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Friday, August 17, 2007

On Rock and/or Roll

posted by on August 17 at 12:26 PM

Earlier in the week Josh quoted me—out of context!—on the subject of rock and/or roll, the music that has defined… what? Three or four generations now? While it’s true that I don’t appreciate rock and roll, it’s also true that I’ve never made a secret of this fact. There are some rock bands that I actually like; I have the Beattles, the Stones, the Strokes, Queen, and Hedwig on my iPod (where is that thing, anyway?). But the most frequently played albums on my iPod are… Pacific Overtures, Company, Sweeney Todd, and Follies. All musicals, all by Stephen Sondheim, all wonderful.

One of my issues with rock and/or roll is… the electric guitar. I don’t much care for the sounds they typically make. Imagine, if you can, that you didn’t care for the sound of the french horn. Now image that for nearly sixty years popular music—the music of your generation, your parent’s generation, and your grandparent’s generation—was nothing but three jerks playing the french horn and one asshole on drums. It would get to you after a while, right?

Another of my objections to rock and/or roll is the volume at which it is typically played, which Kerri Harrop dinged me for in the comments. I have been know to ask DJs at Stranger events to turn the freakin’ music down—so that people can, you know, shout-and-talk instead of scream-their-heads-off-and-talk. I’ve also been known to get up on chairs in restaurants and unplug speakers when the music is too loud and it is my considered opinion that all live music is way, way too loud.

The problem with allowing DJs and musicians to set volume levels is that they’re all freakin’ deaf. They’ve been hanging out in clubs, right next to the speakers and amps, for years. Decades. And a comfortable volume for a DJ or a bass player is going to bloody the eardrums of the average human being.

But that’s neither here nor there. The point I wanted to make was this: Not like rock and/or roll frees me to like what I like. It never occurs to me to consider whether a band is cool or not. If I like it, I like it—and so rarely do I like a rock and/or roll band that, when I do, I’m not at all self-conscious about listening to their music openly, unashamedly. Like Mika. I like his album—“Life in Cartoon Motion-“-so, you know, sue me. And today at the gym I was treated to another artist I like… and a song that I, as a Catholic girl, particularly love: Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young.”


Since I know nothing about rock and/or roll, I don’t know if Billy Joel is cool and/or lame at the moment, and I don’t much care. I like the song. I’m going to go download it onto my iPod tonight—or my boyfriend is, since I can’t get the hang of iTunes. And then I’m going to listen to that song six or seven thousand times in a row—that’s how people that like musicals listen to music. Over and over again, until we’ve committed it to memory.

But I will, of course, listen to it at a reasonable volume.

RSS icon Comments


I have that Billy Joel on cassette but you really should get his two volume greatest hits. Really good stuff. And thank you for makeing me feel so damn old at 36.... (ugh) Time to download some Bread or old Elton John or ELO....

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | August 17, 2007 12:30 PM

i'm sure thats the kind of post that feels really good to post, but really narcoleptic to read.

Posted by brad | August 17, 2007 12:31 PM

I thought you only had three Scissor Sisters songs on your iPod.

Posted by Sam | August 17, 2007 12:34 PM


"Only the Good Die Young" is a great great song. And the quote I attributed to you—out of context or not—was excellent. I wish I had said it.

Posted by Josh Feit | August 17, 2007 12:35 PM

I first heard Billy Joel when I was six. I tip-toed out to the kitchen and opened my ma's famous jar of M80's. Tip-toed back, and blew the fuckin' shit out of my radio. True story.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 17, 2007 12:35 PM

that's how i listen to songs i like too: over and over and over again until my brother wants to kill himself. haha, we signed a lease.

anyway speaking of rock and/or roll: i heard pearl jam and the presidents were supposedly playing at crack park in the market later tonight. i don't think i'll go.

Posted by kate | August 17, 2007 12:36 PM

@5, anger problems much?

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | August 17, 2007 12:40 PM

I hate that song. When it was new, my sister (who was heading down the road to skankdom at that time) quoted the lyrics as some kind of justificiation for her careless ways. She wound up in a trailer park with four kids!
#6 -- it's not Pearl Jam, rather an all star band jamming on Seattle area songs, including (but not limited to) John Roderick playing "Acres of Clams" on the banjo.

Posted by --MC | August 17, 2007 12:44 PM

Don't even get me started on what I did the first time I heard the song Louie Louie . My fucking blood vessels exploded.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 17, 2007 12:45 PM

God, what a terrible song.

