In what world is THIS good music?

Yes, it’s Taylor Swift’s hot new song, “Look what you made me do,” which, as they say, “just dropped.”  This is what passes for hit music these days, and it’s dreadful. 

Now I have no idea what it’s about, since Swift is constantly involved in some drama or other, including dissing her exes in songs and having a big public feud with Katy Perry—something I just can’t force myself to care about. But oy, this music! Before Swift ditched country to go pop, she was far better, but this is generic music with lame words and a lame tune. There’s no originality here, and nothing memorable. It will not be played on “oldies” stations in twenty years when Generation Yers will be in their forties or fifties.

Now I do listen to the kids’ music looking for something good, but the pickings are lean. There are no equivalents to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hendrix, the Band, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Dylan, and the Motown greats. Has rock and roll, like classical music, finished its run, degenerating into songs like the above or the endless repetitiveness of hip hop, a lame substitute for the great soul music of yore?

I know what you’re thinking: every generation disses the music of the young people, thinking their own is the best. I’m just showing my age. But I don’t see it that way. After all, I grew up listening to—and liking—the music my parents had on their LPs: Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, and Broadway musicals like Brigadoon, Camelot, and My Fair Lady, as well as older songs like the white people’s jazz my parents danced to in college (Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, etc.). And I’ve grown to love earlier music: the music of the late 30s and 40s, and especially the jazz that came between Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five on one end and Coltrane on the other. I like to think that I can recognize a good song when I hear it—a well-crafted tune with good lyrics.

And this one ain’t it. Nor is about 98% of what I hear on the radio.

To check this, I chose a week from a year of my youth: the week of August 26, 1967: around this date, but my summer between high school and college. It was exactly fifty years ago. Here are the top 20 songs on the Billboard list, and this is what you heard when you turned on the radio:

Now sure, there are some clinkers here, like #1, #3 and #14, but look at the great songs: “All you need is love,” “Light my fire,” “Baby I love you,” “I was made to love her” (a fabulous song), “Cold sweat,”  “You’re my everything,” “Heroes and Villains.” Even “Carrie-Anne” and “Silence is Golden” are good, and many will like “A whiter shade of pale” and “A girl like you”. Out of 20 songs, at least 8 are classics. Put that in your pipe, Ms. Swift!

My conclusion: some generation had to grow up when rock and roll was at its best, and, coincidentally, it was mine.

Below is one specimen of the 20 songs above (original here). Stevie wrote this song with three other people and recorded it when he was just 17! Now he’s my age but can clearly still get down.

This song, like several others above, will live forever among those who like great rock. Get up and DANCE, or get off my lawn!

UPDATE: When I was perusing Stevie I came upon this gem, probably aired in 1969 or 1970.  You may know the original song by Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations (what a combination!), but here’s Diana and Stevie, and I bet you haven’t seen this:


  1. Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    So sue me, but it’s growing on me.

    Pop trivia: It interpolates this 1992 hit:


    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      This might be more to your liking, Jerry, by “probably the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of”:


      • gormenghastly
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Ha. I was going to recommend the same artist, but it wouldn’t have been that song.
        Perhaps Raven

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Yes any Steven Wilson is on par with any of the songs on Jerry’s list. I’d recommend Hand.Cannot.Erase. And Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet. Wilson is one of the great contemporary rock musicians.

        • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          Or this?


      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        That’s not bad at all. I’m not that interested in electronic sounds; but not bad at all.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          I’m not overly enamored of electronica either. But, have you ever listened to the album Who Can You Trust by Morcheeba? They are typically classified as post Trip Hop, which genre is heavily influenced by electronica.

          I can’t guess if you’ll like it, but I would recommend it to anyone. To me it is one of the more beautiful albums I know of.

          • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink


          • Ken Phelps
            Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            I’ll second the Morcheeba. If you do like some electronica without wanting to go full rave, Captain Planet has an interesting sound. Kind of jazz/world/electronica. Esperanto Slang (it’s on youtube) is a good starter, as is Night Visions (with Chico Mann).

            Also liking an album called Iguanas Over Martinique, which is a collection of various artists from Martinique. A bit more electronic, but still musical. These, and an excellent selection of non-commercial music can be downloaded at a site called It has become my go to site for finding interesting stuff. Also, it offers wav and flac formats.

            • Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              +1 re Bandcamp. See my (corrected) Iceland link.


            • Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

              PS. Are you Mystic Bongos?


              • Ken Phelps
                Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

                No, I’m Photozetetic. The BC format is nice. I use the Wishlist feature as a place to put music that I want to stream, but not necessarily buy.

                You might enjoy some of the stuff on ‘Saharan Cellphones’. It’s a collection gleaned from people’s devices in West Africa. I’m particularly fond of Amanar, by Alghafiat

              • Posted August 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

                That was my second guess! I’m Ant Allan (pretty much everywhere on the web).

                I’ll check them out!


              • Ken Phelps
                Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

                Oh, almost forgot ‘Nomade Orquestra”. Very eclectic Brazilian jazz/sort of electronic stuff. I bought it at a different site. Their more recent effort is now in wishlist too. Love the cover art on the new one.

    • dargndorp
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      My gf suggests this as a worthy successor to Right Said Fred’s piece.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I can see it, hearing it now for the 2nd time. It is very stripped down and bare. I can see the art in that sense.

    • Charles Minus
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      For those that want to clear their palate, here’s Mose Allison singing, “Look what you made me do.” (Yes, Swift’s title isn’t even original.)

      • Posted August 26, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        I just came home from my niece’s wedding. It’s a quarter to one here. “Charles Minus” would make me laugh, even if you had nothing to declare, but I love the Allison coincidence.

  2. Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m 21 and couldn’t agree more.

  3. Mark Reaume
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    As a Gen Xer I am completely on your side. I find much of the modern pop music to be heavily over produced which takes the soul (If I can use that word) out of the music.

    There is some good new music (IMO) but you won’t see any of it on any charts.

  4. Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I guess if one had to make a case against evolution, you have just made it. 😉

    It’s easy to make an objective case why this is not a particular brilliant song — the simple chord progressions, the rhythm, though syncopated and catchy is sowmehat formulaic and can be traced back to ragtime, so nothing new, the lack of an interesting melody, the low-quality lyrics. There is also an artistic perspective — when over what has the song accomplished? Perhaps it can pass for dance music, but not much of a listening experience.

  5. Randy schenck
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    You are just too old Prof. Coyne. About 3 months older than I but let’s not get picky. I stopped understand it when rap and hip hop began. At least take me back to Dire Straits or Ten Years After.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      The point is that it’s NOT my age–it’s the music.

      It’s not that we got old–the music got old.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        I hate to argue the evidence but I suspect you are wrong. Ask the 15 or 16 years olds today what they think is music and what are they buying. What we think of the music is no longer relevant, just ask a kid.

        • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          Well, you haven’t asked my 13-year-old. 🙂

        • Jeremy Tarone
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          When I worked in restaurants we did four hours prep before opening, during that time we played our favourite music over the sound system. We converted most of the younger employees to earlier music.
          The Beatles is still selling albums, even in the age of rampant music piracy and Youtube.
          Unfortunately the head cook played nothing but AC/DC when he was on.

        • Filippo
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          “What we think of the music is no longer relevant, just ask a kid.”

          Well, of course – only a kid is qualified to pronounce from on high what is “relevant” for me. (I absolutely do not care what “the kid” thinks of my musical interests.) Like the 13-yr-old who pronounced on the front page of the NY Times several years ago, “Email is SO lame!”

          Here and there someone pronounces that this or that is not “relevant.” “Relevant” with regard to whom or what – the fatuous, shallow,celebrity-obsessed Amuricun mass pop culture?

          • phil
            Posted August 25, 2017 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

            I reckon Tom Lehrer has come back into relevance several times in recent decades, although it wasn’t so much about his music as his lyrics:

            “So long Mom, I’m off to drop the bomb…”

            “It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!”

            “We’ll all go together when we go”

            “Send the marines!”


            “Who’s next?”

            The Vatican Rag

            • Filippo
              Posted August 25, 2017 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

              “The Merry Minuet” (sung by The Kingston Trio, written by Shel Silverstein ?))

              They’re rioting in Africa,
              They’re marching in Spain,
              There’s hurricanes in Florida,
              And Texas needs rain.

              The whole world is festering with unhappy souls,

              The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles,

              Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch,

              And I don’t likely anybody very much.

              But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud,

              For Man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud,

              And we can be certain that some lovely day,

              Someone will set the spark off – and we will all be blown away.

              They’re rioting in Africa,

              There’s strife in Iran,

              What Nature doesn’t do to us,

              Will be done by our fellow man.

              • Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

                Well the Yanks hate the Reds
                And the Greeks hate the Turks
                I really hate to say it
                But they’re all a bunch of jerks
                Everybody’s shakin’
                Cuz the big one’s about to fall
                I’m just trying’ to hold it steady while I

      • phil
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        The music didn’t get old. If anything it got new. You want old? Go back to Bach.

        There are some good explanations as to what has happened to popular music. One is that it has become more competitive and expensive, and risk averse music industry executives have found a formula that has a better chance of delivering a return on investment. The downside is that it has homogenised the music.

        Bear in mind that the price of music has come down in price, from the retail price of records to CDs, so they have to sell many more units to make the same profit. It has become quite cheap to make an album but considerably more expensive to promote and sell them.

        Another powerful driving force in music was the rebellious nature of youth back then, combined with social issues like civil rights and the Vietnam war to motivate songwriters. US has been in Afghanistan for what? 16 years now, but where are the antiwar songs?

        I am not saying those changes are good. I remember (and occasionally play) music from the 60s, 70s and 80s too, and I think it is sad.

      • KD33
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Yet, this is a comment as old as time. I agree as far as top-40 and Taylor Swift. But IMO there has been innovative and interesting music through the 70’s 80’s 90’s 00’s that is may be hard for some of our “old” ears to digest – just like our parents may not have gotten the Beatles or Elvis (at least right away). The comments here indicate that most people don’t dig very hard. That said, I agree there are no “new Beatles.” But there never will be, since they came at a unique era, brining their genius to create music that was at once revolutionary and accessible. You can only do that for so long.

        One thing that is really different today: the entire history of pop/rock is available at our fingertips, and those of our kids. It is a wonderful thing to be able to find concert footage of any band in history on Youtube. My 17 year old more or less agrees with you as to the dearth of creative new music – but only to a point. The deck is stacked, with the weight of all great music in history on one side.

  6. Teresa Carson
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Amen, brother! I have had similar thoughts lately — especially the part about being an old fogey (fogy, according to Merriam-Webster). As I read the list, I realized I remember every one of those songs and could sing them all right now, although no one would want me to. Have a weekend of heart and soul listening to oldies but goodies.

  7. Scorch
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m disappointed, I really enjoyed her 1989 album. There is still good music made, even pop, but as always it’s harder to find good stuff. I think the turnover is faster and more music is made than ever and more available.

  8. Posted August 25, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    you are dissing Pleasant Valley Sunday???? for shame!!! there is one song on that list that isn’t better than the dreck playing the airwaves today

    • davidintoronto
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      I like it too. And written by Goffin and King.

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Me too. This was the Monkees at their best. And yes, they are playing on it. Me thinks you’re a music snob who automatically disses anything by the Monkees, as was the practice back then. Micky is now considered one of the best pop/rock vocalists of our time by critics. Here’s the song:

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Carole King actually lived on a street called Pleasant Valley in West Orange, New Jersey.

      It’s on the Monkees 4th album. It is acknowledged that starting with their 3rd album, they were actually playing their own instruments and taking far more direct control of the contents of their albums, unlike the first 2 albums.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Of the other songs that JAC is not so fond of:

        I kind of enjoy the Southern Gothic narrative of “Ode to Billy Joe” (which was originally written to be double the length of the final version), but I’m not all that enamoured of the music.
        Although the 1975 film based on the song is said to be dreadful, one can easily see the lure of that enterprise.

        “Light My Fire” is not one of the Door’s best songs, although it was by far and away the most popular. I find it monotonous. Of the Door’s catalog, I vastly prefer “Riders on the Storm”, “Strange Days”, and others.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

          On the Doors, I agree. Light My Fire is one of my least favorite. Riders On The Storm is much better. Some of my other favorites are Wild Child, Gloria, . . .

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          I find the narrative intriguing, but I also like the very spare, economical score and the catchy rhythm.


      • Filippo
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        This song really grabbed my ear when I first heard it as an 11-yr-old. Later, when despite my best efforts I became a bit more worldly-wise, I wondered if the “valley” referred to the San Fernando Valley, the vapid “Valley Girl” social modus operandi.

    • Slaughter
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      I’m with David on “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which coincidentally always came on the 8-track coming back from Sunday tackle football as we drove through a new housing development outside Indiana, Pa. Yep, the development was named Pleasant Valley.

  9. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I understand pop music about as well as I understand Pentecostalism.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      That would make Bob Ferguson’s song “On the Wings of a Dove” the most opaque work of art in the world to you.

  10. Joe Seither
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Your post immediately brought to mind this article from Dec 2011

    Where is the love?

  11. athiest in a foxhole
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I recommend checking out the following bands:

    The Black Keys

    Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

    Both are excellent!

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, The Black Keys are well worth knowing.

  12. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I agree whole-heartedly.

    I was a little late to the party (started listening to the radio in 1973); but, man, compare that to almost anything that was a big hit in the late 1960s or early 1970s. And i did later catch up on what I missed (including going way back with folk styles and what’s categorized under “classical” music.)

    I’ve pulled up lists in the past as well.

    I really detest the style of most music today — and I have really broad tastes in what I can enjoy in music. It seems cookie-cutter, soulless, and lacking almost any interesting features.

    Part of it is that it’s almost all in the hands of the (money-obsessed) producers at the major labels. Everything has to sound the same. Same canned rhythm track. Same faux emotion delivery. Same over-compressed instruments (played by session players — can any of these “stars” even play an instrument well? I know there were plenty of session players used in the 60s and 70s; but most of the big (and small) names could play.)

    When I listen to what was “hard rock” in the 1970s, it sounds pretty mild today. Maybe it’s some sort of oneupsmanship. Like getting your face or nether bits pierced or covered in tatoos now when getting your ear pierced (as a male at least) was risque in earlier times.

    To me it’s like much of modern visual art (that has to be explained to the observer*) that came after the painting of the 16th through 19th centuries.

    (* For me, if your art requires an explanation, it is a failure (refer to the latest Olive Cotton Award winner. To me, art is all about communication.)

    • Filippo
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      “(* For me, if your art requires an explanation, it is a failure (refer to the latest Olive Cotton Award winner. To me, art is all about communication.)”

      I’m reminded of the Duke Ellington quote: “If it sounds good, it is good.”

      • Robert Bray
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Well, fine, then. DOES it sound good? Answer one: no. Answer 2: yes.

  13. darrelle
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I can’t say about this song because I haven’t heard it. But it is very likely that I agree completely with you about it. But, music in general? I’ve got to disagree. There has been plenty of good music made in more recent times. Of course that tends to be highly subjective no matter how much musical theory you want to bring into it. As for what current music will end up becoming classics, that’s next to impossible to predict I think.

    And man, there was plenty of dreck music made in the ’50s, ’60s & ’70s.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      You are right, there was some lousy music made in the earlier decades when we were young but we did not buy the lousy stuff. It was all records back then and we did not need a fancy video to make it cute. This thing by Swift is just bad and she is suppose to be good? Yet she has millions of followers who will buy this junk.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I think the problem is that commercial radio and other pop media have become homogenized. There is outstanding music around, but you aren’t going to hear much of it without some work. he good stuff and the popular stuff don’t overlap as much as they used to.

  14. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Current pop music sucks mostly but there is good music being made…
    check out Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, and RadioHead…
    and , dare I add, that a Neil Young album from 1978 (Hitchhiker), heretofore unreleased will be released in September!

  15. Frank Bath
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I am older than you Jerry but I listen to, and enjoy BBC Radio 2 0830 GMT onwards. It’s a mixed bag of pop old and new with jokey but intelligent presenters.

  16. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    “And I’ve grown to love earlier music”

    To use the Internet phrase: a thousand times, this^^^.

    It is an important check on musical maturity.

  17. Mack
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I would have to do some digging but I remember some Spanish statisticians fed the data for thousands of songs (ie notes, song structure, etc) and – not surprising – found that since the 60-70s there is a marked decrease in variation both within songs and between songs. So it’s not our imagination that music is becoming more homogeneous in all respects.

  18. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    “Pleasant Valley Sunday” is an okay song, but it ain’t “Last Train to Clarksville”!

    As for Taylor Swift, she has written some good songs. This new one isn’t one of them.

    And as for pop music in general I’ve always been drawn to artists who wear their love of the Beatles on their sleeves. Here are some examples (most of these are almost ten years old or so):

    “Homefront Cameo” by Cotton Mather:

    “Fire in the Canyon” by Fountains of Wayne:

    “Baby in Two” by The Pernice Brothers:

    And this is just a very beautiful song by The Josh Joplin Group that nobody seems to know (sort of Beatlesque):

    “Better Days”

    Here’s a shout out to the now-disbanded Ditty Bops. They wrote music in an old-timey style with influences drawn from ragtime and vaudeville. Here’s one of their best songs:

    “Wishful Thinking”:

    And to end this list on a deranged note, here’s a demented song I like by Tom Waits:

    “Bad as Me”:

    Okay, if you prefer Waits in a prettier mode, there’s “Hold On”:

    • Mark Reaume
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      The first album I ever bought was by the Monkees!

