I came to a dark realization last night during a Black Hollie's rehearsal. The band listens to 45's during our breaks from musical sports, exercises in rearranging the already rearranged during which the band members learn that, "as long as you play fast enough no-one will ever question it." Any song writer should seriously consider this tenet when the time calls for Hollywood Gold. Last night's DJ set included "Right On Track" by Breakfast Club, "Broken Wings" by Mister Mister, and "Immanence Front" by The Who to name a few. But it was while listening to "Monkey" by George Michael that I had this dark realization.
Most would probably scoff at the notion of intentionally listening to a George Michael song in the year 2008, especially one that refrains, "Who's that? Don't look back. There's a monkey on your back. Why can't you do it? Why can't you set the monkey free? Do you love the monkey or do you love me?" Why scoff? Is it because "Monkey" is a "bad" song. Is it because George Michael is a fucking asshole? Do I have disgraceful taste? Thoughts such as this went through my head as I realized that Michael's "Monkey" was hitting my musical g-spot in a major way, especially after a couple pulls off of Wiley's mind-bender. I was enjoying the song so much that I went as far as to demonstrate to my bandmates how to properly execute a dance move called the "Roger Rabbit" transitioning into a crossed legged knee-drop spin as a finishing move.
Then, I felt extremely frightened because I didn't know if I truly liked the song that I was apparently enjoying. I felt a severe solipsistic disconnectedness in realizing that whether music is good or bad has absolutely no bearing on how certain songs make one feel because certain songs from one's childhood are so ingrained on one's sub-conscious psychic make-up that it is impossible for one to unlearn that song's melody, lyrics, beat, chorus, or what-have-you. Even though I haven't heard "Monkey" by George Michael or "Broken Wings" by Mister Mister in over ten years I somehow know every nuance that unfolds in these songs. Liking these songs, or whether these songs are good or bad, becomes entirely irrelevant. These fucking songs are IN me and I didn't choose for them to be there.
This very notion is comparable to being born into a religion that you didn't choose to be born into. You learn all the rituals and symbols at such a young and formative age. You eat the cookie, you drink the blood, you don't eat the pork, you don't handle the money or drive in cars once the sun goes down, you face the east every time you pray, you behave in this life so you don't live again in lesser form during the next life, and so on, ad infinitum. But once you are cognizant enough to question whether these rituals, symbols, and roadmaps for negotiating reality are really the right ones for you it's too late to unlearn them even if you conclude that they're wrong for you. Unlearning them thus must become irrelevant. One can choose new symbols and rituals to navigate with but those new symbols only pile up on top of and add to one's psychic make-up as opposed to erasing, reprogramming, and providing one with a clean slate.
The same notion holds true for avid listeners of music. If you loved Noel's "Silent Morning" when it took the Freestyle community by storm in 1987 but now your musical diet consists of a strict regiment of Jimmy Roselli's Saloon Songs one doesn't supplant the other but rather both inter-lock to comprise your musical make-up even if you're trying to front and say you don't think "Silent Morning" is a good song anymore. If in 1988 you wanted to play drums to emulate your hero, Steven "Popcorn" Adler, but in 2008 you model your drumming after a more modern hero like Taylor Hawkins, so much so that you use the same fan settings live on stage to get your hair to blow at the same angle as his, that's OK. Those sentiments can co-exist. There's no need to dismiss "Popcorn" as being a shitty drummer because your tastes and sensibilities have changed and grown. Poor Adler shouldn't be perceived as a skeleton in your closet but rather a key that unlocked certain doors during certain times and places along your musical reality's formation.
We were a confused generation growing up in the 1980's during times when Z100FM, aka the Z-morning Zoo, would broadcast parody songs like "Kill Gaddafi" to make sure that it's listeners were American enough. And then, as children, when we would sing those songs in class our teachers would yell at us telling us we were wrong for singing them. "But Mrs. Allen, a-Scott-y Shannon-y and a-Mr. Leonard-y a-told a-me that a-these-y songsies were OK." So, you tell me who's fault is it that I think "Monkey" by George Michael is an OK song? And, before you ask, YES, that is my grandmother's wig that I'm wearing in the photo.