When I was in high school (yes, I went to high school) I had a girlfriend (yes, I had a girlfriend) who used to say of me: "Simple mind, simple pleasures". She was referring to my love of going to the beach, hours spent hanging out browsing in bookstores, as well as my endless fascination with her boobs.
You find this surprising? I was a teenage boy.
Please try to keep up.
As I have grown older I find that I still enjoy going to the beach, hanging out in what few remaining bookstores exist, and, well, boobs. But not just any boobs. Nice boobs, thank you very much. I submit this as evidence that I have grown as person. You may commence your admiring glance any time now.
So last week I was… browsing in a bookstore when I picked up a copy of Nick (High Fidelity and About A Boy) Hornby’s Songbook, a collection if thirty-one mini-essays about some of Hornby’s favorite songs. In it he confesses to his love affair with Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road, his regret that he didn’t lose his virginity to Samba Pa Ti, the fact that it is possible to have over twenty Bob Dylan CD’s and still not be a big fan, and the connection between Rufus Wainright singing One Man Guy and the possible existence of God. It’s a simple little book that can be picked up and flipped through with the promise of finding a little gem on almost every page. Hornby is the warm and fuzzy version of Lester Bangs mentioned below.
In light of the Led Zeppelin reunion earlier this week, I thought I would share this passage from the book where he reflects on Led Zeppelin and the cost of growing up:
I discovered, sometime during the last few years, that my musical diet was light on carbohydrates, and that the rock riff was essential – especially in cars and on book tours, when you need something quick and cheap to get you through a long day. Nirvana, The Bends, and The Chemical Brothers restimulated my appetite, but only Led Zeppelin could satisfy it; in fact, if I ever had to hum a blues-metal riff to a puzzled alien, I’d choose Zeppelin’s "Heartbreaker" from Led Zeppelin II. I’m not sure that me going "DANG DANG DANG DANG DA-DA-DANG, DA-DA-DA-DA-DA DANG DANG DA-DA-DANG" would enlighten him especially, but I would feel that I had done as good a job as the circumstances allowed. Even written down like that (albeit with uppercase assistance) it seems to me that the glorious, imbecilic loudness of the track is conveyed effectively and unambiguously. Read it again. See? It rocks.
The thing I like most about rediscovering Led Zeppelin –and listening to The Chemical Brothers, and The Bends — is that they can no longer be comfortably accommodated into my life. So much of what you consume when you get older is about accommodation: I have kids and neighbors, and a partner who could quite happily never hear another blues-metal riff or block-rockin’ beat in her life; I have less time, less tolerance for bullshit, more interest in good taste, more confidence in my own judgment. The culture with which I surround myself is a reflection of my personality and the circumstances of my life, which is in part how it should be. In learning to do that, however, things get lost, too, and one of the things that got lost — along with a taste for, I don’t know, hospital dramas involving sick children, and experimental films — was Jimmy Page. The noise he makes is not who I am anymore, but it’s still a noise worth listening to; it’s also a reminder that the attempt to grow up smart comes at a cost.