    • Larry Smith
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for these suggestions, and the reminder about Cotton Mather. I heard their “Candy Lilac” on Sirius and was immediately drawn in. Will need to check out Kontiki.

      Some artists that became faves of mine came from hearing snippets of them on NPR… in this category falls Spoon, Antony and the Johnsons, TuNeYaRds (what a voice!), and PJ Harvey’s incredible “Let England Shake.”

      And thanks for the Tom Waits shout-out; it saved me the trouble! Those are two good choices to start with, but as you know these two songs are just the tip of the tip of the Waitsian iceberg…

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        Tom Waits is great of course, but he’s only a few years younger than the artists on the 1967 charts. In fact, Waits was born in 1949, the same year as Jerry Coyne, I believe.

        Anyway, Waits represents the human touch missing from the computerised production values of 2017 pop.

        • KD33
          Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Love Tom! And Marc Ribot’s guitar work with him was fresh blues-rock cabaret noire.

  19. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I struggle to find good music today, but for relief I suggest you put your honorary Kiwi hat on and check out Lorde.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      She’s good, but I’m not sure I like her sophomore album as much as her debut.

      She did an interesting Queen cover for an episode of _Doctor Who_.


      • Posted August 30, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        * Oops! The Queen cover was by Foxes (Louisa Allen), not Lorde. I am so ashamed … 

  20. Kevin
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like Taylor’s music in general, but that’s not a bad song. I think she’s going for 21 Pilots feel and she is failing miserably.

    But I will take Stevie any day over Taylor. very superstitious…the writing’s on the wall…. lordie it does not get much funkier than that.

    And that list from 1967!…I think I know every song on there and it would years before I would be born…thanks mom for letting my listen to the radio so much. Now that was music.

  21. Toby
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Some people like it. I have no problem with that. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your aesthetic preferences are best.

  22. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Kids. What’s the matter with kids today?

    Ain’t nuthin’ good come outta the au courant scene since Elvis decamped from Sun Records to go to Hollywood and make meretricious movies with Col. Tom Parker.

    That Taylor Swift track is so over-produced, I can’t conjure a mental image of an actual live, flesh-and-blood musician playing an instrument anywhere on it.

    (But, Jerry, Andy Williams? Really, Andy Williams?? Weren’t his Christmas specials alone responsible for putting alpacas on the endangered list? I figured you for maybe a little bit square, boss, but Andy-freekin’-Williams?!)

    I kid! 🙂

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      “Weren’t his Christmas specials alone responsible for putting alpacas on the endangered list?”


    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      That Taylor Swift track is so over-produced, I can’t conjure a mental image of an actual live, flesh-and-blood musician playing an instrument anywhere on it.

      I agree. There are many formulaic pedestrian songs produced and made ‘commercial’ by highly polishing them. But all you end up with is a highly polished meh.

      Some people used to criticise many of the old school musicians for lacking polish (Ringo’s drumming, Bob Dylans voice, etc.) but those musicians put heart into their works. You listen to Ringo’s drumming and he was very skilful choosing not to hit strictly on the beat (unlike so much of today’s boom-cha boom-cha) driving the music onwards.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, Ringo was a master of the “back beat.” Master of fills and rolls, too. Solos, not so much. But then, he was a southpaw playing a right-handed drum kit.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Just to pick one of his songs off the top of my head, Andy Williams’s version of “Maria” from “West Side Story” caught my ear as a middle schooler. I played it over and over, also no less listening to Dave Grusin’s piano chromaticism, and conductor Robert Mersey’s overall orchestration.

      I’m reminded of some several years ago at a musical rehearsal when, in a fit of indiscretion, I honestly confessed that I did not recall hearing The Beatles’s “Because.” That put an end to our rehearsal, in that the other singer had to run and tattle to her significant other that I did not know the song. He came out to confront me, saying, “And you grew up during that time!” He apparently did not hear me respond, “I acknowledge your Argument from Personal Incredulity.” (Re: Dawkins) Beyond that, I did not much respond (as I vociferously wanted to do) since I wanted to “Keep (the precious) Peace.” I contemplated later whether I should have instead lied, saying that I had heard it, and then rushed home and listened to it online so that I could later, truthfully, say that I had heard it.

      Is there any Beatles song it is OK NOT to have heard?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        “Revolution 9”

  23. Mike Anderson
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Consider the environment of the Dawkinsian meme, the environment in which a song is replicated.

    At one point that environment was massively influenced by powerful benefactors (church, king). Jumping to more recent times, cheap radios suddenly brought a younger generation into the feedback loop. Then you had the LP, the 45 single, record stores, and radio all participating in the ecosystem creating new feedback loops. Radio DJs were somewhat gatekeepers and influencers but were subject to their own Darwinian survival struggles. Then personal recordings (cassette tapes) became part of this environment. Then video (MTV) became a dominant force, and this had a negative effect because it reinstalled monolithic gatekeepers (MTV and VH1). Then internet/iTunes blew everything up (again).

    Now pre-teens are a force in the environment, *selecting* with their phones without having to invest in a trip to the record store, and pre-teens of all ages are so easily influenced via their phones – feedback loops are more powerful than ever at this point.

    Perhaps it’s that the musical ecosystem of the 60s – with the LP, 45 single, record store and radio DJs – that was more conducive to good pop music. It was the right balance of top down control over rebellious masses with the right feedback loops in between.

    Or maybe it was just the pot and LSD.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Very true. I have always thought that the quality of music took a steep dive with the introduction of the public concert — before which time music (at least, that which got written down) was reserved for the wealthy, who knew what was good!

      In addition to the sudden democratization of music listening on Modern Young Peoples i-Devices, there’s the democratization of music production. Not so many years ago it took a pricey recording studio to record a song — you had to have serious financial backing to record an album, and that ensured some measure of quality control. Now literally anybody can do it with free apps on their iPads (which is how Ms. Swift’s song sounds to me).

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        Yeah well, I don’t think the problem here is Ms. Swift being somehow technically less efficient than the crooners 50 years ago…

        • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          What I mean is, except for the voice, there is probably no actual acoustical sound on that recording. It’s all digital samples from some library, clicked and dragged into what is basically a big spreadsheet. You want a symphonic hit instead of Hammond organ for that riff? Click, drag, done. The voice itself is highly processed with extensive tweaking (both manual and automated) for intonation and even the basic sound, and once perfected, each element is copied and pasted all over the place. The software you need to do this is cheap or free (of course, it’s always possible to spend more…). It’s so cheap and easy to crank out this kind of music (and people will dance to it) that there’s no incentive to do anything more imaginative. The return on investment just isn’t there. I don’t mean that the fact that it’s easy to produce means it isn’t any good, but personally, this flashy, robotic-sounding music production doesn’t appeal.

          • Sixtus
            Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

            The new Swift song, unlike many of her other’s, is really not that danceable. Perhaps a remix at a slightly faster tempo would solve that problem. But if I were a DJ I wouldn’t want those nasty and bitter lyrics damping down MY dancefloor.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 25, 2017 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

            Ain’t exactly Sinatra and Nelson Riddle catching all the warmth and feel by recording live, before a small studio audience, at KHJ radio during the Songs for Swingin’ Lovers sessions, now is it? There was a great feature in Vanity Fair about how they did it.

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        But, of course there used to be the cultural quality control. Those LP’s cost a lot for a school kid like me.

        • Mike Anderson
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          Right. LPs were a serious investment. As a teenager, I could afford maybe 1 per week. It was an important decision.

  24. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    In music as in food, de gustibus non est disputandum. Which translates loosely into there is no disputing that song is bad.

  25. Andrew B.
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    This is the result of decreasing attention spans, increased availability of music, decreasing cost of music (to the point of being essentially free), and other forms of entertainment vying for people’s attention. Young people have grown up in a different environment than you have, and so they have different tastes.

    I tend to think that there’s just the same amount of quality music out there now as there as always been, but because the TOTAL amount of recorded “music” has increased, it’s more difficult to locate. I’ve found Spotify to be a very useful tool. People are still making quality jazz and classical music as well.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Well, could you point me to who the new Beatles are? Or the new Duke Ellington?

      • darrelle
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        Going by Billboard’s 200 chart (been running for over 60 years) the artist closest to The Beatles in #1 albums is Jay-Z. The Beatles have 19 and he has 14, to date. I’m sure I must have heard a song by him sometime in my life but off hand I can’t think of a single one.

        • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          We’re not talking about #1 albums, but QUALITY. Surely you don’t think Jay-Z is the modern equivalent of the Beatles!

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

            Well, Jay dropped “The Black Album” back in ’03, which was a doppelganger of sorts for the lads’ “White Album.” Danger Mouse then did a mash-up of the two, called it “The Grey Album.” So there’s that, I guess.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        And for Duke Ellington? Try some Squirrel Nut Zippers!

        (I kid!)

        But seriously, this song is very cool and a bit on the rowdy side. Which I like.

        • Kevin
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

          A good memories. That’s a great song.

      • phil
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

        Do you really want a repeat of Beatles or Ellington? You already have Beatles and Ellington. Surely what you seek is something new, something that hasn’t been done before.

        I read that Bob Dylan admitted that Hendix had done the definitive version of All Along the Watchtower, and without doubt Hendix’s interpretation was quite different to the original, he had brought something new, different, and exciting to the song. The lyrics became little more than an accompaniment to the music.

        In spite of that there are almost certainly people who think Hendrix ruined the song, and others who believe that the original was unexceptional and it was Hendix who made it into something remarkable.

        Having said that there is a nice version of Bobby McGee sung by Pink which is rather similar to Janis’, so obviously “the youth of today” aren’t completely oblivious to older popular music. The kids are all right.

        And check out Ann and Nancy Wilson’s version of Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center

      • Andrew B.
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        Well, I’m not as close to popular music so I struggle think of a Beatles equivalent. But in terms of jazz,

        I like Roy Hargrove (tune recommendation: strasbourg st denis)

        Kenny Garret (Sing a Song of a Song, or his whole album dedicated to Coltrane)

        Pat Metheny (too many tunes/albums/sounds to name since he’s been recording for about 50 years now, but try “In France they Kiss on Main Street” w/ Joni Mitchell for an earlier sound or his whole album with Jim Hall for something a little more recent).

        Anything by my #1 favorite living guitarist/composer/musician Ralph Towner. I’m especially partial to his solo stuff but his work with Oregon is pretty good too.

        I recognize that many of these recommendations are a bit on the older side (<20 years, but that's largely the result of me catching up on a great deal of classical repertoire I've overlooked and not feeling musically adventurous recently with regards to contemporary music.

        You might also look outside the borders of the musical anglo-sphere, like the songs of Brazilians like Vinicius de Moraes or Caetano Veloso, or the Italian Gianna Nannini

        The spirit to create quality, meaningful music has not and will never die. It can be overshadowed and obscured by overbearing and obnoxious fads and that makes discovering it feel a bit like a chore (or an adventure if you're feeling optimistic), but makes it more special when you finally come across the good stuff. Plus, I find listening to good music a pretty good litmus test for whether or not I'm going to get along well with someone.

        Ok, that's a lot of crap to read through, so no worries if these recommendations get lost in the noise.


        • Posted August 26, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Here’s a 1994 gig bringing together four or five generations of all-time greats:

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      These are very good points, I think. Especially that there is so MUCH music out there with different genres.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I also think it’s that the corporations have an even tighter control over the airwaves now than then — and there are fewer corporations vying for power.

      Regarding good music being made now, I will let me folkie heart show and recommend:

      Martin Sexton
      Show of Hands (which I heard about from someone here! Thanks you!)
      Amos Lee (at least Mission Bell, never mind the religion he throws in)

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        In Finland, at least, you can no longer find a radio station that’ll allow a journalist, a DJ or a talk show host choose the music for her or his program, unless it’s a program about a particular musician.

        Corporations decide everything.

  26. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m older than you are, Jerry, but I must disagree. I don’t like that Taylor Swift song (after listening to it once), but that is just an opinion. Preferences for music – like art – is just that, a preference.

    I don’t like country, opera, or hip hop, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who plays/writes those genres of music are talentless. Undoubtedly some of them are, but that doesn’t mean that those genres are dead…it just means I don’t like it.

    I also disagree that classical music has “finished its run.” You might, because perhaps you don’t keep up with new artists or composers. I would suggest you spend some time at recitals at the U of C. You won’t like everything, but perhaps you’ll be able to see that classical music, like rock n roll is alive and well. It’s perhaps not as popular as…well, popular music, but it’s still progressing.

    I spent a considerable portion of my career trying to get kids to understand the difference between fact and opinion. I love baseball. I hate American football. I like spaghetti. I don’t like tapioca pudding. I like John Cage and Stravinsky, but not Schoenberg or Webern. I like some Indie rock, but don’t like most techno.

    Those are my opinions. I don’t expect anyone to like exactly the same things I like. We all have our preferences…

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      As for classical, I do find time to pay attention to many living composers, and I can name a few works that I like: John Pickard’s Piano Concerto, Anders Hillborg’s “King Tide”, and Lera Auerbach’s “24 Preludes for Violin and Piano.” I also like some symphonies by Rautavaara, who died last year.

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Kalevi Aho?


        • Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          As a Finnish journalist who has actually met both Aho and the late Rautavaara, I’m delighted to see them mentioned. They will be remembered 100 years from now, but not as Ellingtons or Beatles of our time.

          • Barry Lyons
            Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

            I’m aware of Aho but haven’t checked him out. As for other Finnish composers, I’ve heard some things that I’ve liked by Einar Englund, particularly his two piano concertos.

            • gormenghastly
              Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

              The Aho I like is Kaija Saariaho, never heard a piece by her I didn’t like.

              • Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

                I have, but in general I do like her stuff. Aho means “meadow” in Finnish. Saariaho is “island meadow”.

            • Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

              Englund was also an important movie composer.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Where did I say it was anything other than a preference? It’s MY preference.

      And thank you for pointing out my ignorance of new classical music when you know nothing about whether I follow it or not.

      If classical music isn’t waning, why do symphony orchestras keep playing Beethoven, Brahms, and so on? They can’t draw big audiences with “modern” classical music.

      Anyway, thank you for your lecture.

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Some “difficult” pieces of music take time. Stravinsky’s raucous “Rite of Spring” (from 1913) is pretty much a concert staple these days. A good whomping performance done by top-notch musicians is guaranteed to bring down the house. Same goes for some more accessible pieces by Prokofiev (his Piano Concerto No. 3, in particular) and Bartok’s great “Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste”. Also, Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony never fails to please.

        • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          True, certainly. I remember buying three different versions of the Bartok piece some three decades ago. It’s soon 70 years since his death.

          Let’s add Stravinsky and Bartok to the question: Who do you predict to be the Stravinsky, the Bartok, the Gershwin, the Ellington or the Beatles of 2017?

          • Barry Lyons
            Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

            Of 2017, specifically? No one comes to mind.

            • gormenghastly
              Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

              What “serious” composers writing today will be the classics of the future? Hard to predict where tastes will go. Or formats. You could argue that what the symphony or concerto used to be, the film or TV score is today.
              Some names I’d offer which I think will endure: Thomas Ades, Johann Johansson, Arvo Part, Max Richter

              • Posted August 26, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

                I don’t know Ades, but you might be right with the other three.

                Apart from JJ, I’ve recently found a liking for other Icelandic composers, such as Ólafur Arnalds and Anna Þorvaldsdóttir.


      • Steve Pollard
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        The BBC Proms take place at the Royal Albert Hall from mid-July to mid-September every year, and each concert is a sell-out (5000 in the auditorium), not including the radio, TV and internet audiences. Starting with the very first season in 1895, many of the concerts have scheduled new works alongside the established classics, thereby introducing audiences to unfamiliar pieces every year.

        I went to my first Prom in 1967, and have been to dozens since. Even then, the Jeremiahs were telĺing us that serious music was dying, and that there was no appetite for contemporary compositions. Not true: serious music, including opera, is at least as popular as it ever was in the past. And if you see the Proms on TV, just look at the audience: most of them are about a third of my or PCC(E)’s age.

        Really good music will always survive and thrive!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          “the Royal Albert Hall”

          We ever figure out how many holes it takes to fill that place, anyway?

        • Filippo
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          Film score composer Jerry Goldsmith not unreasonably opined that film scores are today’s classical music. In my opinion, outstanding examples of this are “The Enterprise” and “Leaving Dry Dock” from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

          • Vaal
            Posted August 26, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

            Another soundtrack fan here, Filippo!
            In fact I was just listening to the very tracks you listed only days ago. They are beautiful, thrilling and never get old to my ears.

      • KD33
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t that the answer? What modern classical composer would want to spend a career composing in major/minor keys, and in the forms of classical that are “popular”? We had Ravel/Satie/Debussey and new modes, Stravinsky and chromaticism – that audiences of the day walked out on. The economics don’t work today to support talented composers of orchestral works that would also be “accessible.”

        Actually, my brother composes modern chamber music. It’s a small but active community. But there’s essentially no means for making a living exclusively from this.

  27. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say Beatlemania was the first truly global cultural phenomenon. Having been born in ’55 I’m aware of the bias, but still…

    When Ella covered Can’t Buy Me Love, I got interested in the history of jazz and that was it.

    Since about 1972, when Mingus and Rollins came back in a big way, more or less affirming their earlier message, I’ve been certain that the greatest music was made by the jazz masters between 1925 and 1965.

    Now, I’m as curious and open-minded as the next guy and I love madrigals, Indian classical music, most of European romantics and impressionists, lots of World music and whatever.

    But the merits of this decade’s Top 40 stuff are beyond me. So far.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      1925 to 1965, from Pops to ‘Trane, from the Hot Five to “A Love Supreme” — yeah, I’d call that a golden age, too.

  28. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink


  29. Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    And it’s not just pop music. Just last night I recorded a concert of contemporary classical chamber music. There wasn’t one piece on the program I would ever want to hear again. Come to think of it, I’m hard pressed to think of a piece of “serious” music written since 1950 that I’d go out of my way to listen to. Contemporary classical music can be very imaginative, but attractive, not so much.

    One piece on last night’s program was a trio for clarinet, cello, and piano. You can imagine that such a combination of instruments could produce music of heart-melting beauty. Not this time!

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      I made some recommendations of some works by living composers elsewhere in this thread. One piece that I didn’t mention that I’d like to hear live is Adès’s orchestral work “Asyla.” But you might like Pickard’s Prokofiev-like Piano Concerto. But there are a few austere pieces by other composers that I like, but I won’t go into them here.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      How about Ferde Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite,” circa 1955?

  30. Aaron
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I think your thesis holds true if you’re comparing only the most popular music across eras. Plenty of great music is being produced today; you usually just need to look beyond the Billboard charts to find it.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I ask again: where are today’s Beatles? Give me the name of one group that produces consistently great and original music like they did. If YOUR thesis is true, you should be able to name the “new” Beatles.

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        Well, I say this much: “Kontiki” (1997) by Cotton Mather might just be the best Beatles album the Beatles never made. Here’s “Homefront Cameo,” one of my favorite songs from the album:

        As for consistent inventiveness, I guess I would name Radiohead (but they are hardly Beatlesque, though “Faust Arp”, a gorgeous song from In Rainbows, sounds like something that would have fit in nicely on the White Album).

      • Aaron
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        I concede that in today’s music environment, there probably won’t be another band as singularly influential as the Beatles. You had two incredible songwriting talents who came up when rock and roll was still nascent, and options for consuming music were limited to a few radio stations and TV channels. Music is so highly democratized these days that it makes it more difficult for one act to stand out. Nevertheless, I can name some modern bands/singer-songwriters who have consistently made quality music, even if they’re no Beatles:

        Black Keys
        The Strokes
        Fleet Foxes
        The National
        Arctic Monkeys
        Jose Gonzalez
        Frightened Rabbit
        Elliott Smith
        Gary Clark Jr.

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          I would agree with your list. I’d also add (some of these appear upthread):

          Porcupine Tree
          Steven Wilson
          My Morning Jacket
          Micheal Kiwanuka
          Queens of the Sone Age
          The Eels

          • Mark R.
            Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

            Queens of the ‘Stone’ Age

            I’ll also add Holmes other cool project with John Paul Jones and David Grohl: Them Crooked Vultures.

          • Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

            Well, Procupine Tree is Steven Wilson (also No-Man and Bass Communion).


            • Mark R.
              Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

              Yes I know, but I’d say they are different enough, and both have enough material that I feel they can be listed separately. No-Man and Bass Communion are just ok imo. The new SW is out: To the Bone. More “popish” than his other works; I’ve only listened to it twice and it takes a while for me to digest a SW work.

      • Jeff Rankin
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        There can’t be another Beatles in my opinion, because the Beatles did just about everything that can be done in popular music and still have widespread appeal.

        Now (most) everything is just a variant on what’s been done.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

          And the Beatles arrived at just the right moment, when transistor radios made portable music universally available and television made widespread personality cults possible.

          So all the conditions were there, just waiting for someone with sufficient talent to set it off.

          It could only happen once. After that, it wasn’t new.


      • KD33
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        That’s a tall order. Then again, where were “today’s Beatles” in 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005? Something like that maybe only comes along once.

        There are bands that have produced consistently “great and original music” for a decade or more (the Beatles were < 10 years) They won't have the same wide appeal as the Beatles, of course. E.g., Radiohead had produced some transcendent stuff over ~ 1995-today, but their audience is relatively tiny (but diehard).

  31. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I had everyone of those top 20 hits, in 45s or LPs, except the for Monkees’ tunes (which my kid sister had) and #20 (although I had The Happenings’ earlier hit 45, “See You in September”). That includes the Bobby Vee tune, which was in a box of 45s an older guy in the neighborhood gave me when he packed up and left for Vietnam.

    Still know the words to most all of ’em, too.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Did he survive Vietnam? I just finished Mark Bowden’s most recent book, Hue 1968 which I can highly recommend. This prompts my question.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        He made it back. Another kid, a couple doors down and two years older, didn’t. I wrote a short story a long time ago about a character based on a combination of those two guys, so I tend to think of them together.

        • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

          Thanks for letting me know.

  32. Steve Pollard
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Well, this thread shows that there ain’t no accounting for tastes! FWIW, I am a few months younger than PCC(E), and I agree with him about popular music (my own windows of interest were roughly 1963-1979); but I disagree about “serious” music (I don’t like the generic term “classical”). A lot of good stuff has been composed over the past 50 years or so.

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Here’s one work I will name: Mennin’s Piano Concerto (from 1971). It’s a crazy, relentless work and accessible in a sort of Prokofiev-like way (well, if you like Prokofiev at his most manic). There’s only one recording of it. I wish there were more, as there’s something slightly glassy in the treble of John Ogdon’s piano.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Barry, I don’t know that work, and I must look it up. Ogden was a great man with a tragic history. I used to sing in a London choir, and one of our concerts included one of Ogden’s first public performances after his major breakdown. (Beethoven 3, as I recall).

        In my time as a choral singer, I have been fortunate enough to have performed in a number of contemporary works, of which Peter Maxwell Davies’s “Solstice of Light” and James Macmillan’s staggering “Cantos Sagrados” stand out in my memory. I love singing my Bach, Beethoven and Brahms; but there is so much more!

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      “A lot of good stuff has been composed over the past 50 years or so.”

      Yes, especially film scores. Contemporary classical (a contradiction in terms, but I’m not sure what to call it), not so much.

  33. Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    What I miss in music today is risk taking.

    As well as asking who today’s Beatles are, I’d ask where the hell are today’s punk rockers or whatever that would look like today?

    I hated nearly all punk, but that was part of it. (I confess I liked “I was never in a riot, I was always on the toilet”, by the Mekons, though.)

    Much punk wasn’t just trying to be political or whatever, it was rebelling just as much against the Bee Gees. (Bee Gees fans should listen to what they did to the Beatles classic “I want You” before they gripe at me!)

    Or where is today’s Frank Zappa? In the 1980s he was ridiculing conservatives for censoring pop songs that imply sex. Nowadays it’s the youth that are doing the censoring.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      The Dropkick Murphys! Celtic Punk (imagine that!) from (near) Boston, Mass.

      Their Warrior’s Code rocks your brains out.

      I’m not big on Punk either; but, wow, these guys are pretty fun.

    • KD33
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Well, Radiohead has assumed some of Frank’s politics. But censorship is less the issue now, vs. access to new music and central control of distribution. And I don’t see “youth” in the music business (and especially the “off-mainstream” music world) doing any censoring.

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        I meant more leftist PC censoring than in music.

        I also didn’t mean to imply there are no good or provocative bands today…

        • KD33
          Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          That’s interesting. What PC censorship have you seen? (I’m not being argumentative – I’m really curious.)

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Yeah! Who’s singing about the Central Scrutinizer?

      • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        Don’t make a fuss, just get on the bus, and …

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      I dunno, if your talkin’ music and politics, Tom Morello (late of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) ain’t shy about taking a stand. And there’s always Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam.

  34. Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    There is a ton of good music out there now, but it will be a matter of taste. I get my stuff from various sources such as free streaming Indie radio track on the computer & listening to NPR segments about music. I think that rock and roll was always competing with other varieties of music for young people, but there are so many other kinds now that it is no longer dominant. Its still there… somewhere.

    Anyway, here are some recent artists & songs that I really like:
    “Lost on You” by LP
    “Shelter Song’ by the Temples which is very ’60s sounding
    “Nothing to Lose” by Andrew Combs, which seems very country
    “Don’t Wanna Fight by Alabama Shakes
    “Nature’s Law” by Embrace (this one chokes me up sometimes)
    “Level Up’ by Vienna Teng

    And many more.

  35. Steve Zeoli
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I am a few years younger than you, and I didn’t start listening to popular music until around 1970, so the ’60s aren’t exactly nostalgic for me. BUT, I think it was the golden era of rock and pop. The music is catchy and the lyrics usually pretty good. But what most attracts me is that it is almost all so optimistic. Even the protest songs — of which there are many more than there are today — believe the world can be made better.

  36. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    “Nothing to Lose” is pretty. I like it.

    “Shelter Song” made me think of “Listen to Me” by The Shore:

  37. John Dowland
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Do you think it’s possible that what is popular today doesn’t reflect the highest quality contemporary music? I think good and innovative music is made today — it’s just not as popular as Taylor Swift.

    In fact, looking back, poor music has always been popular.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      I agree. The interesting stuff nowadays isn’t getting airplay.

  38. ploubere
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    May I respectfully suggest that music is personal and, so long as it’s played in key and competently, what anyone likes is their business and fine with me. I don’t find Swift interesting and don’t listen to her, but if others do, I’m happy for them.

    Outside of technical issues, I don’t see any basis to objectively rate the quality of a song. I’m not sure what reason there is to do so, either. We are so lucky to live in an age with so much creativity and so, so many talented musicians. Enjoy whatever pleases you.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I’m confused: are you telling me that I shouldn’t have written this post?

      • Liz
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        I love this post about the music. Definitely should have posted. I sometimes think that I was supposed to have been alive between 1967 and 1972. It was the creme de la creme for quality music. “Pleasant Valley Sunday” is special to me because I had a Monkees tape in third grade. It might not be incredible quality. There really aren’t any equivalents to the Beatles. Closes might be Eddie Veddar or Dave Matthews. They both will stand the test of time. You can never go wrong with the classics and oldies which I love.

        • Liz
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink


  39. Liz
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Oh, come on. “Pleasant Valley Sunday” is good. At least I like it. Along with the other classics mentioned.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Yeah I’m OK with The Monkees too. The Wrecking Crew played on their albums as well.

  40. Randy schenck
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Just think how long the Rolling Stones have been around and many of the groups from even the 70s. Staying power is what the music had because you wanted to hear it again. And you got paid for your songs…incentive to keep making more. Simply not the same and it’s too bad.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      It never will be the same. There’s too much music.

      Even with all the disposable time that young people have they cannot consume all of music as fast as it appears. Over 500 reasonable composer before 1950, hundreds of jazz pioneers, several hundred rock stars, and thousands of pop stars; and that’s yesterday. And now genres that mix bluegrass with black-satan-metal and Moroccan with Steve Reich sung in Bulgarian.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        Actually, the truth of the matter for me, when I went out working for a living, there was little time for music, and probably just as well. Arguing for any generation’s music is simply a waste of time really. Your own ears will tell you what you like.

      • KD33
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        “There’s too much music.” Of course there’s a lot to unpack there, but I agree with the notion. Today it’s almost impossible to have something that is both new and innovative and fresh, that isn’t a retread of music past, *and* that lots of people are going to like. To me that’s the answer as to why the Beatles (and maybe a few compatriots of the time) can’t be replicated. It’s not a lack of talent or creativity today (though that permeates the mainstream) – it’s that the Beatles could be all those things at a unique point in time as music advanced. I think that arc continued nicely through the 80’s and 90’s, but grew more fragmented as a given sub-genre was appealing to a smaller segment. And so on to today.

        The flip side is, we have the entire history of rock/pop music at our fingertips. THAT is a wonderful thing, and something that is not mined enough by music fans. (Nor, I hate to say it, by many of the posters here.)

  41. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I would make a few suggestions although none were as big as the Beatles:
    Barenaked Ladies
    Crash Test Dummies
    Tragically Hip

    Klaatu has a Beatles like sound but not as good. Their signature album is 3:47 EST, also known as just ‘Klaatu’.
    Crash Test Dummies is a little uneven.
    Barenaked Ladies is alt rock/pop.
    Tragically Hip is rock. All are Canadian bands.

    The Beatles White Album has a special place in my heart, my wife and I listened to it while we drove to Strathcona Park for our honeymoon.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Didn’t people think that Klaatu were the Beatles “undercover”?


      • Barry Lyons
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        For a brief period, yes.

  42. Tim D
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I think your argument that you are not just dissing young peoples’ music would be better made by stating that you like music from the younger generations (not older generations)- e.g. music you like from the 80s, the 90s, or 2000s.

    I, for instance, like and love a much, much greater number of songs (/proportion of songs in the charts) from the 90s than I do now (The Verve, Blur, Oasis). So how do you rate music from these ‘younger generation’ decades compared to the youngest generation’s music of today?

  43. Brian Salkas
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, check out of montreal for pop music. Check out the bad plus for jazz, check out Kendrick la mar (may have spelled that wrong) for rap. Other really good stuff is out there, just not on the radio, thank god for youtube

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      There’s good stuff out there, of course. Ethan Iverson’s just leaving Bad Plus, but he might grow up to be a contender in the Gershwin/Ellington category. Darcy James Argue as well.

      I’m fairly certain Steve Coleman will get his due before long.

  44. Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure off this qualifies as popular or “classical”, but there’s some interesting music coming out of Iceland these days; e.g.,


  45. Neil Faulkner
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    With all due respect to PCC, the generation that grew up when rock and roll was at its best was mine. Mine, I tell you, mine. Late 70s, early 80s – there was punk, new wave, Two-Tone, reggae, disco, the British heavy metal revival, the New Romantics, and more. John Peel’s show was mandatory listening and even Top of the Pops was worth watching. The charts have never been so diverse before or since.

    As to why pop music seems to have nose-dived in quality, I think it’s because it won its rebellion against the adult world. There are no adults any more, just older teenagers. Rock and roll’s got nothing left to do except make money.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      Even while all that 15 minutes of fame music was having it’s time, the rock and roll continued. Who seeks out punk or new wave now or even thinks about it. But music of the 50 and 60s is still popular and even liked by some of the younger folks. I could not even compare Elton John or Mark Knopfler to anything punk or new wave really.

      • Veroxitatis
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        Randy, now into my 70s I still play the Ramones!

        • Veroxitatis
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          Some glitch there! Randy, now into my 70s I still play the Ramones!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          In that case, pops, maybe you need to be sedated.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        “Who seeks out punk or new wave now or even thinks about it.”

        My 13 year old daughter!

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

          Yes, well, I’ll rest my case.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      And don’t forget Goth! I loved Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, The Cure, Joy Division, The Mission, Siouxsie and the Banshees…

    • KD33
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Agree about 702/80s! I didn’t see your post, and wrote a similar one below.

      One thing – IMO there is still rebellion going on. But it’s posted on BandCamp and SoundCloud, not on iTunes.

  46. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    So this has prompted me to go into one of the free streaming services — Google Play Music. They have a huge # of old and new tracks and you can choose by genre. I prefer the Alternative/Indie radio track to hear things that are not on the radio every 10 minutes. These are traditional bands with real instruments and real talent. Within a short period I heard a lot of good stuff there (to me). Just now there was “Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis. Now there is something playing by Coldplay that I also like.
    Good stuff is out there, but they won’t top the charts.

    • Neil Faulkner
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Erm …just checked my Guinness Book of Hit Singles, and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” did top the charts. It was a UK #1 hit back in 1996.

  47. KD33
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I see what you did there!

    My 1st awareness of pop/rock was hearing Abbey road the day after it came out – I was 9 yrs old. My 1st albums were Abbey Road, Let It Be, Who’s Next, and Black Sabbath (1st album).

    My favorite (and sort of formative) stretch was ~1978-1981. Punk still relevant, and lots of actual good, new music. Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Gang of Four, early R.E.M., B-52’s, X, Bowie, Iggy Pop, Frank Zappa in his prime, Dead Kennedys, Steely Dan (OK, Aja was 1977 and the end of their great era) – if you could see it live it was a great time for new music. But little of what I liked was “top 40,” nor is it now.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Violent Femmes!

      • KD33
        Posted August 26, 2017 at 2:29 am | Permalink

        Good catch! Though I think of them as a few years later (along with the Smiths).

