaro, rejoined the band for this tour as well. Jazz bassist, Nathan East is standing in for Mike on the tour.