THE POWER OF MUSIC
Tuning Fork Magazine - August, 2014
If you haven't been tagged in the Facebook band game yet, know this . . . Nobody will make you change your icon to a giraffe (and what the Hell by the way?) so go ahead and play. It's fun. For the few who haven't seen this game, I'll walk you through it.
Someone sends you the name of a band and you reply:
(Tag your messenger) has sent me this.
MY BAND IS (Your band's name.)
Heard of Them? (Yes/No)
Like Them?: (Yes/No)
Seen Them Live?: (Yes/No)
Favorite Song: (Title)
Favorite Album: (Title)
Here's what to like about the game. You have an opportunity to introduce people to bands they might not already know. Of course, I'm the guy who sends YouTube clips of bands I love to my friends.
First some credentials. I was a DJ at a club in Lawrence, KS in college. This means I spent an inordinate amount of time and money at Exile Records, the used vinyl shop. It was exactly like John Cusack's store in the movie High Fidelity except for Jack Black and Todd Louiso were remotely likable d-bags. The employees at Exile were just d-bags.
I spent several years as Executive Producer of NOISEHEAD, St. Joseph, Missouri's only 30 Minute Alternative Music Video Show. Creating the show generated many friendships and a marriage between two of my show's hosts. Sadly, they have yet to name any of their many many children after me. NOISEHEAD helped me discover a myriad of new bands, some of which became new favorites. I also built a stellar CD collection that my ex-wife would one day carelessly destroy with Dr. Pepper and scratches. I also had the opportunity to meet and interview acts like Radiohead, Matthew Sweet, G. Love & Special Sauce and The Violent Femmes. (Consequently, If anyone says the name Radiohead I'll buy you a beer if I forget to tell you I've met and interviewed them. It was a big deal for me and I can't help myself.)
I'm also the guy who contacts a radio station to complain about their playlist because I hope they will care enough to improve it. Hey Buzz, please play more Alt J, Mumford and Sons, and Chili Peppers every 20 minutes because that's going to make us listen longer . . . Really, it is.
Confession: The real reason I wanted to write this piece was to wax poetic about The Power of Music. Here's a comment I found on YouTube about a Soul Coughing song, "Budah Rubarb Butter". It crystalizes my love of music so much I had to share it. "I love this song so much, I want to dig a hole in it and live there." I noticed, last weekend while in a group of fellow music enthusiasts, (you can call us snobs if you like.) that I've missed having discussions about music. Think about your life and how certain people, some even unknowingly, who have shaped your musical taste. It's a topic few of us take time to ponder.
Here's my list. My best friend in middle school, Wes Kliewer, gave me my first rock album for Christmas. We also spent hours playing guitars and drums in a small practice space in his basement where we suffered permanent hearing loss. Missy Mullinax a crush of mine but I loved her record collection even more. We spent hours in her basement listing to her albums . . . Tom Petty, B-52s, and Elvis Costello. Scott Burch, an upperclassman in my fraternity introduced me to many bands, one of which was my favorite in college, the Police. The Police took me to Reggae music and Sting to Jazz. Thanks, Scott. Tom Wurster - also in my fraternity, had the coolest collection of campy and just plain awful 70s 45s. Such classics as Heart Beat is a Love Beat, Billy Don't Be a Hero and The Night Chicago Died. It's fun to listen to music you've written off as lame but with a sense of humor. Rob Johnson, my roommate in college was my copilot to many live shows at such venues as the Bottleneck and Liberty Hall in Lawrence. Jo Schriok worked at Kief's record store, in Lawrence and had a coveted record collection. By digging through her stacks of LPs, I discovered new bands and saw many of them live at the Bottleneck. Chris Howard, a fellow DJ at the Sanctuary in Lawrence trained me to spin vinyl and taught me what I refer to as "The Howard Technique." He didn't play music FOR people as much as he played it AT people. We made each other laugh by playing a song that would pack the dance floor like Romantics, "What I Like About You" and follow it up with a loud punk rock song by the Dead Kennedys and watch people scatter like cockroaches. Chris would also layout two very different singles and challenge to me select songs that would take the listener from one to the other in a smooth manner. "Get me from Prince to the Clash in three songs." he would say. This was a very interesting exercise that I think about to this day, especially when I hear a DJ playing songs randomly. Amy Hausman, the girl with the coolest mixtapes ever. I promise not to ruin her image with a list of what she's listening to these days. Chad Lebo gave me the idea to create my video show, NOISEHEAD and helped get it off the ground. I also raise a toast to the girls in my life who broke up with me and sent me into a period of darkness where I listened to lyrics, which is usually what I focus on least in a song.