  48. KD33
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Forgot the Pretenders. And probably a few others.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes — Brass in Pocket or Kid, or When love walks in the room — whatever that one was called…

      • Larry Smith
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Message of Love… everybody stand up!

        and many others from Ms. Hynde and crew(s)

  49. winc39
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the introduction to Taylor Swift. Kind of interesting and certainly creative. Have you considered that the repetition of old songs in not something the younger generation looks forward to as anthems for their experience? Maybe the first generation that will listen to new, not old, music in their old age?
    As for the snide classical music remark, every concert worthy of the title includes contemporary classical music. If you don’t like it or at least find it interesting that is on you. It is out there if you do not screen it out. I do like your taste in antique 20th century music, but I worry that you have stopped growing. Changed your mind about anything big in past couple of decades? That is what scientists are supposed to be able to do.

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Did you read the Roolz? I guess not. It’s really a shame I have to ditch someone because they can’t keep themselves from being rude. Learns some damn civility toward people on this site! On second thought, it’s too late.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      I just have to say that you are the kind of guy that slumps behind a computer screen with a non-name for good reason.

  50. ladyatheist
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    This is hands-down the worst song of the year, or perhaps of the century. Taylor Swift is terrible, but this guy is trying very hard to make her look good:

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      So I will not click on it 🙂

    • Kevin
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Of course I had to click it.

      My sons listen to that (10/13). I am not sure if that’s just because they like it or its Zeitgeist.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        I think you have to be a certain age to believe a woman would want to hear her boyfriend say that to her.

    • allison
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      I have to agree that that’s pretty awful.

    • Gabrielle
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      The song’s not too bad, there’s far worse pop music out there.
      The music video is pretty good.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      Hey great, the people at Kraft Dinner are doing music now.

  51. Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I must respectfully disagree. I think it is clear (and you have amply demonstrated) that *radio* rock music is awful compared to radio rock music from the 60’s and 70’s. But rock music is still going strong – it just isn’t on the radio.

    I will recommend 5 bands that I think anyone who believes rock is dead should investigate, all from the 80’s/90’s to the 2010’s.

    Sleater-Kinney: the greatest rock band of all time, in my opinion. I recommend listening to “All Hands on the Bad One” for the easiest introduction to their music. But “The Hot Rock” and “The Woods” are their two best albums. “The Woods” is an all-out assault on the senses.

    Shellac: Chicago’s own. Listen to “1000 Hurts” to get the full scope of their sound. Be warned: the lyrics will be shocking at times.

    Nomeansno: BC’s own. These guys are an incredibly eclectic blend of rock, jazz, hardcore, and funk. “Wrong” is their seminal album.

    Superdrag: incredibly visceral, angsty, fuzzy rock. “Regretfully Yours” is their best album.

    Nada Surf: ephemeral and varied, pretty much any album is a good introduction, though I would probably recommend “Let Go”.

    If you only have time for a song or two, I’d recommend the following:

    SK: “Price Tag”, “Jumpers”
    Shellac: “Dude Incredible”, “Watch Song”
    NMN: “Rags and Bones”, “The End of All Things”
    Superdrag: “Nothing Good Is Real”, “Annetichrist”
    Nada Surf: “Killian’s Red”, “When I Was Young”

  52. Kevin
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    As people get older, it is very difficult to congeal the same music to memories as memories are not formed the same.

    No one can repeat a first listening, for example. That album that sits in first listened to in teen-hood will never be the same to a 40something or higher.

    Sapolsky speaks of a similar feature to people who never try sushi before 30. If they don’t, they are almost certainly never going to try it. This is very similar to music.

    There are no Beatles or Ellington today for technical reasons, just as their are no longer Haydns and Handels.

  53. Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Oh My Spaghetti Monster,

    it just dawned on me this was Leonard Bernstein’s 99th birthday (it’s almost 2 am on Saturday in Tampere, Finland).

    I wish some TV channel would hire Ethan Iverson to produce those music education programs Bernstein used to do.

    • gormenghastly
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Yes, he’d do a fantastic job. But you can get a pretty good education just from reading his blog.

  54. Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    As to Zappa, I often throw out a challenge to New Age spiritual folk to come up with something more spiritual than —

    Do you know who you are?
    You are what you is
    You is what you am
    A cow don’t make ham
    You ain’t what you’re not
    So see what you got
    You are what you is
    And that’s all it is

    This is even clearer than Neale Donald Walsch’s

    “You are an Individuation of Deity, a singularization of The Singularity, an aspect of Divinity. You are the Localized Expression of the Universal Presence… You are God… You are in the Realm of the Physical — what has also been called the Realm of the Relative…which is where Experiencing occurs.”

    Or Deepak Chopra’s
    “You are a holographic expression of the entire universe that is manifesting as a continuum of probability amplitudes for space/time events.”

    • Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Hear the whole thing.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      There no repeats of Zappa. And none of Miles either.

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        I honestly think that he is the only person who — had he survived — the Democrats could have run who would have been capable of beating Trump. It would have been a bit weird for a while, with the aliens and the rubber hoses, but it would have been immeasurably better.

        • Kevin
          Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

          I shall dream of President Zappa.

          The only time I ever voted in my life I wrote his name in (postmostuously).

        • Posted August 26, 2017 at 2:42 am | Permalink

          How about a rerun for Al Gore, now that he’s divorced Tipper 🙂

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Look here, brother, who you jivin’ with that Cosmik Debris?

      Best. anti-woo. song. ever.

      • Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        That is also an all time favorite of mine! Great lead from Zappa too.

        • KD33
          Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          Yes, a very fine blues solo.

  55. Jair
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Sure, most of the pop music on the radio now is much more annoying that the hits from the 60’s. But pop is not dead. See especially tracks by Regina Spektor – Apres Moi, Samson, Us. I’d take these tracks over almost anything from that era.

  56. Liz
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Musical preference is not a debate. Anyway, Eddie Vedder and the Cornell Hangover’s a capella group from 1998, I believe, do excellent covers of Last Kiss.

  57. Paul Matthews
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Based on my admittedly limited exposure to today’s music, I tend to disagree. My 11 year-old son loves to listen to top 40 radio when we’re travelling in the car. This is rather excruciating for me, but it’s because of the inane patter of the inane DJs and the extremely irritating hard-sell commercials. The music is … surprisingly good, with lots of great melodies very well sung. I’ve heard a couple of songs where a very good singer is paired with a rapper. The contrast between the singing and the spoken voice is very effective. I have noticed that there is a lack of variety. All the male singers I hear on my son’s stations seem to have light tenor voices. I don’t recall hearing anyone that sounds like John Fogerty or Joe Cocker (great “rough-voiced” singers), much less Bob Dylan, Neil Young or Donald Fagen (singers with lots of character but not-so-great voices).

    As for today’s Beatles, well there’s only one Beatles (well four, but you know what I mean) but I do love the group Elbow. And they’re from the UK too.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      When my kids were that age, I found the most effective form of discipline possible — better than grounding, or docking of allowances, or corporal punishment (which I abjure anyway) — was to threaten to put on oldies and start dancing in front of their friends when they came over to visit. Got so, if they were acting up in the car, I could just look at the radio, then at them, then at the radio again, then give ’em that “you’re really asking for it now” look. They just effin’ knew, and they’d snap right back into line.

      Of course, if I ever had to follow through and actually do it, I’d probably have gotten in dutch with Family Services for excessive cruelty and child abuse.

  58. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    That Top 20 – what a list! I can still remember at least half of those in my head.

    I’d disagree that #1 and #3 were clunkers (I assume that’s what ‘clinkers’ means?)
    #3 – Pleasant Valley Sunday – was at least catchy. And #1 (Ode to Billy Joe) I’ve got in my MP3 player. I’m NOT a country music fan but that song is quite unusual and distinctive.

    Just personally, though, right now is musically the best time of my life. NOT because of contemporary ‘music’ which I never listen to, but because of Youtube which has so much music of the 60’s and 70’s and later, readily available. Songs I only heard a few times and disappeared from the airwaves, I can now track down and hear again. Songs like (think of a couple at random) Don McLean’s Castles in the Air or Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, or 500 others…

    And other artists and songs I’ve never heard of, but come across wandering through Youtube. Like Eva Cassidy’s Fields of Gold, which is as good as, but totally different from, Sting’s original.

    (Currently (re)discovering Hawkwind, who have produced a vast list of tracks over decades, many of them repetitive but a few of which will make it to my MP3 player).


  59. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    That video (graphically) is very derivative. I’m thinking of Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me’ that did it much better. (There may have been others before him).



  60. Cruzrad
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I was soon to start the 8th grade in August, 1967. I like #’s 1, 3 and 14!

    Don’t care a lot for the new TS song, but it might grow on me. I liked quite a few of the cuts from her 1989 album. No accounting for tastes!

  61. Posted August 25, 2017 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Classical music has finished its run??

    Are you having a laugh?