Other than that, your comments are right on. Although it's not GUITARS that suck, it's GUITAR SOLOS. If every Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Vai, etc. had been smothered at birth, it would be a happier world. For further evidence of the evil of guitar solos, just check YouTube for the thousands and thousands of 8-year-old prodigies who can dribble out "Stairway" or "Little Wing" ten times better than the original -- but who couldn't play an actual tune, or even recognize one, if their lives depended on it.

The best rock rocks the trumpet and the jangly guitar, not the solos.

Posted by Fnarf | August 17, 2007 12:48 PM

You're correct in your assertion that live music is always way too loud.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | August 17, 2007 12:51 PM

I'm not at all surprised that someone who mostly likes musicals would like Billy Joel. I don't mean that as snark, I mean I think his music has a very show-tunes sense of drama -- as does (for example) Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Laura Nyro, and (in a more recent indie-rock vein) Quasi.

Posted by David | August 17, 2007 12:52 PM

So here's my Billy Joel story. 1978, upstate New York. The nuns at my catholic elementary school said we couldn't listen to Billy Joel because Sister Marietta Kuzinski thought she heard Billy Joel say "Go to hell with your own life" in "My Life" (from the _52nd_Street_ album). When of course what he actually said was "Go ahead with your own life." She probably would have spontaneously combusted if she had listened to "Only the Good Die Young."

Billy Joel, Kiss, Boston, Sweet, Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper- all bands that seem really cool and rebellious when you're in third grade, not so much thirty years later.

Posted by Big Sven | August 17, 2007 12:54 PM

Billy Joel? I just threw up in my mouth, not just a little bit. Dan, I know your point was that you don't care what people think about your musical tastes, but Billy-Fucking-"We Didn't Start The Fire"-Joel? Yikes. This must be some kind of cruel and sinister set up, right? Kind of like when I go around a party and tell everyone how much I love room temperature deviled-eggs, just to see everyone's reaction.

Posted by Nicolae White | August 17, 2007 12:54 PM

Are the Beattles a Seattle based Beatle cover band? If there isn't one, there should be!

Posted by josh | August 17, 2007 12:54 PM

If it's too loud, you're either too old, Dan Savage, or both.

Sorry, dude, but Billy Joel is WAY not rock. Tin pan alley pop - maybe.

Posted by Mr. X | August 17, 2007 12:58 PM

Maybe Dan meant to say Battles. Now that is an interesting band!

Posted by Secret Squirrel | August 17, 2007 1:00 PM

I'm all for cover bands, with a major twist. Bob Dylan played 'Don't think twice' and another gem this summer, and they were paractically indecipherable and musically different in rhythms and time signatures. Not many of the audience showed appreciation.

I'm so ready to deconstruct the BillJoel song that was listened to not so much by my older sister; she's more into James Taylor or whover else was covering tunes on acoustic at little local pubs in the late 70s. I'll see if I can stay awake through a recording attempt in the next few weeks.

Posted by Garrett | August 17, 2007 1:05 PM

Dan-If you dislike Electric Guitar (or accoustic for that matter) may I suggest Keane? One of a select group of bands that doesn't have any guitar to speak of.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | August 17, 2007 1:08 PM

@5 - I was drinking tea as I read that, and I almost did a real, actual spit-take. Then I didn't. But still, that was funny.

Posted by Levislade | August 17, 2007 1:08 PM

Dan Savage I love You….
Don´t worry I’m a woman you’re safe ; )
I drive everybody nuts because I can listen to the same song a million times over until nobody in my family can stand me or the song. You are the only man I know who does this too! It makes me feel less nuts to know somebody else does this.
Oh and Fnarf I love guitar solos. The trumpet???????????????

Posted by mj | August 17, 2007 1:08 PM

For all you kids. You too will be old and the music you like will be uncool and nerdy. Very soon, very soon indeed!!

Posted by You too will be uncool and old | August 17, 2007 1:08 PM

Oh, and what's with you regular stranger writers posting music posts over here instead of Lineout? Lame!

Posted by Levislade | August 17, 2007 1:10 PM

Although I just downloaded some Guns'n'Roses to relive part of my childhood, I've got to agree that most live music is too loud. For work I've had to go through hearing loss prevention training, so I'm super hyper about that.

@21--I've got that strange "must listen to songs over and over again" thing going on, too. And it's usually with musicals. And Barbra Streisand.

Posted by Michigan Matt | August 17, 2007 1:14 PM

TRUMPETS ROCK!!! And I play Trumpet!! And all my BF's and FB's have enjoyed my abilities with my tounge.

