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Thread: Getting Started--What Counts?

  1. #1
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    Getting Started--What Counts?

    Well, Bongo's been away for a while. I've tried to get some sort of grip on 'music', and here's what I've learned. I hope this might uh...'resonate', with someone.

    I'm an old guy, and I have nothing I want to say to anyone thru music. I really can hardly tolerate the music I hear on radio, and can hardly put up with whiny, pathetic crap I hear that pass as 'lyrics'. I seldom hear any poetry, seldom hear anything that feels...uh, that feels.

    So, tonight, I'm probing around the internet, and I find something that actually makes me 'feel'. I mean, it's pop crap that actually makes me...cry. This is good. This is some music where I can sense the emotion of the writer. A connection.

    So what's my Big Point? My Big Point is, once again, music isn't about anything other than this. Making someone actually feel something. I think you know when this happens.

    It was a pop tune. God forbid. 'Go Your Own Way'. If you think there was no emotion, no feeling, no inspiration there, I think you're missing something. I think this just might be the greatest rock ballad ever written. Any super guitar crap? I could give a rat's ***.

    "If I could, I'd give you my world." Huh. Makes me actually think about something. Music hasn't done that for me in a long, long time.

    So, I guess if you're thinking 'great music' means you have to have great technique or some crap like that, well, I think you're wrong. Great music means you're able to send a story right directly into my friggin' brain and make everything my brain would rather be doing stop cold...and listen.

    Don't take lyrics, but it sure as hell don't take 'technique'. It take 'feeling'. When Lindsey stands up to the mic and says something, I'm listening. Couldn't care less about how nicely he plays that guitar.
    Last edited by Bongo Boy; 01-17-2009 at 04:53 AM.
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    Registered User Madaxeman's Avatar
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    That's what it is all about. For some, a few chords is all they need to make that impact. Some of the greatest songs written were simple progressions. Nothing complicated about "Beware of Darkness", but what a powerful song. (Especially Clapton's version for Concert for George.)
    I think there are many technical, advanced players that can (and do) get the emotion across in their music as well. I guess it just depends on if you connect with it or not.
    To me, some songs that are very technical convey a lot of emotion, while others just sound like someone cranking out repetitive boring scale runs. Some simple songs hit me like a freight train, others sound like they are barely managing the 3 chords and are lifeless and boring to me too.
    The joy of music is discovering what has this impact and what doesn't. Like a drug, good music (whatever it means to YOU) is addictive and nothing feels as good as a great song.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Bongo good to see you are back.

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Bongo Boy, I don't you'll find any disagreement here.
    It's all about what speaks to any of us, emotionally. You can't legislate for that, as they say - you can't predict what combination of notes and words is going to hit the spot for anyone, let alone everyone.

    That Rumours album is well-known as the product of painful break-ups between the partnerships in the band, so it's no wonder those songs contain real emotion. Even so, it doesn't always mean that a line of lyrics will hit home like that.

    As an old guy like yourself, sometimes I find I know a song really well (for decades sometimes), before I realise that - hey - those words actually mean something!
    After all, a cliche is only a cliche because it's the best (and easiest) way of expressing a common experience. We get cynical, thinking we've heard it all before - until it happens to us (or until its meaning finally strikes home).

    I also find it's very rare that contemporary music has any kind of emotional impact. But just once in a while it does, and in the spirit of this thread, here's a couple of songs (by the same band/composer) that did that for me last year:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhCkcBharUM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXi6h...eature=channel
    They both seemed to capture exactly some perfect combination of escape, nostalgia and loss. (Beautifully unpretentious video for the 2nd one too.)

    "Meet me on the corner by the fire escape and I'll be waiting,
    Every inch of back roads that have put me here, will disappear"

    (and the idea that "cold mathematics" rules us all, via chemistry, biology, physics and fate, even sexual desire - "making its move on me now".)
    "Funny how I always seem to alienate the people that I'm
    trying to impress. One day I will learn to shine."


