Thursday, September 10, 2015

A little musical interlude

I have been working on a post about the categories that songs fit into. Well, it has turned into a series of posts. I have developed a number of broad categories, almost all of which contain subcategories. I would appreciate any input from readers on categories I may have missed, but this is what I have so far:

1) Hit That Thang. This is about 3/4s of all popular music ever if you count all the subcategories. Believe me, you'll see.

B) The World Is Fucked Up. Think anti-war songs, but not just those.

III) Dude, Let's Party.

d) Band Origin. These are mostly awful. Or are they?

v) Power of Music Songs. These are usually even worse than Band Origin Songs.

6) Job Songs. Many of these are country songs, but many are not. Numerous subcategories with significant crossover with Hit That Thang and Dude, Let's Party songs.

I thought I would open the series with one of the easy categories:  Band Origin songs. I think this is a pretty narrow category. These are a little uncommon, but I'm not exactly sure if they are rare. I am aware of only three, really, and two are really good ones. But I feel like the genre has to be bad. Take something along the lines of "Creeque Alley," which is The Mamas and The Papas' version of the origin song. It is execrable. The definition I just linked to does not mention the alternate definition, "something I crapped out after a three-day drunk," but it should. Doubt me? Then check out The Mamas and The Papas:

This song is so  self-referential and full of inside information that it almost inevitably comes off as obnoxious in an "I know something you don't know" kind of way.

But there are great band origin songs, too. Bruce Springsteen, back when he was just getting his groove, recorded "10th Avenue Freezeout," a sort-of origin song that relied on obscure allegory and inside references to tell the story of how the band got together. The song works because Springsteen emphasized the funky musical groove over any literal telling of the band story:

The greatest-ever band origin song comes to us from a band that decided the actual origins of the band didn't matter. They -- and really just Tom Scholz, the band's founder and primary song writer -- decided to go with some heroic fiction, laying out the ideal band origin story rather than the band Boston's actual origin story. Rather than being a hard-working bar band that eventually gained the notice of a record company artists and repertoire guy, as described in the origin song, Boston never played a live gig before signing a record contract. Maybe that's why "Rock and Roll Band" is easily the best origin song ever -- it wasn't burdened by the facts of the actual origin:

These songs should not be confused with songs like Brad Paisley's "Start a Band" or John Mellencamp's "Play Guitar." Those songs are generic songs about how to get a little leg by getting into the band/music scene. "Smoke On The Water" also is not a band origin song, as it really is about the origins of a song by a band that already was established. In fact, I am having trouble thinking of any band origin songs besides these three. Does that mean two out of three band origin songs are awesom? Fuck, that certainly would go against my original hypothesis. Help me out here, people.

No comments: