Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I was thinking last night, trying to get back to sleep after the garbage trucks woke me, about this documentary I caught part of recently on the Sundance channel about The Who.

Watching it, I realized they were a lot more interesting as artists and creators than I had given them credit for back when. I remembered an argument over them, in fact, with a smart young guy, probably only a few years younger than me but at the time it seemed like a generation, touting The Who as superior to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

I argued passionately and probably too aggressively as I always used to do—and sometimes still do—but he didn’t give an inch and got kind of smirkily superior in his dismissals of my point of view, which drove me crazy. I ended up judging him as a self-righteous little prig, which further influenced me to NOT take The Who as seriously as I might have otherwise been inclined to.

Don’t get me wrong, I dug them, just not like I did “artists” whose creations I instantly fell in love with. But after the documentary, I realized that a lot of what I had argued decades ago with that younger male was invalid. I hadn’t known what I was talking about as it turns out.

What that got me thinking about last night was how some artists’ work—whether music or poetry or paintings or whatever—I fall in love with instantly while others I eventually come to totally dig I initially reject or am suspicious or critical of.

For instance I dug The Rolling Stones from the git go (though with some reservations after that initial impression and some criticisms that have multiplied over the years), but resisted The Beatles initially, until I worked out an early tune of theirs, “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (“ooo wah ooo”) on the piano and realized how original and interesting it was for rock’n’roll at the time (including the Stones).

Anyway, all that led me to attempt another alphabet list of artists whose work it took some time (sometimes only days sometimes years, decades) to get how great they are (and who are now among my all time favorites at what they do):

Ashbery, John and Casey Affleck
Beatles, The, The Beach Boys and Ted Berrigan
Carey, Mariah (not all her songs are great but her voice and how she uses it is)
Dickenson, Emily and James Dean
Eigner, Larry
Fitzgerald, F. Scott and James Fee
Guston, Phillip and Green Day
Hepburn, Katherine
Ives, Charles
Jones, James
Kitaj, R. B.
Laughton, Charles
Motherwell, Robert, Henry Miller, Michael McClure and Elizabeth Murray
Northup, Harry E.
O’Hara, Frank
Presley, Elvis and Prince
Queen (again, not all their songs are great but their approaches to them are, even if only sometimes in an overboard rock-campy way)
Rilke, Rainer Maria
Shaw, Artie and Hubert Selby Jr.
Taylor, Cecil
Violi, Paul
Who, The
X (the band)
Young, Geoffrey
Zukofsky, Louis


JIm said...

It would be novel if you could bring some of that same introspection and openness to your political thoughts.

Ed Baker said...

I've always felt that Charles Laughton was/is the "best" actor of the 20 th century..

what was that early film about he being the town drunk (and brother of the mayor) on some tropical Island

and his version of The Hunchback of N-D ..

and, I think that he made a 'bunch' of Hitchcock 'phlichs'

Ed Baker said...

it was/is The Beachcomber


and through the "magic" of the net...


RJ Eskow said...

I dug the Who from the get-go. I heard that first album and went crazy. I saw them at a Murray the K package show at the Fox Theater -- their first US appearance. They broke their equipment and all us kids went crazy (which for us meant tearing up our programs - yes, there were programs.)

I'm still waiting to 'get' Mariah Carey, though. That kind of singing seems more like calisthenics to me. I dig the emotion in a song. I'm not looking to be dazzled by the gymnastic accomplishments of the performer.

It's always 'me, me, me' with this type of singer. That's why Dolly Parton's original version of "I Will Always Love You" makes me cry, while Whitney Houston's makes me bored -- as talented as she is.

Know what I mean?

Anonymous said...

just masturbate while you are listening... then you
will understand!

no one is responsible for anyone else's understanding OR intelligence.

Lally said...

Yeah, I have to admit, I haven't listened to any Mariah Carey lps or cds, just hear her on the radio or TV and am usually surprised when I like what I'm hearing and then learn it's her. I hear emotion, and power, and amazing control and technique. But initially I dismissed her, and still do on some levels. Not musically though. You know, Oscar Peterson often didn't come across that emotionally, for instance he couldn't hold a candle to the emotionality of Nina Simon's less technically brilliant piano playing. But he knew his ax better than any of the rest of us piano players, and that was enough for my taste whenever I heard him in person or recorded. I'm not saying Carey's singing is on that same level of control and mastery, but it's pretty damn good. Or maybe I just like being contrary sometimes.

RJ Eskow said...

Nah, you're not just being contrary. Mariah C has chops - or "mad skilz," as the 'young people' say. Maybe not Oscar Peterson skilz, but skilz nonetheless.

But if we get started on piano players I could go all day ...

AlamedaTom said...

I love this subject! You may recall, I did a similar take on my blog about two years ago:


My motif was shame at being a know-it-all youngster dismissing greats whom I later learned to love, respect, and totally dig. My subjects in that post (limited to musicians) were:

Louis Armstrong
Lionel Hampton
David Bowie
Steely Dan
James Taylor

In today's world, I'm adding with humble respect:

Emmylou Harris
Dinah Washington
Dion (of "The Belmonts" fame)
Dixie Chicks
Elton John
Frank Sinatra
The Doors