    "Oh 4 am, is the time when you were mine,
    frozen in deepest sleep, for only I to keep"

    "...a stretch of sky and a hand on my shoulder..."
    (about how profound thoughts, or intimations of mortality perhaps, will "get you" in the most trivial moments: "as the party ends", "as you wash your hair", etc. - or indeed as you're lying awake at 4 a.m.)

    These songs really took me by surprise - I didn't think people wrote them like this any more... (I'm sure it's significant that this guy is at least 40...)

    I'm not saying these things will connect with everyone reading this. As I say, just occasionally, the arrow gets through. A few songs, for a few people, some of the time.
    But I suspect the common thread is experience - either in the composer, or the listener, or both. Experience of life, of course - not of playing the guitar!
    Last edited by JonR; 01-17-2009 at 03:30 PM.

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    Hello Bongo . Hey, I remember seeing all those old posts of yours. Nice to see you here again .

    Yes that Rumours album is pretty good. Quite nice melodic stuff.

    BUT ... I think we will find that it's all very subjective, and I think different individuals will claim to hear all sorts of good or bad things in all sorts of different music. Eg - many people may say they hate that track (Go Your Own Way), and they may criticise it for exactly the aspects that you/we think are good.

    The other thing for me, personally, is that I actually do enjoy technically demanding instrumental pieces, both to listen to, and particularly to play ("try" to play!). Of course it has to make some sense to me, it can't just appear to be random rambling, no matter how technically clever. But it's not essential for it to have some easily identifiable repeating catchy melody/tune ... instead I might like it if it creates interest with contrasting sounds that are odd, unexpected, dissonant, or "angular", surprising, arresting, or whatever.

    But I agree - some simple pop songs just sound great. Just really catchy tunes.

    I also agree that lyrics are almost always so unbelievably naff that I'm often left wondering why the composers aren't embarrassed to put their name on such rubbish lol ... and I don't just mean the most obvious banal pop tunes, but almost all contemporary lyrics.

    OK, I'm probably not the typical audience, and I expect the fact that people here are musicians/players, means that most of us here are not the typical audience.

    As an example of a supposedly "naff" pop tune, I always liked "Kid" from the Pretenders (that also has unusually sensible lyrics) http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_lKufeTGcLc.

    Ian.

  6. #6
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    Yup. Hopefully we're not going to select Chrissie as an example of someone who occassionally 'has it on'. My god. More guts, more feeling and more imagination--all rolled into one, than your decade's worth of guitar dweeks. Like, I could care how well she plays guitar like I care if Dylan could do anything in particular with a harmonica. You guys all raise great points. But there's a reason for connection...not accident.

    I think there's a big difference between 'catchy' lyrics and good poetry. I hear a lot of catchy lyrics. Fun. Poetry, on the other hand, is the sort of thing that makes your priorities change, in a moment, from the price you're paying at the pump or how hard your miserable existence is...to something more like oh, there's actually a world that doesn't spin around my self-serving uselessness.

    Just plain old love is okay, too, I guess.

    Yes, 'instrumentally demanding' is something I can appreciate...I can appreciate that other folks appreciate it. I, on the other hand, would never notice or appreciate nor care about it. I simply don't know when it's going on and don't care.

    Now, from time to time when listening to Louis Armstrong I might think, "Damn. Command of the instrument. That is incredible. That feller really knows his damn way aroung the old blow horn." But generally, I don't. I just let myself not think at all, and let a little drool run down my chin as I go into a coma.
    Last edited by Bongo Boy; 01-19-2009 at 03:29 AM.
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  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bongo Boy
    Yup. Hopefully we're not going to select Chrissie as an example of someone who occassionally 'has it on'. My god. More guts, more feeling and more imagination--all rolled into one, than your decade's worth of guitar dweeks. Like, I could care how well she plays guitar like I care if Dylan could do anything in particular with a harmonica. You guys all raise great points. But there's a reason for connection...not accident.

    I think there's a big difference between 'catchy' lyrics and good poetry. I hear a lot of catchy lyrics. Fun. Poetry, on the other hand, is the sort of thing that makes your priorities change, in a moment, from the price you're paying at the pump or how hard your miserable existence is...to something more like oh, there's actually a world that doesn't spin around my self-serving uselessness.

    Just plain old love is okay, too, I guess.

    Yes, 'instrumentally demanding' is something I can appreciate...I can appreciate that other folks appreciate it. I, on the other hand, would never notice or appreciate nor care about it. I simply don't know when it's going on and don't care.

    Now, from time to time when listening to Louis Armstrong I might think, "Damn. Command of the instrument. That is incredible. That feller really knows his damn way aroung the old blow horn." But generally, I don't. I just let myself not think at all, and let a little drool run down my chin as I go into a coma.
    Yep...

    The problem for us musicians is to stay focussed in the face of stuff that has that effect, and ask ourselves "how DO they do that?..."
    Because there really is no magic. It's all control and aesthetic choice governed by years of experience. Skill, IOW.

    In both lyric and melody writing, you're right, occasionally a composer can hit on something transcendent - an arrow to your heart, as it were. (And improvisers can do the same, on the hoof.) But - as I said before - this still won't work on everyone. IOW, I disagree that there's always "a reason for connection...not accident". What connects with you might not connect with me, and vice versa. (Tho we can agree on Chrissie Hynde and Bob Dylan .)

    Eg, IMO Leonard Cohen is the most intelligent and witty lyricist in rock - a true poet - who writes seductive tunes, but most people still think of him as miserable bastard who makes "depressing" music. You could argue that they're just not listening, but not all of these people are stupid (well, OK, many of them are... ).

    You mentioned Dylan - who I believe is the greatest white vocalist ever in pop/rock music. (Well, WAS, up to the 1980s...) And yet many people say he "can't sing". Idiots... (They have a very poor, even pointless, definition of the word "sing".)
    For people who hate Dylan, even his greatest songs are going to grate on their ears. (And still some might sneer and say "huh, only 4 chords..." )

    Then again - again as I said before! - an apparently superficial pop lyric can strike home just as deep as any great poetry. It's simply a matter of whether it "tells the truth". The truth doesn't have to be profound - it can be staring us in the face, but sometimes it only takes a pop lyric to slap us into alertness.
    IMO, Bob Dylan meant it when he said Smokey Robinson was "America's greatest living poet". (and he should know...)

    The trouble with pop, of course, is that it's given a gloss that seems intentionally designed to remove any depth, any emotional impact. You're not supposed to listen to pop that closely - you're only supposed to dance, perhaps while idly humming the tune or hearing the words wrong.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bongo Boy
    Yes, 'instrumentally demanding' is something I can appreciate...I can appreciate that other folks appreciate it. I, on the other hand, would never notice or appreciate nor care about it. I simply don't know when it's going on and don't care.
    I think this is probably a point on which I have previously disagreed with JonR (shock horror!). It's partly to do with the question of who you are playing for, and I think in the past Jon was talking about the need for an audience & the need to play for others.

    But when it comes to guitar playing, or for that matter if I was painting (ie pictures!), I think I do that mainly for my own appreciation and according to my own personal goals and objectives, not really for the enjoyment of an audience.

    If the audience like it, then great. But if they don't, then I'm not going to change and just start doing something they do like. Not at all. Instead I may pause to think why I do things the way I do, but in the end I have to do what I think is right for the reasons that appeal to me ... so I have to play the way I want, to meet my own objectives, for my own personal reasons.

    And as an instrumentalist, that may mean playing more complex things which appeal to my ears and my emotions, rather than trying to produce something with a simpler catchy tune which may have much wider audience appeal.

    It doesn't mean that I dismiss Bob Dylan songs or whatever/whoever. But my own personal interest in actually playing guitar is not something which is simply about "music" in that sense ... it's also about the beauty and ideal of mastering the instrument for it's own technical sake ... to achieve something with guitar, even if there might be a much simpler and quicker way to make musical expression using say electronics.

