Scandalous music of the generations
Last updated 7/29/2020 at 1:39pm
Paul: Hey Emily, I happened to catch a re-run of the fundraiser “A Concert for COVID-19 Relief” the other night. The telethon megaconcert featured a bunch of big-name Northwest musicians, including Pearl Jam, Brandi Carlile and Dave Matthews.
I mention those three because I like much of their music – I mean, who wouldn’t like Brandi, right? Or Dave Matthews? But some of the others? I have to admit, I don’t get it. I’m officially an old fogey when it comes to much of today’s music.
Take Sir Mix-A-Lot, for example. I don’t understand the difference between Rap and Hip-Hop. So there’s that. But his “song,” if that’s what you call it, was really not appropriate for general audiences. The title alone was a warning: “MY ANACONDA DON’T. WANT. NONE. UNLESS. YOU. GOT. BUNS. HUN.” I guess he’s a big star. BUT I DON’T. WANT. MY GRANDSONS. TO HEAR THAT. JACK.
Emily: A classic. There’s also a song, “Anaconda” name by Nicki Minaj by the way. If you didn’t like Sir Mix-A-Lot’s song, you probably don’t want to listen to Minaj’s either.
Personally, I like Baby Boomers’ music. My parents are also boomers, so I grew up listening to their music. I think we can all agree that there was lot of good music in the 70s and 80s.
But there’s a lot of good music now, and a lot of different voices now. I like Brandi Carlile too. I love Lianne La Havas (listen to her cover of Aretha’s “Say a Little Prayer”). I listen to an album by an Indonesian duo called Fourtwnty on repeat for a couple of days at a time.
There were some great songs back in your day, but I think there’s a lot of variety in music now since the scope of who’s popular has expanded. Back then, it was like what, four or five guys in a band, a couple of power ballads and some cool guitar riffs and bam, instant fame.
Paul: Sorry, I had never heard of Nicki Minaj. I googled her, and it looks like she did write the song, which is properly titled “Anaconda.” On the program, Sir Mix-A-Lot and sang it. Still don’t want my grandkids listening to it. Talk about x-rated!
Emily: My bad, Paul. I thought you were talking about Minaj’s song, since that’s the one that was released while I was alive! Turns out, she took some of the lyrics from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” released in 1992 and wrote a new song. He’s actually said he likes her song, “Anaconda”, published in 2014.
Paul: And you need to go back to the 50s and 60s to really get a handle on the birth of classic rock ‘n’ roll. There were plenty of subgenres, including folk, R&B, psychedelic, country, reggae, and not just boy bands (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Temptations) but lots of single acts (Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, early Dylan) and girl groups (the Supremes, Ronettes, Martha and the Vandellas).
Back then, too, lyrics were nowhere near as, shall we say, raw. I remember the Stones had to change the words to their hit “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. Pretty mild stuff compared to today.
Emily: OK, but what about the Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper”? Or the Beatles “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”? And yikes, wasn’t the Mötley Crüe banned from MTV for a little bit? And Aerosmith’s “Big Ten Inch” … isn’t exactly just about a vinyl record.
All I’m saying is, although today’s music may have some more... imagery in its lyrics…older music wasn’t exactly kid-friendly either. Perhaps “Anaconda” isn’t at the top of everyone’s favorite playlist, but I wouldn’t say that today’s music is THAT much more “raw” than older music.
Paul: OK, you may have a point. But just to be nitpicky about your particular examples:
“Mother’s Little Helper” wasn’t about drugs in general, but about a specific drug, mephenesin, a muscle relaxant that scientists had invented in the 40s to help people with mental illness. By the mid-50s doctors were writing millions of prescriptions, not just for the mentally ill but for anxious moms and such.
People assumed “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” was about LSD when the Beatles recorded it in 1967, but John Lennon insisted it was inspired by a drawing his 3-year-old son Julian had drawn of a nursery school classmate named Lucy.
And “Big Ten Inch (Record of the Blues)” was first made famous in 1952 by a cat named Bull Moose Jackson who had a reputation for performing risqué material. Everybody saw through the double entendre, so if you look up top-selling singles from that year, you won’t find “Big Ten Inch”; radio stations wouldn’t touch it.
Artists of all genres have pushed the envelope for centuries. For example, Edouard Manet scandalized Paris in 1865 when his painting “Olympia” of a nude prostitute went on display. Society’s mores change, and what was scandalous in one generation may be considered great art (or music) in another.
In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine named the 50-year-old Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which included “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” as the best album of all time.
Decades from now, they’ll be naming the “bests” of your generation; I’ll bet “Anaconda” won’t be on the list.