Houston Calling

One day you’ll find 10 years have gone behind you…

December 10th, 2003 · No Comments

I recently received an email from a close friend who is going to get married in a few months. He recently moved to a faraway city and started a new job, and we haven’t been in touch as much as when we lived in the same town.

In an earlier email I had asked him how the new Travis album was. I wasn’t exactly impressed with the band’s last album so I have been holding out on their newest release. In his response, he mentioned that he just had it playing in the background while driving and chatting with his bride-to-be so he didn’t have the chance to give it a good listen. Understandable. His next statement, however, was not understandable. Well, maybe it was, but it made me both curious and sad.

He said something to the effect that once he got married, he was probably not going to be able to pay much attention to music anymore.

This statement struck me for some reason. My friend is one of the most music-oriented guys I know. We’ve gone to countless concerts together over the years, burned compilations, and made numerous tapes for each other. We’ve spent countless hours listening to and talking about music. He’s much more outspoken about many bands than I am–even puts their stickers on his car, pays for import vinyl bootlegs, and incessantly touts unknown bands to his co-workers whether they are into a particular style of music or not.

This is a man who even endured a Celine Dion concert for a woman (not his bride-to-be, who I assume has better musical taste than that or he wouldn’t be marrying her in the first place–heh!).

This is a man who loves rockabilly, breathes The Clash, and worships the Beastie Boys and BRMC.

This is not a man who would ignore music.

After reading that email, I thought of many of my other friends who have strayed from their love of music. Well, I am sure they still enjoy music when they actually listen to it–another of my close friends probably hasn’t purchased a CD since college and listens to talk radio, for God’s sake. Talk radio! Rush Limbaugh? The man Bill Hicks once said reminded him of some fat guy who likes to get in a bathtub and be peed on by other guys? And I won’t even go into the mind-numbing droning of sports talk, politics, and religion.

It’s so wrong. I’d actually rather him listen to some Clear Channel top 40 “alt rock” station than talk radio and it takes a lot for me to say that.

To each his own, I guess. Right?

Part of me knows that this is part of getting older for some people, and my friend’s comments made me think about how many view the love of music to be childish, immature, or something that you “outgrow” when you have kids–or get married. Even in movies it has been portrayed in the same manner. Phoebe Cates‘ character Linda, in the movie “Fast Times At Ridgemont High,” for example, talks about how childish it is for guys to be into music. Musicians are almost always portrayed in films as immature outcasts whose only care is their next fix of sex or drugs.

I run an email music list, maybe 55 members strong at this point. Only one person has ever asked to be taken off of it, and he pretty much was close-minded about music and never ventured past The Beatles and early James Taylor. But, of the 50-plus members, only a handful ever respond. Which is fine. I know some lurk and find good albums to go out and buy from our lists, and some of the members email me directly letting me know about a band they heard of or asking me what a particular band sounds like. We trade CD compilations and discuss up-and-coming musicians on occasion.

What I wonder is if the rest just don’t care anymore. Many are in their early- to mid-30’s, have families, and maybe want to take the time to find out about new music. Maybe for them, nothing past The Joshua Tree is worth a listen.

“Grunge” was too confusing, loud, and angry for a lot of people–and many people I know seem to have abandoned music at that time. Why do you think 80’s radio stations are all the rage? I firmly believe that the song “Word Up” by Cameo is the reason you hear about job shootings–the guy in the office next to mine is an 80’s music fanatic (I believe I mentioned him in an early Houston Calling column). His subwoofer constantly blares out some god awful Top 40 80’s tune. Would it hurt him to listen to decent 80’s music? But that’s the point here–he hasn’t progressed past what he listened to in high school basically. The music of today frightens him, much like it does Abe Simpson.

With grunge, many people were turned off by the sounds, the hair, the flannel, the drugs, the fans, or I don’t know what. And what about Woodstock ’99? Riots? Fires? Rape? That doesn’t sit well with mainstream America. Many people simply stopped listening. Sure, from time-to-time they might break out a copy of The Eagles Greatest Hits or some other album everyone liked in 1993, but c’mon, there have been tons of great bands that have come out in the past ten years. And it saddens me to think that people would consciously choose to give up discovering some new musician or band that could bring them (and maybe their spouses for that matter) happiness and hours of listening pleasure.

Sure, maybe getting married and having a child means you can’t go out and see bands as often. And you shouldn’t. You should be at home raising your kid. But it doesn’t mean you ignore every show that comes to town, or that you stop buying CDs or even listening to music altogether because all you hear at home is Elmo’s maniacal laugh and the sounds of another soiled diaper.

Isn’t that more of a reason to stay into music?

There is so much good music out there we’ve never even heard. Think of the bands you know and enjoy in your hometown. Now think that all over the world there are bands that no one outside of that burg has heard of–for whatever reason, some valid, some not. With the Internet, more and more people are able to get exposure to these bands. I could spend days just writing about (and listening to) bands from Chicago. Or Columbus, for that matter. And I’ve never even been to Columbus.

When I go out in Houston and hear a band I have never heard before, I get excited that I’ll have other chances to see the band play again–hopefully before they make it big and leave the city.

I have learned so much more about music in the past ten or so years than I knew when I was a young clueless punk who thought that Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead were hard rock bands. I’ve discovered jazz and the blues (thanks to who? My wife, that’s who). I’ve discovered indie rock acts, great bands I missed in the 80’s, and numerous bands from the classic rock era. And that’s not to mention local bands from around the country.

And I hope that in the next ten years, my appreciation for music grows as much as it has over the past ten years. I hope it does for my friend as well.

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Tags: Music