    Of course I'm still influenced by all the famous guitarists of the past, so I'm not claiming my approach is in pure isolation, or coming purely from me. No. It's all related, and it's all part of a continuous spectrum of musical ideas/approach ... but I just mean that it appeals to me to play more towards the technical isolationist personalised end of that spectrum ... and that's not just a boring or empty "technical" approach, it's also about "art" imho.

    Ian.

    Ps:- I didn't mean lyrics are ever catchy (I don't think they are, not to me at least). I meant the pop tunes may be catchy (which is good, & not always so easy as it may seem/sound).

    But, have to admit - I've never understood any appeal in poetry (eek!).

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    Bongo Boy, it's great to have you around here again !!

    poetry is a wonderful artform,
    but much about music &/or poetry that we as people not just musicians emotionally identify with will be subjective in that it may affect us and how it does affect us.

    that's not to say that music doesn't connect with people on an emotional level, obviously it does.
    it's amazing how listening to a song that has some emotional meaning to you the act of listening to that song will many times cause you to remember a happy, sad, passionate, etc memory associated with the many times you listened to that song.

    that right there demonstrates the importance of music in our lives. consider this example:

    a movie soundtrack as a session musician who is brought in to read and play a musical "score" which contains a minor chord progression mostly through individual arpeggios,

    in the movie the girl is hoping to find her best friend, which is her beloved dog
    and she says "I sure wish I could find sparky, i would sure tell him i'm sorry for ignoring him"

    and your watching the scene without music, and you really aren't that affected by the scene,

    but then the music gets added to the scene, and it affects you completely differently to watch that scene now, because the music emotionally connects you to the movie scene and story.
    your like emotionally affected, and really start to hope the girl finds her dog,

    or you watch the first Halloween movie, with the killer Michael Myers, just think how much more important the music is in that movie, then if you watched it with the sound off during most of the movie.

    my other point is that there is no right or wrong music, and different music/musicians will connect emotionally with different people because it is a subjective experience both in if they are emotionally affected and how they are emotionally affected

    you have always been someone Bongo Boy who has stressed the basics, and I really appreciate that about you(as have other members of the IBreatheMusic.com community),
    and will definately agree that most musicians should REALLY focus and learn to apply the basics of their individual instrument to help them become the "best" most "complete" musician they can be.

    quote by Bongo Boy:
    Great music means you're able to send a story right directly into my friggin' brain and make everything my brain would rather be doing stop cold...and listen. Don't take lyrics, but it sure as hell don't take 'technique'. It take 'feeling'.
    for the most part I very much agree with this quote, however the problem is subjective, because what one person defines as "great music" another may not consider it "great music"


    and I agree that one of the greatest experiences for a musician is to have music that people emotionally connect too, rather it be a simple 3 chord progression song or an entire complicated progressive rock concept album.

    the one thing the majority of members at IBreatheMusic.com community have in common is that we love music. and we are very fortunate to have met other members here who have that same love for music.

    music is a wonderful gift to humanity.
    Last edited by Schooligo; 01-19-2009 at 07:04 PM.
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    I used to collect good lines from songs, hoping it would eventually rub off. It didn't, of course.

    As I get older, I find it harder and harder to enjoy new radio-formatted songs. The lyrics are vacuous. What does some 22-year-old kid have to offer me by way of life lessons? When I was young, E.L.P., Yes, Zeppelin, etc., were the voices of oracles, showing me The Way (or something like that).
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    I used to collect good lines from songs, hoping it would eventually rub off. It didn't, of course.

    As I get older, I find it harder and harder to enjoy new radio-formatted songs. The lyrics are vacuous. What does some 22-year-old kid have to offer me by way of life lessons?
    Lessons? You want music to give you lessons??? At your age???