Trumpeters are fucking AWESOME with the tounge!!!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | August 17, 2007 1:14 PM

I didn't know that listening to the same song until you've committed it to memory is a trait of people who like musicals - Funny enough, I do love musicals and I am constantly finding one song and marrying my eardrums to it until I could likely perform it backwards. I thought I was the only one with both those traits! Yet again, Dan Savage makes me feel better about my little peccadilloes! Is there nothing that you can't do, Mr. Savage?

Posted by Kerri | August 17, 2007 1:31 PM

Steven Sondheim musicals? You're such a fag!

I love rock, especially guitar driven metal. I love to listen to it super loud. That probably makes me an asshole, doesn't it?

And @ brad: I think you mean soporific...

Posted by Mike in MO | August 17, 2007 1:40 PM

Trumpet: Salteens, Lucksmiths, The Brilliant Corners. case closed.

Posted by Fnarf | August 17, 2007 1:45 PM

@20: I totally agree. I love the electric guitar in the background, but find most guitar solos suck. Sure, some are good. But I usually get bored with em. Particularly after the guitar solo became THE THING in the 80s. I'm glad the cockrock solo seems to be dead.

@25: Not to brag, but recently my wife and a friend of hers agreed on this as well, and I haven't even regularly played in 10 years. Skills for life, mans. Fuck learning to ride a bike, you'll be a lot happier with an agile tongue.

Posted by Me | August 17, 2007 1:47 PM

I liked Dan's post. I hated the responses to it.

One thing Dan and I agree on: most rock 'n roll sucks. But then again, so does most country, most music written for the stage and screen, most jazz, most "new music" . . . most artistic output.

Being in a band, my biggest fear is that we will suck, since most everyone else does. But there's a silver lining. No matter how much we may suck, we don't suck as bad as most bands.

Posted by Will in 98103 | August 17, 2007 1:48 PM

I fucking love loud, fuzzy electric guitars. Feedback is one of the world's more beautiful sounds, as my ears interpret them.

But to each their own.

Posted by Matthew | August 17, 2007 1:53 PM

Billy Joel's always a woman to me. Happy Trans Awareness Week!

Posted by Katelyn | August 17, 2007 1:57 PM

"Pressure" is my favorite Billy Joel song.

Dan, if I may, a couple of musical suggestions:

Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase
Cat Power - The Greatest
Rachel's - Systems and Layers
Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway

I think you would really like the Rachel's. It's instrumental. Cello harmonies, distant piano, drifting, well composed.

Posted by trent moorman | August 17, 2007 2:00 PM

1)Sondheim fags RULE!!
2)you don't like Assassins or Into the Woods?
3)hmmm....I do the same thing, too...listen to the same things over and over again until I'm so sick of it, I can't listen to it for a very long time, and sometimes, forever..
4)Billy Joel WAS cool...once.
He jumped the shark when he married Christie Brinkly.
5)I really hate it when people are snotty about music, "Ewwww! you like ______?!?!? They're so uncool!"
It's fine if you don't like a certain artist or kind of music but don't rag on people because YOU don't think it's cool...Grow the fuck up.
6)For the record, I like showtunes and grunge; power pop and classic country; a little bit of rap/hip-hop and Mo-town; disco and classical...BUT I don't really like much jazz after about 1948, reggae is fun for ONE song of it and I loathe Mariah Carey.

Oh, and I'm a member of the "Fags who aren't that crazy about Streisand Club"...

Posted by michael strangeways | August 17, 2007 2:01 PM

Thanks for the comment on R&R. I don't listen to it much because I can't understand the lyrics. It's just so much shouting and screaming to me. So I enjoy lyric-oriented music, like Broadway, Pop Standards & Country/Western. Yesterday one of my teen employees was listening to John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter. She was horrified that I knew it, and listed off his other albums & etc. Tee Hee.

Posted by Karl Schuck | August 17, 2007 2:02 PM

Most bands are promoted like any Proctor and Gamble product anymore... and I agree with Dan for once- electric guitars sound like shit when played by most people.

I can't stand the bulk of the thumpa thumpa music played in clubs and gay bars. You can make your b/f crazy with musicals Savage, I make mine crazy with movie scores and classical pieces.

Finally I agree most live music is wayyyyy too loud. If you can feel the sound waves vibrate throughout your body, it's too loud. Call me the old fart at 40 that I am.

Posted by Dave Coffman | August 17, 2007 2:03 PM

AND, music IS too damn loud and usually badly mixed to boot. And not just in public. Lately I've noticed that quite a few shows I watch on PBS that are British imports have HORRIBLE music and sound; too loud and constantly blaring throughout the program, both dramatic shows and documentaries.