  62. Posted August 25, 2017 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Both Stevie Wonder videos were great, but the one with Diana Ross is an absolute gem. The phrasing by Ross is just amazing to hear. Two great performers who can actually sing long before the days of autotuned crap which passes for music these days!

  63. Gabrielle
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Not long ago I had a conversation with a neighbor, both of us big Led Zeppelin fans. He asked me what I’d been listening to lately, and I said “Philip Glass”. A look of pure disgust came over his face, as he said “A cacophony of sound. How can you listen to that?” Which brings up the question – how can our musical tastes be so strongly alike in one regard, and so different in another?

    All this being said, for a long time I also couldn’t stand listening to Phillip Glass. His music sounded like the same 3 chords, over and over and over again. That was, until I heard his score for the movie “Scandal”. Just sublime. Since then, I’d say I’ve put about 10 Glass albums on my smartphone.

    When I’m in the car, I listen to pop music. A good 80% of it or so is ok, mostly forgettable. But there are some gems out there, with good singing and good phrasing, not too overly produced:

    Adele – Send my Love (To your New Lover)
    Selena Gomez – Same old Love
    21 Pilots – Heathens
    Marian Hill – Down
    Demi Lovato – Cool for the Summer
    Kiiara – Gold
    Sia – Cheap Thrills
    Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On

    I also listen to the station that plays music from the 1970s, music that I listened to in high school. A good 80% of it or so is ok, mostly forgettable, but with a few gems here and there. Not so different from today.

  64. Neal Lewis
    Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry,

    All of the examples of you’re openness to other music are before you’re peak time as an twenty-something. You listed music that you listened to as a child because you’re parent’s listened to it, but nothing after the 70s. Certainly, there is something after your time that you can list? Is it objective to say that there was no good music after your 30s, and then list as evidence for your objectivity lots of music before your 30s?

    I don’t know about the Swift group, but the kids are alright 🙂

    Here is a blend from the 80s and 90s- 00s. If you listened to any Michael Jackson, you’ll love it. Chris Cornell anyone?

    • Neal Lewis
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Actually,I have to scratch that… You were posting a lot about Amy Winehouse. I’m obviously jumping the gun here 🙂 . But.. there still is good rock out there 🙂

      • Posted August 26, 2017 at 2:54 am | Permalink

        Amy Winehouse was easily the most interesting pop phenomenon of the last decade.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 25, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Rip Chris. All my friends are skeletons.

  65. Roger
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    I used to not really like Frank Zappa, and then for a couple years I pretended like I liked Zappa because everyone online acted like he was so awesome that nobody could possibly not like Zappa. And then eventually I went back to not liking him again, but his time with the attitude that I refuse to be intimidated into liking Frank Zappa.

    • KD33
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Oh, Roger – don’t do this to yourself! Zappa must be introduced like an exotic cuisine – in bits, in the right order. Just try this to get the toe dipped in:

      Then this to get the full effect:

      Leave the Mother’ precision nuttiness and classical entertainments for later…

  66. Posted August 26, 2017 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    There is no question that music has been on a downhill slide since our era. What qualifies as music these days is a bunch of canned beats/massive use of effects/and electronically manufactured sounds and noise that somehow passes for music.

    There doesn’t seem to be any MUSICIANS in music anymore. The Monkees were entertainers who saw the light and became musicians. These days I think people no longer know that it takes musicians, people who have mastered a craft, to make good music. Without musicians, music lost its soul.

    These days entertainers, who are the vast majority of artists, (not to be confused with musicians) don’t write their own lyrics most of the time, they have zero input on anything, they do what they are told and follow the corporate formula.

    The corporations have a system that works, that is makes money for them. Music took the hit. The life of music, the heart and soul of the musician has been forgotten.

    I understand that there are a lot of entertainers through history who have put out music that has stood the test of time, but if you are looking for the new Beatles, it will be comprised of musicians when you find it.

  67. DutchA
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Never cared much for The Beatles or Stones, but… where’s the new Rush?

    I am glad to see that a few people have mentioned Steven Wilson. Very well done.

    One reader (Ant, reaction 44, 3) here posted a link of Hildur Guðnadóttir. Definitely worth a try, esp. with headphones, and eyes closed.

  68. KP
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I was a teenager in the late-eighties, early nineties. There was a lot of dreck on the radio then, too: Vanilla Ice, Color Me Badd, MC Hammer, etc. What’s missing now that I had as a kid that was crucial to developing my taste in music is an underground — a network of bands, college radio, mom-and-pop records stores and alternative weeklies that promoted smaller bands and clubs. With social media now it’s easier for an artist to reach a mass audience, and that’s good, but instead of having a lot of little niches, everyone is talking about the same handful of artists. And I stole from my parents collection to: I loved sixties and seventies rock, my mom’s country and my dad’s blues and R&B.

  69. Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Neil Diamond was on a roll that week, with three songs in the top 20.

  70. Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I saw Sawyer Fredericks the other night. Kid is a genius. He’s been writing very sophisticated songs since he was 12.

  71. Ken Phelps
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink


    • Ken Phelps
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      And Live.

    • Mark Reaume
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink


  72. zytigon
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I just watched evolutionary geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford lecture on Science Gallery Dublin Youtube channel video , “Adam Rutherford on Creation, synthetic biology and hip-hop”. He makes a link between gene sequencing, genetic engineering and music sampling. At 37 minutes in Adam talks about the history of the,” Amen break “,which is one of the most sampled tracks in history and has found its way into tracks such as the Futurama theme, N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton and Oasis (“D’You Know What I Mean?”)
    [ My weak link to this thread is that sometimes what you think of as new music has far older roots, bits that sort of evolved from earlier tunes. Also at 26 minutes into the video Adam Rutherford mentions the fluorescent jellyfish Aequorea victoria; genes from which created a fluorescent cat, also shown at 27:15]

    The Wikipedia article on the Amen break says it has its origins in an African American gospel song called, “Amen”. This version can be heard in “Wings Over Jordan Choir – Amen, Amen, Amen (1953)” on Youtube direfranchement channel.

    Jester Hairston wrote and sang a version of “Amen” for the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field (1963). Hairston dubbed over for Sidney Poitier who played lead role but was tone deaf. Youtube channel milkypirate99 has a clip from the ending of this film, “Lilies of the field-Amen”.

    This version was subsequently popularized by The Impressions in 1964.

    In 1969 The Winstons did another cover with drums solo by G.C.= Gregory Sylvester Coleman. It is this drum solo which many musicians have loved and reused in their tracks. The link between original song and drum solo can be heard on Breaksnbeats Youtube channel video,”Ultimate Breaks & Beats – Vol. 1 (Side A)” at 6 minutes in.

  73. Ben Curtis
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this. I hadn’t heard it before and think it sounds really good. More interesting lyrics than you usually hear, but I’m a Leonard Cohen fan, not really a pop fan.

    My impression about serious music is that it is getting more an more interesting as time goes on.

  74. Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    First of all, stop listening to the radio. Life is too short to listen to other people’s taste in music.
    Secondly, consider a service that makes discovering music easier, such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora etc. You tell it what you like and it will start offering other music in line with your tastes.

    If one trusts the mainstream you’ll always be disappointed.

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      To be frank, forgetting the overall philosophical point for a minute, the new Taylor Swift song is the best I’ve ever heard from her. But that’s not saying much.

  75. Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    You might also look outside the borders of the musical anglo-sphere, like the songs of Brazilians like Vinicius de Moraes or Caetano Veloso, or the Italian Gianna Nannini
    The spirit to create quality, meaningful music has not and will never die. Today it’s almost impossible to have something that is both new and innovative and fresh, that isn’t a retread of music past, *and* that lots of people are going to like.

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 2:26 am | Permalink

      That’s sound advice, of course. About your examples, however:

      De Moraes had made his important contributions way before 1967, and died in 1980. Veloso is 75 years old and even Nannini is 61.

  76. Posted August 29, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Hm! I had no idea Stevie Wonder was a 1960s hit … that would explain the 1980s resurge which I remember, though.

  77. Filippo
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Suppose that a kid, born ten years ago, tomorrow hears for the first time a song by, for example, Karen Carpenter (or any other artist from yesteryear – take your pick), and develops a great love for that voice and/or that music. As far as the kid is concerned, is that “old” music? The only way the kid knows is to read a bit of music history. What I perceive more likely to happen, in this mass pop Amuricun culture, is that someone will presume to lecture him/her that it is “old” music, and that it is not “cool” or “relevant” to listen to it.

  78. Posted September 13, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    dear god that song by tswift is terrible….she is a perfect example of a star who is influenced by what the music industry wants her to be like…

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