Songs from Pandora

Once in a while Pandora still finds most interesting things. Here is a band I had never heard of before tonight, called Flatfoot 56:

And here they are doing a gospel piece, which you can tell they really believe in because they talk about it for two full minutes before they get around to singing the song. (I'll forgive you if you skip that part.)

Here's another, without so much talk.

The local high school football band gathers and plays Amazing Grace at the end of every home game. It's a clear violation of the standards that are meant to govern public schools, which I imagine is at least half the point of the exercise. It's a wise administration that can so readily harness teenage rebellion to good purpose.

William Gibson said -- or was it Bruce Sterling? -- that he lost faith in rebellion when he saw how punk rock was so readily digested by the market. But there is a greater magic than digestion in fertility. Long after the market lost use for punk rock here the thing is, planted and thriving in fertile ground.


douglas said...

In today's environment, the kids in that audience are truly rebels, rather unlike the 'punkers' that buy the whole image, prepackaged at a store at the mall. When I was young, I admired the honesty of it, if not the base message, but turning it to these ends, perhaps it's what it should have been all along.

I like these guys.

MikeD said...


The impulse you're describing, "I liked it before it became commercial" is now a conceit amongst young twenty somethings that they use for everything. If they find a good microbrewery beer, they will happily drink it right up until others they know drink it. They will then either lord it over their friends that they liked said beer "before it was popular", or they will discard it claiming "it was BETTER before it was popular."

This is applied to everything. Music, art, food, clothing... everything. It's a childish game that I have little patience for. And while I understand that it sometimes occurs that a band or artist will adjust their music or art once they become popular to garner an even larger audience (thus perhaps losing some quality that the hipster in question liked about it), given that they apply this "better before it was famous/mainstream/popular" nonsense to everything, I think it more likely that they're just being fools.

Grim said...

As I recall the argument, Mike, it wasn't a version of that conceit -- although I can't quite remember where I read it, or even which one of those authors it was.

The point wasn't that it was better before it was digested, though. It was that it was digested at all. Punk Rock had started off in outright rebellion and rejection of everything that ordinary decent society found acceptable. That it should be digested and turned into just another fixture for that society was kind of an incredible achievement of the market.

Something similar happened with hip-hop: although in that case the artists were very much on board with trying to make it happen. A lot of the old punk rockers died rather than submitting, and a new race of more commercially-oriented ones had to be raised up by commercial music. But it happened, all the same.

MikeD said...

The point wasn't that it was better before it was digested, though. It was that it was digested at all. Punk Rock had started off in outright rebellion and rejection of everything that ordinary decent society found acceptable. That it should be digested and turned into just another fixture for that society was kind of an incredible achievement of the market.

Then those who were surprised fundamentally DO NOT UNDERSTAND what the market is. They produced something (punk rock, in this case... but the product itself is immaterial). Others wanted that material. They were willing to exchange that material for money. Voila, there's now a market for it. That's what the market IS.

If they're trying to reject the market itself, they would never have sold their material in the first place. Record it? Perhaps, but they would have delivered it freely to everyone, or not at all. But the instant money (or other form of barter) becomes involved it's PART of the market.

I think the real objection is to the acceptance of the material in the market. They thought they made something so shocking, so outrageous, that they would somehow be rejected by the market (or, I guess... the recording industry?). But that's just the point, the market isn't "The Man" or Government (unless you're in a Communist society). The market is that 15 year old kid who has $10 in his pocket. It's, the twenty-something small record store owner who stocks stuff Peaches doesn't (or won't). And it's Johnny Rotten himself who takes a cut of the cover charge to play at that dive or gets a royalty on a piece of music that gets played. The punk rock community COULDN'T reject the market, because they were part of it.

And as for the non-monetary parts, the look, the attitude, the "rejection of conformity", there's literally nothing new about any of it. Oh the style may change, but ultimately, it's just a different form of conformity. It's conformity to the non-conformative standard. I still see it when I see Goth kids. They seem to think the pale skin, dark clothes and eyeliner is a spit in the face of all those "normal" kids, but they can't seem to notice that they're acting JUST LIKE every other Goth out there. They're still conforming. Punks were no different.

And finally, anytime I catch myself worrying about "kids these days", I'm reminded of something my brother told me about a letter that was found in China. The letter was over a thousand years old in which a minor bureaucrat is writing his brother about how "young men are not like we were. They have no respect for their elders, all they want to do is chase women and get drunk." The more things change...

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of the sniffing when the lead singer of Iced Earth (heavy metal) started his own TEA-party death metal group called "Sons of Liberty." Something along the lines of "you could tell he was selling out in his last albums," which included a three song symphonic metal ballad about the battle of Gettysburg, along with a paean to Attila the Hun and a warning about what happens to those who attack the US. How dare the guy think that there might be a market for libertarian thrash metal! Full disclosure: I own several Iced Earth and Sons of Liberty albums.


douglas said...

Oh, absolutely the punkers of the early days were just as misguided and wrong about what and where they were as the current punks are, but at least they could say that living the culture (and dressing the part) were a lot harder then than it is now, where you can walk into almost any mall and walk out a 'punker'. It also used to be that they were as against the left as the right, but that's changed as well. Not that those were good things in and of themselves, but at least they worked for it, was really my point.

RonF said...

The local high school has been around for 120+ years. The Christmas Concert has become the Holiday Concert and all manner of Hispanic and African and non-Christian religious cultural traditions are observed. Very PC.

But at the end, at the very end, the various choirs mass together on the risers, and all alumni of the choirs are invited up from the audience to join them. The orchestra starts up and they all sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. A less PC and diverse piece of music I don't believe you can find. But the tradition survives.