. . . while I lie down on the tracks.
Yesterday I went out of my way to listen to some music. I don’t normally play music anymore as I get sick of hearing it everywhere in the outside world. Korean pop music really sucks, and most Korean people really seem to love it. You’ve probably heard it before or seen it on TV. Music has become a visual experience. I guess some of the singers in the latest Korean “girl bands” are hot, but my wife and I don’t have a TV, so I don’t get to see them. I just hear them, and they imitate musical robots for cash.
Mind, they’re not nearly as bad as the ostensibly male saps who sing Korean ballads. These wimpy pretty boys go so far out of their way to sound vulnerable, you want to crush them underfoot. It reminds me of one of the album titles from National Lampoon’s Sunday Newspaper Parody: Barry Manilow’s Please Squash Me Like a Bug. Also of note: Linda Ronstadt’s Toilet Full of Boyfriends and Barry White’s Fat Enough to Love You (my new theme song).
Life is too short to get familiar with contemporary Korean popular culture. Whatever the medium, it has a slick and vile veneer, whether you’re talking about music, movies, or television shows. Movies advertised on buses depict square-jawed Korean men wielding handguns (fine role models for the youth of today; luckily, at least it remains in the realm of make-believe here, unlike in some countries I know. . .) Television is a celebration of daft and daffy youth, with lots of joyous silliness and Cinderella stories. Since I’ve yet to pick up the language, I don’t know what all the people on TV are laughing about, but they’re certainly having a good time. Lots of over-the-top visual gags and buffoons dressed in drag–as cutting edge as Uncle Miltie (otherwise known as Milton Berle, who was before my time but all the rage back in the ’50’s). Collective self-congratulatory twaddle to the max.
Anyway, now that I’m fifty, I can say I’ve had the honor to hear a lot of good music over the years. I don’t download stuff and mainly only listen to clips on YouTube these days. I hardly even listen to albums anymore. My wife thinks all commercial music is produced by Satan (I’d argue that C.C.M. is), and it’s not worth inciting her wrath by cranking some Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, or Stevie Wonder on the boom box.
So nowadays I mainly just listen to music in my head. I’ve got a great sound system, apart from the tinnitus. And it beats the cacophany of Korean yahoos barking on their smartphones on the subway.
Yesterday I contemplating buying an Allman Brothers disc, as I noticed it had the song “Come and Go Blues” on it, something I hadn’t heard in about forty years. My family used to listen to the eight track of their album Brothers and Sisters while bopping around in a big brown van. I stopped short of purchasing the CD, figuring I probably wouldn’t listen to it more than once anyway.
The store didn’t have anything by the Police, who I used to listen to in high school. They did have some Sting, but I’m not a big fan of his solo work. I know he is. When I got home, I played his song “Fortress Around Your Heart” on YouTube. It’s a beautifully written antiwar song that he performs well. I kind of wish I hadn’t watched the video, though. Sting is so full of himself it’s hard not to become ill while watching him.
He has another fine antiwar song off the same album, Dream of the Blue Turtles, entitled “We Work the Black Seam Together.”
A few other masterpieces from the antiwar front, from a slightly earlier era: XTC’s “This World Over” and “Generals and Majors” (“always seem so unhappy unless they get in a war”); Elvis Costello’s “Shipbuilding” (about the Falklands/Malvinas Islands war; he has another nice song that’s a tribute to Margaret Thatcher, in which he says: “When they finally put you in the ground/I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.” She was clearly beloved by a lot of English people, including other musicians. The English Beat have a song called “Stand Down, Margaret.” “Stand down” has always struck me as a funny expression. “Okay, but how?”) and “Oliver’s Army.”
From Woodstock you have Country Joe and the Fish singing, “And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?/Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn./Next stop is Vietnam./And it’s five, six, seven/Open up the pearly gates./Well, there ain’t no time to wonder why./Whoopie! We’re all gonna die.”
Creedence Clearwater’s rousing anthem “Fortunate Son.”
Or the man who started it all, Tom Lehrer.
“So long, Mom. I’m off to drop the bomb. . . I’ll look for you when the war is over/An hour and a half from now.”
He has another funny antinuclear war song called “We Will All Go Together When We Go.” (“Every Hottentot and every Eskimo*/When the world becomes uranious/It will all be simultaneous.”) (*Pardon the dated politically incorrect ethnic label.)
Although I’m not sure how simultaneous a nuclear war would be. My guess is that our species is getting so messed-up, before long nuclear wars will become the new normal, just like superstorms that wipe out coastal cities as Mother Nature begins to re-assert herself.
Hey, if you can tolerate K-pop, you can get used to anything, right?