Confession: The real reason I wanted to write this piece was to tell you the following story . . .
Once in an airport, on my way back from a job interview, I met a girl while waiting for my flight back to KC. I think she was a hooker . . . In fact, I'm fairly certain she was a hooker . . . To be clear, a very attractive hooker. Whenever I fly, I have a knack for being chosen to ride shotgun by the prettiest girl on my plane and on this day, the sexy girl with just a little bit too much red lipstick and shiny, vinyl, thigh-high, dark navy blue pirate boots would be my travel companion. I was intrigued by the way she giggled when I asked what she did for a living. (I was being polite at this point.) Sure we flirted a lot but we also talked nonstop about bands and concerts and music all the way to our destination. I'm almost sure when she told me she had "met" U2 that she was talking shop at the time.
The power of music often relates to physical attraction. My roommate in college, Rob, had quite a Chrissie Hynde fixation. (If Chrissie Hynde doesn't ring a bell, Google The Pretenders . . . I'll wait.) When I met the new Tuning Fork photog for the first time, she reminded me so much of Chrissie, I decided I needed to call Rob and have him visit so he could meet her. If I find out that she can handle a guitar properly, I may forget to call Rob and get to know her myself.
Confession: I know the Power of Music because, at the present time, I have a very unlikely song by Maroon 5 stuck in my head. I kid myself and justify it because the cut is a hip acoustic version of one of their hits but secretly, I'm drawn to it because it reminds me of someone I know and the terror she strikes in my heart when I see her headed toward a jukebox with a fistful of dollar bills.
I'm also the guy in an effort to get to know said girl, that sends her 70 songs I like in hopes of generating some sort of connection based on our musical tastes. I think to myself, "If I want her to try my music, I should be willing to peruse the catalog of her favorite band, no matter how sappy they may be. Well, I didn't hate everything about Maroon 5. Mostly the way Adam Levine, their lead singer's vocals are overproduced . . . with those effects usually reserved for Britneys and Jessicas with all looks and no talent. Truth be told, when I discovered their acoustic album I noticed Levine has a fairly nice voice. Oh, he still does a lot of boy band "Yeah Yeahs" and "No Nooooooos" but his voice is solid. Really, I only found one song I can tolerate. Most lyrics in the other songs made me want to shoot myself in the head but the point is, I tried them out.
Now here's the kicker. The file folder I sent with my music has yet to be opened. For those keeping score at home, she hasn't bothered to sample one of my songs and I have Maroon-F-ing-5 stuck in my head. "There's a flower in your hair and I'm a flower in your hair . . ." In the name of God and all that is holy . . . Please . . . Make . . . It . . . Stop!
We laughed as our parents pulled out old 50s and 60s albums as they told us of how the songs magically transported them back in time to their glory days. There was a time when I thought this phenomenon was limited to folks in their age bracket. Still, when I hear certain songs from days gone by myself, all I can think about is walking down Jayhawk Boulevard between classes in college. Trust me, one day this will happen to you, as well.
I know the power of music. The first concert I ever attended was a Cheap Trick show when I was 16. I recently heard the band Eyelit cover "I Want You to Want Me" at Cafe Acoustic, in St. Joseph. I may or may not have choked back a tear, depending on how dark it was and where you were standing at the time.
I know the power of music and I love to discuss and share it with others.
- Chris Fleck