February 25, 2021
A 30-something asked me the other day if I liked the music of Nirvana, the short-lived band that released the much-fawned-over “Nevermind” album shortly before their front man killed himself. When I admitted to not knowing much about the band, he played me a couple of cuts. I’m assuming he chose songs he thought were among their best.
Ugh. I mean, the songs were not awful, but they were forgettable. Grunge guitars and incoherent lyrics. Neil Young has done far better grunge. So did The Beatles, the Stones, and The Kinks. I must admit, I have hoped for at least twenty years to find a band that is as remarkably fresh as the stuff I listened to from age nine – when I first began to understand the meaning of the term rock ‘n’ roll – on through the first few years of the ‘70s, when popular music began its ongoing decline.
I mean, Green Day is okay, but I’ve never heard them do anything original. Nirvana, Green Day, Bruno Mars, all they do is recycle ideas from bands that, for the most part, began making music in the ‘50s and ‘60s. No, not the snoremeisters of the Dead. I’m talking about Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Four Seasons, The Fab Four, the Stones, Kinks, Airplane, Hendrix, and Zeppelin. Oh my gosh! Zeppelin! No one has ever done anything more creative than Zeppelin! Robert Plant is simply the greatest rock singer of all time. He’s even better than Elvis because Elvis did a nose-dive when he came back from his stint in the army, albeit “Suspicious Minds” did harken back to his prime. For evidence of the truth of what I’m saying, consider that the best album The Black Crowes ever did was “Live at the Greek,” where they worked with Jimmy Page to recreate Zeppelin’s greatest hits.
My wife of fifty-two years, Willie, and I often remark on how fortunate we were to grow up with the music that was being made back then. What band today is better than Creedence? None. Even a one-hit wonder like Tommy TuTone was far better than anything going today. Listen to “Jenny, Jenny” if you don’t believe me. Listen to the guitar break! Listen to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s “The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw.”
The only people still making fine music are the old guys. Buddy Guy, for example. He just keeps on putting out great Chi-Town blues. How old is Buddy? Eighty? At least. He still smokes the axe.
“How about ‘80s and ‘90s bands like Fleetwood Mac, Johnny boy?”
See what I mean? Fleetwood Mac began as a British blues band in the ‘60s, featuring Peter Green on guitar. Greeny wrote “Black Magic Woman” for Pete’s sake! He wrote “Rattlesnake Shake”! The Fleetwood Mac of the post-1960s is a pale imitation of the original. If you can find it, listen to Christine Perfect’s (later, Christine McVie, keyboardist for the second incarnation of Fleetwood) version of “I’d Rather Go Blind.” THAT is soul music! And speaking of which, who, today, is rivaling Smokey and the Miracles or Wilson Pickett or Otis or Al Green or Marvin? No one!
Willie and I grew up in an absolutely amazing musical climate, which is why, when I’m working out, I listen to nothing but the music of our yute. I mean, just try listening to “Rag Doll” without moving your body. Try listening to “Tracks of My Tears” or “Don’t Worry Baby” without thinking “genius.”
Come to think of it, I’ve failed to mention that Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys are one of the most underappreciated bands of all time. Check out “Sail On, Sailor” or “’Til I Die.” I sat five feet from Carl at the Beach Boy’s concert in Quincy, Illinois, in 1972. They played in front of maybe fifteen musicians, including several from South Africa. Oh…my…gosh! The rhythms!
Sorry, but after that concert, Nirvana just doesn’t move me.
Copyright 2021, John K. Rosemond