I quit trying to be cool right at the time when quitting trying to be cool was quite the cool thing to do.
Still one thing this page of the newsletter will never claim to be is actual musical criticism. I'm happy enough to admit that I don't know enough about music or music theory to profess to write critically about music. I learned at an early age, when my pal Robert Bisson and I debated whether KISS or Barry Manilow made better music, that if someone enjoyed a record, a song, an artist enough to let it be a life altering and inspiring experience that it was good enough for me even if I didn't share the same enthusiasm for the same piece of music. In other words, who was I to say that some morsel of music wasn't worthwhile even if what passed for something artistically musical irritated me as much as it delighted another?
Still I gotta admit I was riled up a bit more than usual when Star Tribune musical critic Chris Riemenschneider devoted a column to bashing the iPod. In his column Mr. Riemenschneider said that he didn't want the newest music fad for Christmas because it was responsible for furthering decay in whatever exists in the ability to enjoy music in this age of whatever age we are in. One of the points of Mr. Riemenschneider's column was that his own personal musical collection was larger than most and an iPod just wouldn't suffice in replacing his CD collection. But who ever claimed that was the purpose?
Indeed owning an iPod, this publication's Woman of the Year, has inspired me to look back to whatever that inspired my love of music in the first place. As I fill my iPod with music I have had to make some decisions about what I download and upload and take with me wherever I go. As part of this conundrum I decided that I needed to include the music that hit me hard when I needed to be hit hardest: my adolescent years when music really began to for the first time matter, and even if this meant loading songs onto the pocket sized device that I hadn't paid attention to for years, I had to do it just to complete the color of the musical palette that makes me who I now forever am.
So in the process I'm rediscovering why I fell in love with music in the first place and that means that I'm rediscovering the music of Barry Manilow. The first LP I bought with my hard earned allowance money was Barry's recently released LP, This One's For You. My parents used to do their family grocery shopping at Har Mar where they let my brother and I roam the mall that contained a Musicland store. Having recently become a devoted listener of Casey Kasem's Top 40 countdown on KDWB one of the first 45's I bought was Manilow's "I Write the Songs." It was a record I bought just to own the top ten records of the week, not so distinctive, though I'm not sure I appreciated Barry's rather large claim to fame. He wrote the music that made the young girl's cry and made me drop my last dime.
And I was taking piano lessons at the time when my Mum gave me the first performance compliment I'd ever received. I put aside my practice lesson aside to bang out my version of Barry's "Weekend in New England" in a good enough fashion to make my Mom say that she thought what I was playing sounded good. It was a moment that I could never turn back from. Here was music I enjoyed playing unlike that other classical stuff that I thought I had to play to justify the checks Mom was writing in order for me to learn my music.
And that's why I first fell in love with Barry Manilow's music- I could play his songs on the piano because that was clearly the instrument they were composed on. Thus when I fell in love head over heals and all other body parts for the first time with Parkview Junior High first chair clarinetist Sue Weiss part of that surely was that Sue revealed to me that she loved Barry's music as much as I. When we took swimming class together (where I just about drowned both in reality and symbolically) it was the day after Barry's new LP Even Now was released and my parents were kind enough to buy me without me having to expend my less than hard earned allowance dollars.
My subsequent frustrated banged out version of that LP's catchiest song "Can't Smile Without You" was playing throughout the nine laps I had to swim doing the backstroke (the only stoke I'd ever be effective at doing) in order to pass junior high Phy Ed.
So as I now listen to my still favorite Barry song's on my iPod I gotta say that the familiar notes still cut through like few others. I'm not proud to admit that I remain the biggest Barry Manilow fan this side of Sri Lanka. Yes I know his music can't quite co-exist in some semblance of reasonable sense with some of the other critically acclaimed artists loaded on my iPod like the Replacements or Alex Chilton, or the Clash or Enimem or Mr. Bob Dylan himself. Yet when I listen to a song like "When I Wanted You" I get as weepy as I used to get as an adolescent and I guess that is one way to say that music matters to me as much as ever.