What kind of music do you like?

The Libertine and I were standing out on a porch last night watching it rain and saying good-bye to folks as they stumbled to their cars and then down the streets towards their homes. He told me that he also had an aunt B. and asked me what kind of music I liked.

Maybe because I was drunk, it seemed like a trick question, one that doesn’t have an answer or doesn’t have a satisfactory answer. You answer just for the sake of answering, so that the person asking has some snap insight into your personality.

As the song says, I like American music; I like all kinds of music.

I like rap and rock and country and fife and drum music and rockabilly and disco and gospel. I don’t like every song, obviously, but I like all kinds of music.

I especially love musicians with a sense of musical history, with a sense of what’s come before them, and not just in their own genre, but in all music. That’s why I dig both Jay-Z and Gillian Welch, and the thieving bastards like Led Zeppelin.

I’m a sucker for interesting percussion and I’m not that interested in genre purity. If R.L. Burnside wants to fill his blues songs with record scratches, as long as he keeps on singing about women sliding their dresses up above their knees, I’ll keep listening.

I still love the Doors and I think every country artist that walks through the Country Music Hall of fame should get scolded by Loretta Lynn as they walk in and kicked by Tanya Tucker as they leave.

I will never forget where I was the first time I heard Guns & Roses (8th grade chorus, when the teacher left and one of the sopranos slipped Appetite for Destruction into the tape deck. Whoo, that was something. I didn’t know what, but I knew my parents wouldn’t like it.) and I won’t forget that, by the time the bloated messes of Use Your Illusion came out, I was already thrilled that Kurt Cobain wore dresses and upset all the jackasses in my high school and bored by Axl & Co.

My parents would always put The Redheaded Stranger on in the trailer at night and, as such, the whole album still seems like a summer lullaby to my brothers and me.

And I love Elvis. I especially love Elvis’s Sun Records songs. Every time I hear him in that moment, when it’s just him singing the songs he thinks are cool–from Crudup to Monroe–I think what we lost when we lost Elvis is not just a great performer, but a great fan.

David Cantwell says something brilliant about Elvis’s version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” in Heartaches by the Number: “This ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ doesn’t invest itself in the words, as Monroe’s did; it ignores them. It revels in taking a song Elvis had loved all his life and reinventing it with a rocking sound even he didn’t quite understand.”

I don’t like the Velvet Underground. It’s not that I think they suck; no, clearly, they are an amazing band. But there’s something about how they sound, like there’s too much distance between everybody on the record and, then, too much distance between all them and you that I cannot bear. It makes me so viscerally lonely.

I love music, though, because it’s an ordinary art. It’s constantly present in our lives, constantly marking occasions and reinforcing memory. Everyone has an opinion about it and everyone feels a great stake in it.

We grew up in a house constantly full of music. My dad does the most awesome version of “House of the Rising Sun” on guitar and this honky-tonk version of “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” on the piano that never fails to leave his parishioners uncomfortable with their desire to clap along. My recalcitrant brother plays the guitar and he’s really good in a way that constantly takes me aback.

Now that we’re older, it’s funny to me that there’s always singing at all of our houses, too.

We might be a bunch of miserable fucks, but you’d never know it to meet us.

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2 thoughts on “What kind of music do you like?

  1. Aunt B, what was that you said the other day about wishing you could write better about music or something along those lines? This was beautiful. Especially this bit about the Velvet Underground:

    But there’s something about how they sound, like there’s too much distance between everybody on the record and, then, too much distance between all them and you that I cannot bear. It makes me so viscerally lonely.

    I mean, I completely disagree with you here, but I can absolutely feel the reason you feel the way you do. Brilliant.

    By the way, my answer to the question always goes something along the lines of “there are no good and bad genres of music, only good and bad music.”

    Thanks for adding me to your blogroll, by the way. If you ever feel like generously teaching me how to go about creating one of those things, I’ll add you to mine.

  2. Steve,

    You have made my day. Thanks for the kind words.

    As for links, I just followed Blogger’s directions and then toyed with them a bit. If you want, you can drop me an email (there’s an address in my profile) and I’ll go into more depth.

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