    I quite like a lot of modern 22-year-olds' music. Makes me nostalgic...
    (Sad, ain't it?)
    I think I prefer vacuous to pretentious. (Well all right, yes, pretentious is a lot funnier. Nothing makes me roll on the floor quite as much as rock musicians taking themselves seriously.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    When I was young, E.L.P., Yes, Zeppelin, etc., were the voices of oracles, showing me The Way (or something like that).
    Quite .
    Not for me, of course. My oracles were Big Bill Broonzy and the Memphis Jug Band. And Bob Dylan of course. (You only had to LOOK at that face on the cover of Highway 61 to see what omniscience meant... the music merely underlined it. He looked more like 250 than 25...)
    ELP, Yes, Led Zep, et al were jumped up British adolescents (er, like me of course...) - what could they tell me I didn't already know? Poncing around showing off their hairstyles... seeing how many notes they could cram into a second, how tight they could get their pants, or many amps they could stack on top of one another...
    Bah...
    Last edited by JonR; 01-20-2009 at 11:48 AM.

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    ...what could they tell me I didn't already know?
    Thus proving that you are older than I. (And what I meant by "life lessons.")

    Pretentiousness makes me want to suck an exhaust pipe and end it all. Now, that is. When I was a kid, the music I liked was not pretentious, right? I mean, what James liked was high art. But new stuff... that stuff is pretentious crap.*

    I can't turn on the radio without hearing some Californian dork named "Billy Joe" or something singing in a faked British accent. Punk rock created more fake British accents in American kids than the Beatles ever did. It is the appeal of a Cockney "Fuauch yeauw!" that wins them over.**

    *Note for the humor-impaired: This is a farcical comment, meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I am aware that what I liked was crap too, to those older than me.
    **Note for Brits: Read that "fuauch yeauw" aloud and tell me I am not right.
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    I think I prefer vacuous to pretentious. (Well all right, yes, pretentious is a lot funnier. Nothing makes me roll on the floor quite as much as rock musicians taking themselves seriously.)
    What about jazz players or classical musicians? Don't they also take themselves seriously? Is that actually better than a "rock" player doing it?

    Sometimes it may seem amusing or pathetic if people take things seriously. But is that really so wrong if they are genuinely trying their best and making an honest effort to think about what they are doing ... should we really laugh at that?

    Personally I'd far prefer to see people taking music/art seriously, and really trying to achieve something with their ideas. I don’t mean for commercial reward or for fame or whatever, but just because they actually care about what they‘re doing ... even if it may sometimes seem pretentious.

    I don't think music or art is truly important in the way science is. Not at a fundemental level. But still I think we should try to be serious about trying to achieve something with our music.

    Ian.

