Help Me, Burt Bacharach, You’re My Only Hope

April 26, 2008

I’ve often been the dissenting voice among friends in expressing some disdain for music snobbery, offering the view that the kids that will be alright will be alright, and defending their musical missteps. Today, the universe woke me up loudly with a sonic reminder that no good deed goes unpunished and I found myself muttering semi-coherent rants in a sleep-deprived state.

Every year, there is a marathon whose route includes the street outside my apartment, literally right beneath my bedroom window. The first time this happened, it took me unawares and my slumber was interrupted by runners in the street and bystanders on the sidewalk, applauding with each intermittent pack of primates exhibiting locomotive skills.

Today, though, there was a special twist. The occupants of the apartment below opted to have a band on the porch. Soundcheck commenced at 6:30 and by 7:00, I realized that I was trapped like Noriega and there was no way to sleep through what can only be described as Emerson, Lake & Palmer covering the Grateful Dead (sans the musicianship). It drowned out the applause of the observers, but it prompted hooting and hollering from the marathon participants.

The band – a bunch of paunchy, geeky white guys – soon set about disemboweling classic soul and funk by artists like Sly & The Family Stone and James Brown complete with extended jams. There was a lounge, kitsch version of Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger that was hardly the ironic, hipster moment that I imagine they had hoped it would be. I heard Proud Mary three times with the final rendition schizophonically teetering between a smoldering blues number and some stripped-down, bluegrass-tinged interpretation.

The performance led me to realize that alcohol consumption by the band doesn’t really enhance the performance except in rare cases like The Pogues. As the morning wore on and the beer began to flow, things rapidly deteriorated. I was hearing double.

The lead singer, though, remained committed to the show going on. Where early on, he stuck to formulaic banter that had me waiting for him to bellow, “Hello Cleveland!” he chose to go with the accidental experimentation of his rhythm section. Soon, he was yipping and yammering about sea turtles and the cosmos in some beat-poet cadence with an earnestness that would have made Jim Morrison jealous. If there is a Sea Turtle Anti-Defamation organization of some kind, they certainly will be issuing a grievance.

Five hours later, it was over. Bruce Springsteen is quite capable of playing three-plus hour sets that are spectacularly riveting, bordering on religious. This was not the E-Street Band. Whatever street they were from, it’s best that it’s from a place where they have no name.

So, for the rest of the day, or until I have a nap, the gloves are off. Should anyone dare play any music that doesn’t meet with my approval, I intend to ridicule their choice heartily and pummel them in the mid-section until their gums bleed.

Music snobs, I have heard the light.

Actually, pummeling and ridicule aside, I’m opting to counter the cacophony with some selections from the Burt Bacharach songbook – four pristine, impeccable, structured, sonically crafted gems.

Manic Street Preachers – Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head

The Carpenters – (The Long To Be) Close To You

Herb Alpert – This Guy’s In Love With You

Dionne Warwick – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again