I was thinking about music, trying to find something I’d like to listen to that I hadn’t heard before but I’d like. The impossible challenge. Impossible until you find it anyway.
I was thinking about music, the way you do.
That feeling that you’d really like to hear something different,
Something new but when you do, it really isn’t.
I was thinking about music, the way you do
What is it about that sound?
It’s like buying a car or a guitar
Made before you were even born.
Louis Jordan said it the first time:
You cain’t get that no more.
It’s sort of ok to mourn the past if you’ve lived it
But really, what is it that you’re looking for there?
What is it about machine heads going slack,
Ivory grooves worn by strings you can’t buy anymore
All to get that authentic tone that half the guitarists
Back in the day cursed because you can’t play
That way now and they didn’t plan to then?
You can’t do that. You can’t hear that.
You can’t get that sound on a modern guitar
Because the strings don’t stretch.
Because the pickups are wound on a machine
Because smaller Oriental hands fit inside a hollow body
And yours don’t, or not so well.
Because so many things changed
When they made it in Mexico or Korea or China
And all the time you thought it was about the music
When really it was about the bottom line.
What is it about that sound?
The jangly guitar in Tom Petty songs
That echoes something from the sixties
The decade Tom’s living now. When did that happen? Exactly how?
Remember that boy with the thin face
And a bullet bandolier? singing about how it don’t really matter
If she don’t or if she do?
Long time since Tom’s wallet let that happen, probably.
That sweet whine of Clapton’s SG or Knopfler’s Strat when he sang
About the Sultans of Swing, and Swing that swung back when
There was nobody here but us chickens.
This is what we’ve always done, it’s what we do,
We idolise a past we never knew.
The Stratocaster name came from the stratosphere
Back when they’d just started going there
Back when a guy from Leiston airfield broke the sound barrier.
Hey, give me a major chord, Marketing’s got something here.
So Tom Petty played the ‘60s jangly guitar he grew up with
Or his guitarist did. It wasn’t Tom who played that speed riff
In American Girl. Knopfler had to have a guitar
Built back when blaggers robbed steam trains without a shooter.
Jay Kay played kitsch disco back in ’92, chilling out
To the bump and grind he’d heard in the womb.
But it was mind-filler then, back when Noddy Holder shouted out
‘It’s Christmas’ and every wannabe bad girl copied his spelling,
When cool kids knew the Blue Oyster Cult
Was nothing to do with Greenpeace or Jonestown
Which was nothing to do with
The massacre at Alice’s Restaurant
Or even Greenpeace.
Is this all there is? One big circle
Holding hands like the von Trapp kids?
But maybe better that than saying
If it happened before me
Then it didn’t really happen at all.
So let’s hear it for the Platters and the Ramones,
Mozart and Miller, Abba and Patti Smith,
The Beatles, Bach and Bartok.
Augustus Pablo, Sid and Nancy
Even Jay Zee and Haysi Fantaysi,
And the Mighty Diamonds. Maybe it’s true.
‘This is 1976, we don’t want no more war.’
That one didn’t quite pan out.
But you can’t hear it fresh any more.