March 3, 2011
When I was a tot, my pals and I would gather in my garage, set up some pots and pans as if they were a drum-kit and wield some tennis rackets like stratocasters. We’d pop Def Leppard’s freshly minted Pyromania into the Fisher Price tape deck and crank that puppy up to its fattest arrows. We’d charge the neighborhood gang a nickel a head to watch us lip-synch and strum the nylon to Billy’s Got a Gun. Rock and roll, friends. Rock and roll.
Flash-forward about five or six years. I’d pop some gangsta rap into the yellow Sony walkman and go jogging in the state park bordering my house, raging against the machine of upper middle class suburbia, something to which I’m sure Eazy-E could relate. A couple years later, it was Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, perhaps Nirvana and R.E.M. Played in the dark, of course, so I could get all introspective. And my musical tastes evolved from there, matured in the way these things mature. The teenage girls I knew were into the Lilith Fair fare – the mid-90s-heyday of Amos, DiFranco, McLachlan, etc. I couldn’t blame them, but I shied away from the stuff for fear it might paint me as twee. And the thing that irked me the most was that these girls always referred to the musicians as if they were good friends, and used only they’re first names.
“You going to the Sarah concert tonight?”
“No, but I’m getting Tori’s new CD later today. I heard Ani really likes it.”
I mean, really. You can pull that stuff with Chaka Khan, because there aren’t a lot of Chakas out there in the world. But Sarah? And no, I never refer to Bruce Springsteen as merely Bruce. That honor is reserved for Fraggle-eating Mr. Vilanch. But let’s get back on track. My main point was that in my youth, the fellas listened to music by other fellas and the ladies stuck with the ladies, or for the most part. No surprise there.
Let’s now consider last night. I was watching a PBS documentary on singer-songwriters and the late 60s/early 70s Los Angeles Troubadour scene. This was partly because that’s how I roll and partly because I don’t get cable. No excuses needed though, because it was enjoyable, especially when they were discussing how James Taylor was ready to toss some knuckles up in Lester Bangs’s face. But the biggest thing I got from the film was the realization that I like Carole King. Actually, I really dig me some Carole King. No shame in that. She’s considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time. But just a decade or two ago, in my hair-band/gangsta-rap/rock canon phases, such a proclamation would have caused me great embarrassment. It certainly wouldn’t have gone over well in the lacrosse team locker room when my teammates were soliciting suggestions for our warm-up tape.
“How about some RATT? Let’s get some RATT up on this thing.”
“Hey, Starmer, you haven’t said anything. What psychs you up, dude?”
“Hmmm…pretty much anything off Tapestry…”
Yes, my musical tastes have changed a lot since my teenage years. They’re more accommodating. And the ladies, well the ladies are certainly welcome. Every night is ladies’ night on my Itunes playlists. And for the young lads out there who, like me in my youth, aren’t so sure about adding more XX chromosomes to their music collections, I offer you this little mix of a dozen random songs from my collection where female singers take the lead (n.b. some are from bands with male singers as well, cause you got to give the guys an escape route). True, none of it reaches RATT-like levels, but maybe you’ll enjoy one or two, and then join your mom and your aunts for a night out at Judy Collins concert. I, for one, will not tease you about it.