Thursday, February 21, 2019


When I listen to a great song I usually don't mind if it's derivative. Joyce Carol Oates, in a different context, said that a successful essay "is not place- or time-bound," that it "survives the occasion of its original composition." This is obviously true of ground-breaking, horizon-expanding songs that break molds or create ones that haven't been made yet. But some songs have nervy ways of slipping free from imposed ways of defining their value. The other night I spun songs that are obviously retro in that they pay close attention to their forebears, in both spirit and form (and chord changes), and they're songs that I've long loved, songs that move me and make me smile, songs that with their humor and exuberance elevate just above their influences. Are these songs "new?" No. Are they written and performed out of a certain tradition? Sure. No matter their origins, or the intentions of the writers, or how derivative they are, these songs simply exist in a pleasurable zone. I'm sure you've got yours.

"An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original." Jean Cocteau. Clever stuff. But this gives short shrift to the pleasure of homage.

Utopia, "I Just Want To Touch You," Deface The Music (1980)

The Spongetones, "Better Take It Easy," Beat Music (1982)

The Kaisers, "She Gonna Two Time," Beat It Up! (1995)

The Milkshakes, "I'm The One For You," Nothing Can Stop These Men (1984)

Photo of Hofner bass guitar via TopsImages

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