  14. #14
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    Pretentiousness makes me want to suck an exhaust pipe and end it all.
    Ah - thats how I used to think. But now I just smirk patronisingly. It doesn't touch me (where it hurts) any more.
    I remember seeing Yes in 1974 (or was it 75? Topographic Oceans time). I was smirking even then (inwardly, as the guy I'd gone with was a big fan). I did note that the piece that went down best with all the crowd (not just me) was Steve Howe's fingerstyle solo piece (The Clap). No one understood any of the rest. You weren't supposed to; there was nothing to understand. Some people pretended to, of course.
    I think the appeal was that you had to let it wash over you, and go wow - like looking at an Einstein equation and thinking "hey that guy must be really clever".
    Me, I was just waiting for a UFO to descend above the stadium. That would have made it make some kind of sense.
    (Of course, nowadays, Yes ADMIT it was largely pretentious rubbish - at least Wakeman and Howe do. I actually met Wakeman a few times, before he joined Yes, and was struck by how down-to-earth and likeable he was. Totally unpretentious. I just knew he was hiding his own ironic smirk while playing with Yes. Wizard hats? Sequinned capes? Come ON!)
    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    Now, that is. When I was a kid, the music I liked was not pretentious, right? I mean, what James liked was high art. But new stuff... that stuff is pretentious crap.*
    I hear you. Young people do take themselves and their passions dreadfully seriously. (As Dylan said "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now". And dammit he was still only 24 when he said that, pretentious bastard... )
    I was deadly serious myself about jug band music and early blues. It had to be a scratchy recording, with unintelligible lyrics, or it wasn't worth a damn. The worse the recording quality the more "valuable" it was. (It could still be amusing, of course, on its own terms, but was hugely profound at the same time.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    I can't turn on the radio without hearing some Californian dork named "Billy Joe" or something singing in a faked British accent. Punk rock created more fake British accents in American kids than the Beatles ever did.
    Haha! Being British I'm spared all that. If I heard such stuff, I'd just think it was another strange US accent.
    But then it's only your turn to suffer. We've suffered for decades with British singers trying to sound American. (Yes, even the Beatles tried to sound American, believe it or not. US accents were not among their otherwise prodigious talents. What you heard as cute English accents, we heard as standard Transatlantic rock, just with a faint Liverpudlian edge: "hair" pronouced as "hur", that was the only "English" thing we could spot in their singing voices. Over here in the 1960s, even the word "yeah" was considered a vulgar American borrowing, no matter how it was pronounced.)
    The problem we have is that a real English accent sounds comical, in a rock context. It's not "real rock". It's novelty. We have to make a stab at American, to sound at all credible as rock singers. This is perhaps not quite so de rigueur today as in the days of Mick Jagger, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Elvis Costello (typically conscientious in their mimicking of US singing styles, at least to our ears), but you still hear it.
    (Listen to Ian Dury for a genuine cockney accent, just avoiding embarrassing novelty because his lyrics were intelligent and his music was always sophisticated. John Lydon managed to get away with a London accent - he is definitely not cockney, btw - by developing that sneering drawl, which enabled him to sing long vowels without slipping into the Americanese that long rock vowels always seemed to require. Punk singers didn't use cockney accents - that would have made them comedy acts. The Proclaimers, OTOH, made idiots of themselves by getting all tight-arsed about singing rock with pronounced Scots accents; an admirable attitude (cultural pride), but how we laughed at the daft sound they made. Morrissey is somewhere in between: a normal English accent when singing, but some can accept it as valid, while others chortle.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    It is the appeal of a Cockney "Fuauch yeauw!" that wins them over.**
    **Note for Brits: Read that "fuauch yeauw" aloud and tell me I am not right.
    Er, not from this side of the pond. Of course, I'm a Londoner (tho not a cockney) so don't get the outsider's view.
    The "yeauw" is pretty good, but the first word should be "Faaaaakhh". (Not so very different from US? bit more open-mouthed maybe.)
    In Liverpool or Manchester, it would be "Fokhh" - or (because you guys pronounce "o" differently) - "Fookhh" or "Fawkhh".

    Drifting seriously OT now....

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    OT? I'd argue we're decidedly on-topic. Anyway, your spelling of "fokhh" is what I was after. I used the "ch" as a hard "k" phonic with a dragged "h" sound afterwards.

    That counts to some people (which is the thread topic).

    But really, this topic is all about the meaning, message, and imagery we individually find in music. You and I would find two different things. Bongo apparently picked tearful fruit from Lindsey Buckingham's song, you at a young age manifested as an expert set apart from your peers by a love for "authentic" (can't be authentic unless it meets JonR's criteria) roots music, and I wanted anything that wasn't pure pop from AM radio top-40, the more exotic the better (while still having iconic guitarists and standardized runs).

    Crossroads started to chafe above even though nobody directly mocked the latest crop of pretentious dweebs who spend all their time posing as "artists" while playing lickety-split 4 and 5 nps runs as fast as physics will allow. (Heheheheeeeee) But really, he takes from music what he takes (and I wish him a ton of it), you take what you take (and I wish you a ton of it), and I take what I take (and I hope hammond B-3's never die). Bongo takes tears from "Go Your Own Way." Billy Joe Armstrong apparently took the Anglophilic flavorings of the Buzzcocks.

    To answer the original question of "what counts?", I can only offer: LOOK AT ME, WORLD. Look at me and see why I cry, smile, grunt, be happy, be afraid, am smug, hate your mamma, love your mamma, feel worthy, feel unworthy, etc.

    That is rock. Yeah, pretentiousness is the underpinning.
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

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