Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SPAZ SPEAKS: Music is NOT Wallpaper!

I, too, am guilty of this evil in which I speak of....

There are times when certain songs become so overplayed, so ingrained in your psyche, that you begin to not notice them anymore.  Whether they come up over the loud system in a store or perhaps in your iTunes shuffle, on your tape deck, in a record store, whatever....these songs, which used to give you goosebumps, become nothing more than part of the scenery, not unlike wallpaper.  I mean, it's there, but you don't really notice it anymore...almost like it's NOT there.

I mean, how many times have you cranked up the radio when "Yesterday" by The Beatles comes on?  Maybe once since 1987? 

How many times have you stopped dead in your tracks just to listen to the majesty of Zepp's "Stairway To Heaven"? Well, apart from your kid brother playing the opening riff over and over when he first got his guitar.... (which makes me wonder: has that simplistic opening riff to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" replaced "Stairway To Heaven" as the song that beginners want to learn first? I certainly hope not...)

Do you even notice Mick Jagger's backing vocals on Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" anymore? What, you didn't ever notice them before?

After awhile, just like anything else, we take music and entertainment for granted. It fades into the background and we just stop noticing.  I don't think we ever stop caring about it.... its just sort of there.  Not unlike a cat.  What, your forgot you had a cat, too?

How is it that we lose those feelings for something that once made us feel so alive?  And once lost, can we find that feeling again?  Thankfully, I believe that we can. All it takes is for us to try to revisit the moment we first heard a particular song... the moment it slipped right down into the soul and took root....

For example, about 10 years ago, A Flock Of Seagulls' "I Ran" came on the radio.  Normally, I admit that I would have just turned it off because I've heard it so many times. And to be honest, it was strange that I was listening to the radio in the first place because I always have a plethora of new stuff to listen to or CD-R mixes that I make myself...

But anyway, I was about to turn off the car and head into Target or wherever I was going. But then I heard that guitar riff.  I've heard those guitar riffs so many times, I almost forgot they were there.... but they leaped out at me right away.  I paused and thought back to the time that I first bought that album at Licorice Pizza so many years ago.  I remember first hearing that track when I threw the album on, before radio picked up on it and played it to death.  I think I had heard it once or twice on KROQ, but when I played the album for the first time, it was really when I fell in love with the track...  My memories took me back to that first time, the excitement of hearing something NEW.
Then, suddenly, that song clicked again with me.  It had been 20 years or so since I listened to it from beginning to end, but for the first time in ages, I wanted to hear it again!  I finished my shopping and rushed home and threw it on the CD player.  I probably listened to it five more times that day. I'm glad to say that I still love hearing it today.... I still hate the video, though!

A more recent example would be Squeeze's 'Someone Else's Heart", which is from the East Side Story album, one of my favorite albums of all time.  Now, I never stopped loving this track, but it became just another song that played on the iPod that became a part of the background... something that didn't leap out and kick me in the head when I heard it....

Just the other day, it was on an '80s mp3 comp I was playing in my car.  It came on and I almost skipped it to see what was next, but I decided to let it play.  Then, I began to remember just what an exciting time it was for me when this album came out.  And I remembered how cool it was to hear Chris Difford actually singing instead of croaking his way through the song (as he did on previous albums... the song "Cool For Cats" is a great example)... and suddenly, I was totally digging the track again!  I played it once more before I arrived at work to begin my day...

There are other examples, but I won't bore you with them.  What I'm trying to say, though, is that music makes up the soundtrack of your life and you have to stay connected to it in order to make it mean something years down the line.  As I have proven, I am guilty of this as well, but I also spend enormous amounts of time reconnecting with it all, over and over again.  Sometimes, I lose the plot.  Other times, I still get those goosebumps decades later.  But the important thing is that I am at peace with music, whether it's Pilot's "Magic", Spandau Ballet's "True", Buddy Holly's "Raining In My Heart", Elvis' "Suspicious Minds", The Fixx's "Saved By Zero", Paul McCartney's "My Love", George McRea's "Rock Your Baby" or the two aforementioned examples.

So, stop looking at music as wallpaper, as something that is 'there' and let it sink back into the places it used to inhabit so many years ago.  Get in touch with that music lover inside of you, pull out those old records, tapes, CDs or mp3s and throw yourself a party.

Music matters.

Peace, love and pancakes,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee


The Time Machine said...

Completely understand where you are coming from. Very well written. The problem that faces the industry that I work in, radio, is the same thing. I know that we are wallpaper for the most part. There are those moments when someone lets you know that they enjoyed a song that was played last week or thank us for an interviewing a particular artist, but overall it's pretty much understood that we're audio wallpaper for the audience and that device that used to keep radio listeners company as it did so well in the last century.

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