Another problem I've noticed in Seattle with sound has more to do with the sound of the singers. It seems it's really popular right now to SHOUT your songs instead of sing them. I think their excuse is that it's cool and punk but I really think it's 'cause they can't sing.

Posted by michael strangeways | August 17, 2007 2:08 PM

I hate Billy Joel...but as a member of The Hassles he was all right! The Hassles had 2 LPs of proggy US/east coast prog on United Artists. Then there was Attila...which was drum and organ style heaviness, kinda like Arthur Brown and early Atomic Rooster. His early work stomps to bits his pop hits...

Posted by nipper | August 17, 2007 2:13 PM

You fogeys are crackin' me up. "And what's with the clothes on these rockarollers and punkers? And another thing . . ." That's cool, though, it takes all kinds. And Billy Joel has written some great songs, no question.

Dan, have you heard Eluvium? Droney solo piano stuff; very nice.

Posted by Levislade | August 17, 2007 2:15 PM

you are a year younger than me & your opinions of music sound like my mom's.

fucking pitiful.

Posted by maxsolomon | August 17, 2007 2:26 PM

Huge show queen here.....I've even gone so far as to go to the Museum of Television and Radio so I could watch "The Evening Primrose", an original tele-play with songs by Sondheim that's been broadcast only once, in 1967.

I'm eclectic in my tastes, and I agree about how I don't like the music too loud when I'm out with friends at a restaurant.

Posted by Ed | August 17, 2007 2:39 PM


It's a true story. Did I not say that? I did. Or do you not believe that my mother has a jar of M80's in the kitchen? Why not?

As for the 'eeeewwww', I was not representing that attitude. If I was, you're basically doing the same thing in #34, which makes you a hypocrite. Way to go.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 17, 2007 2:39 PM

Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791)- Dead for 216 years and yet, he is constantly played and memorialized as a genius. Most of the people/bands listed above will not be remembered for 216 months. Understanding the lyrics and being able to sing along to a memorable set of notes is so satisfying. Riding your bike around Green Lake and conducting Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto or singing "Have a Little Priest" is a good thing. Compared to the challenge of "singing" the Theme from "Shaft" or "It's Hard to be a Pimp Out Here".... When you say you "hate" Billy Joel - please explain. That is so harsh. I "hate" George W. Bush and I doubt he could play a C-major scale on a toy piano. But Billy Joel hasn't killed anyone.

Posted by KENTUCKY KERNEL OF TRUTH | August 17, 2007 3:04 PM

Dan: Try Joel's mini-opera "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant." It sounds like something out of a musical, plus it comes with it's own interpretive dance video.

Posted by Jason Josephes | August 17, 2007 4:03 PM

I will one up Dan and everyone else: I don't like music of any kind - it is kind of annoying and gets stuck in my head.

Posted by Jude Fawley | August 17, 2007 5:37 PM


Posted by -B- | August 17, 2007 7:16 PM

Of course you like Billy Joel, Dan. Like Sondheim, he actually had classical training & knows music theory. He can do more than the I, IV, V chords and 4/4 time that most rock and roll uses, so his music (esp. the earlier stuff) is complex, interesting and complements his lyrics in the similar way that good musical scores do.

Also, since his primary instrument is the piano, there's not a lot written for your dreaded electric guitar, again, esp. in his earlier stuff.)

Posted by amazonmidwife | August 17, 2007 8:09 PM

My God, Dan, your son is soon going the be at the age where he mocks you mercilessly. Must you give him more ammo? Seriously, Billy Joel?

Posted by Gitai | August 17, 2007 9:27 PM

I hope there are people that do not think that most gay men do not like rock music or turning up the volume. I find most gay men do listen to some bad music but then so do lots of people. It is called being mainstream.
Personally I like lots of different kinds of music except show tunes and yes Billy Joel (kinda up there with Barry Manilow as far as I am concerned) but then I listen to Dub Reggae most of the time which many people detest. But then when getting into the subject of music taste everyone will bash each other and everyone will just dig in deeper defending their music.
But what I hear when at a gay club or pub is usually bad, I cringe when most of it is played and always wonder where the interesting people are that like decent music not something based upon camp, 80's retro, or top 40. Open a pub with interesting DJ's playing interesting music then I will gladly go for a beer but for now I have to settle for the void that exists in bar music. It is all about pushing booze it seems and we all know the masses love to buy lots of bad beer and bad music and fuck it up for everyone else.
The music will pick up later but right now I am having a coffee and mellow morning the music playing is (Even After All by Finley Quaye)

Posted by -B- | August 18, 2007 10:43 AM

I assume Dan's not a fan of extreme metal. ;)

Posted by Jay | August 18, 2007 1:13 PM

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