Thursday, March 01, 2007

Summer of 69: The lower-middlebrow's musical journey

It started with this polka dotted writeup from the pinstriped gentleman. Fairly and embarrassingly accurate, I must say.

So, I was left with no choice but to write about the lower-middlebrow's musical journey.

To start with the difference between the highbrows, and lower-middlebrows comes right at birth. The highbrows have parents who listen to Beatles and Ventures, and own an LP player. The lower middlebrow music listener, on the other hand, grew up to Old Hindi Songs recorded on tapes and reading the books the house was flooded with. Old books, Old tapes. If the tape got fungus, he just had to put it in the deep freezer and it would be fixed for a couple of plays till he recorded it to an empty tape. For everything else, there was the highly rationed Chitrahaar and Aakashvani ka panchrangi karyakram where Chunnu, Munnu, Pinki and their Mummy-Papa from Jhumritallaiyya would put in their requests.

The highbrows grow up and are able to appreciate Jazz. The lower middlebrow tries too hard to keep up. But you can't deny he has taste. You name a band, you will find him getting frantic, till he listens to it, and forms an opinion.

The first English Songs that played on his tape player was called "Best of 9x" containing - Lemon Tree, Happy Nation, Scatman and I'm blue-da-ba-dee-da-ba. The tape looped till he got bored of the songs.

The true musical journey, in my opinion, started when MTV took over lives. It started with with the Brian Adams. The Canadian crooner apart from starting the deluge of Concerts which made DNA networks rich, had won the hearts of millions of girls who would swoon all teary eyed, at his phlegmatic rendition of "Please Forgive me". (As for the show, it was a terrible by all counts, for everyone except that girl who managed to get on stage). There were others too enjoying varying degrees of adulation- Messers MLTR, Boyzone, and Backstreet Boys. Some girls and guys stuck on. Others, you, me, moved on...

To college. As you tried to explore further, you realized that songs by blond pre-pubescent boys wasn't what cool people listened to. Embarrassed by your vern origins, you tried to keep up. It is a very sad state of affairs: you listen to the popular songs, and are stuck with the best songs of every artist. You acquired Nirvana. Smells like teen spirit. And Floyd. How I wish you were here. And Metallica. Nothing else matters. Hotel California, Sultans of Swing, Light my fire, Brick in the wall, Cats in the cradle, Tears in heaven, Wonderwall and every band members dedication to his erstwhile girlfriend - Sweet child of mine. Every Paul, John, George and Ringo knew these songs forward and backwards, and you head banged in a cliched I-am-the-rebel unison with a vengeance.

Tapes were passe, CDs unaffordable and hence Mp3s became the prized possessions, and took up much of disk space and lives. Those who ran out of space, begged the owners of CD writers to burn some for them. I still suffer from severe reluctance to delete any Mp3s. The bulk of these added the much needed diversity and dilution. In those days, people then were always gifting Mp3 Cds, with printouts of lyrics for added measure. The girl you like broke up with her boyfriend? "Wasted time", it is.

The college band was a great influence. They taught you how to pull your nose up at boy bands. They taught you that Smoke on the water riff. Those musical elites with nimble fingers would actually know the names of all the band members in Dream theater, while you stared in wide-eyed amazement at these people who memorized every little detail about the "Who's who of music", and still carried backlogs of papers over semesters.

Eventually, college gave way to work. Slowly you moved on, and had money to acquire CDs and listen to them in your private space, or on your iPod. And this was when the true Nirvana happened, when you broke out and discovered what you really like, and were not afraid to admit it. For a while you stick to the same artists whose "best" songs you liked- but you still find the Romeo and Juliet, Mustang Sally, The End, Take it easy and Morning Glory much better. These songs grow on you. You grow with them. You delve deeper into the lyrics. Realize that some of your old favourites are covers. As you get more confident and experimental, you discover artists from long before yesteryears: Tull, Janis, Joni, Dylan, Stones, CCR and more. You even listen to Hendrix. (though I still don't understand the hype around the momentous guitar burning at Monterey - that was mediocre at best)

The nice thing about this point of time of your journey, is you don't feel the need to conform anymore. You settle for your own favourites, a list of 10, maybe 15 songs and feel very unapologetic about your likes, and tolerant about others' likes. And you don't aspire for more. The end, my friend, the very end.

This year I got an LP player.

PS: The title of this post comes from the analogy I put in the comment box of the aforementioned post, during that rare burst of creativity: the musical journey of lower middlebrows starts with Summer of 69 by Brian Adams, and pitches its tent at Yasgur's farm in the summer of 69 at Woodstock. No?

Links to this post:
Desipundit--The lower-middlebrow’s musical journey

Ginsoaked: Summer of '69


Ga-Joob said...

"delete MP3s"... woman, are you mad?!? :D

Sweet post, defining and revealing... of vast truths previously ignored.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.

Gauravonomics said...

"The difference between the highbrows, and lower-middlebrows comes right at birth." Heh!

I'm forever consigned to the lowbrow hell then. :D

Mo said...

@ga-joob: you are a highbrow, you should know. We lesser mortals depend on all the gyaan given by the likes of you.

@anon: thankies.

@gauravonomics: lowbrow you are not, and you know it. Fishing for compliments, are we?

Ga-Joob said...

hey! i resent that... its not like most of what i got, i got from standing on the shoulders of giants... that was newton... unless he stood on meter's square shoulders... then he would be pascal.
However... i sense the sarcasm in your reply, and i turn my back in annoyance, brandishing shiny samurai-sword.... swish...swish-swish!

also, the word verification sytem is annoying... TRES!!

Anirudh said...

An enjoyable post, this.

Mo said...

@Ga-joob, well, that was a compliment. So, you can stop brandishing the sword.

And there were too many bots getting phrendly with me. So, word verification stays.

@Anirudh, thankies. Glad you enjoyed it.

An Ideal Boy said...

Nah!! What about people who listened to Old Hindi songs on a LP?

Mo said...

Those are higher-middlebrows, maybe.
There is only so much that one can generalize.

The Prolific Dyslexic said...

you really bought a LP player?

Mo said...

Yep, I own one now.

Why is it so unbelievable?

日月神教-向左使 said...