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
Fitzgerald, F. Scott and James Fee
Guston, Phillip and Green Day
Kitaj, R. B.
Motherwell, Robert, Henry Miller, Michael McClure and Elizabeth Murray
Northup, Harry E.
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.
X (the band)