Vignettes

Have you ever gone through a period when you didn’t listen music for an extended period of time and suddenly you start listening again. In this case, I think moving and dredging up old things got me listening to some stuff I hadn’t listened to in a while. Nearly a year ago, I mentioned ripping my vinyl. As it happens, a lot of my favorite stuff, or at least the stuff with the most memories attached, is on cassette. I went off to college in the era of the boombox and for a time had a car with a cassette player. Consequently, during my late teens and early twenties, that period when a person’s taste in popular music tends to form, most of the music I purchased was in the form of cassettes. So, tonight, I was going through my old cassettes and my memory was jogged of a moment from another period of my life.

I was teaching English in Paris and had been highly encouraged to use songs in class. We were also told to avoid love songs to keep the vocabulary varied. So I desperately tried to go through all my cassettes looking for songs on which the words were articulated well enough to be easily understood, did not have any grammatical constructions that would be too difficult to explain, did not contain poor grammar and were not love songs. All that was a taller order than you’d think.

For those who don’t know, my taste tends towards pretty straight rock and roll, a bit of r-n-b, some glam rock, some of the less hardcore punk, new wave, funk. Loud, hard and fast might be a good summary of my taste. You know, the stuff with barely comprehensible lyrics.

So, imagine my surprise when I popped in a cassette and the Parisians started squealing like stuck pigs, “EEWWW, eeewww! Stop! We hate country!” Now, I don’t want to knock anyone’s taste and start a big argument on that account, but country music doesn’t figure heavily among anything I have. Sure, I have a couple of Johnny Cash records, but that wasn’t what I was playing. If you were to close your eyes and put your hand into my box of cassettes, you’re more likely to come up with early eighties pop than any country. I tried to tell them that what they were listening to was assuredly not “country music.” I looked at the two other Americans in the room who looked as surprised as I was and reassured the French people that we were not trying to make them listen to country. Even more odd, that we were trying to force country music on them seemed to be a unified feeling on their part. The reaction was such an extreme, you would have thought they were breaking out in rashes.

It was just one of those really weird little cultural differences that takes you by surprise.

Oh, yes, that terrible American country music band – The Pretenders, who were mostly English (I think.).

Well, I just followed up The Pretenders with The New York Dolls and then Bonnie Raitt. Thank heavens I didn’t try that. It could have been a diplomatic crisis.

I guess it’s self-evident, but we all like our own taste, don’t we.

And just because – here’s one of my favorite songs by some of New York City’s prettiest gentlemen:

I remember sitting up to watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert when I was a kid. (Happened to catch the sign in the background.)

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