Music Theory

Lately, I’ve been apologizing to no one in particular because I don’t like the band Tool. I’ve tried to like them, but I just don’t. They produce different wave lengths than I’m wired to receive, I think. When I’m alone in the car and one of their songs comes on the Turbo or Lithium channels on Sirius XM, which is a lot, I find myself saying out loud, “I just don’t like them.” I kind of like Sober because it has a good hook, but not really. Now, don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I’m apologizing because I don’t like Tool because they are so popular. Their style is unique and I’m sure that’s why their fans love them so much. I just don’t. Sorry. 

I’ve discovered that my taste in music is very fluid, changing without any reason or warning. A few years ago, I only listened to reggae. A reggae-seed gets planted in my head and sometimes an obsession blooms over time. Steel Pulse was my favorite band in the genre. (Really, it’s Bob Marley but I don’t categorize him as anything besides genius) I saw Steel Pulse live in Charleston a few years before my obsession took hold. A few years after that, reggae was all I listened too. 

Let me try to explain how this musical seed is planted. It begins with a song or two. For reggae, it started with Steel Pulse’s Worth His Weight in Gold. I knew the song when I saw them live. Sometimes the seed takes a long time to grow. In fact, at their show, I remember telling people it was the only song I wanted to hear them sing. What a fool I was. Once I burn out the seed song, I start looking for more. I always have, like it’s a drug. I used to spend hours in Borders looking for that next great CD. I spent thousands of dollars over the years buying CDs on speck and hoping the other songs on it were good besides the one that drew me in. I spent lots of time being disappointed. Now, the album is dead. I can cherry pick songs off records as much as I want. On the one hand, this is a shame because it killed the “great” album. But on the other, most albums weren’t great. You paid $25 for a CD with two great songs on it and a whole bunch of filler. So, I definitely prefer how music is consumed now over the days of the CD. And yes, I’m one of the last fools on earth that still pays for music. 

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are surrounded by music. I’m lucky that my father has an eclectic taste in music also and he exposed me to many different genres at an early age. I don’t remember when he gave me my first Beatles record, maybe 5 years old, but it changed my life forever. There isn’t a Beatles’ song that exists that I don’t know the words to by heart. The Beatles were my security blanket. I knew them. They like me. I knew every whack of Ringo’s drumstick and pluck of Paul’s bass. John would sing, “I’ve got my finger on your trigger” and I would sing along, not having a clue what he was singing about. In the two minutes and fifteen seconds of We Can Work it Out, I still marvel at how perfect that song is. If you told me I could only listen to one artist for the rest of my life, the answer would be the Beatles and I would not consider anything else. 

Funk defined me for the next decade. From like 13 to 23, it was funk music all-the-time. George Clinton was my Buddha. My shaman. He told me to “Free my mind and my ass will follow.” He was sent to earth to expose the un-funky-folk, led by Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk. Star child was born of the mothership and sent to earth with the Bop Gun to “shine the light on ‘em.” The “light” is the song Flashlight, by the way. Everybody’s got a little light under the sun.” Look, if you don’t understand any of this, take it up with George, I’m just the messenger. 

Funk wasn’t just about George Clinton. It was also about Bootsy Collins, Sly and the Family Stone, The Average White Band, The Ohio Players and many many more. And the Gap Band, my number 2 in the list of funk bands. I sang Outstanding in the shower 100 times. I played air-piano and sang lead.

Reggae came next for a few years and now, I’m on to heavy metal. I don’t know where it came from or why, but I love hard rock music all of a sudden. It started with a few songs, probably grunge, like Nirvana. Nirvana is safe because it’s so popular outside the genre that you aren’t a “freak” if you like them. Green Day, too. Pop-grunge and pop-rock is how I got started. But everything changed for me in late 2014 when I heard Deep Six played on the radio. That is a song by Marylin Manson off his “Pale Emperor” album. No way I like Marylin Manson, I thought. I mean, I secretly liked The Beautiful People and The Dope Show but I would never admit it to anyone. And I especially wouldn’t buy any of his work or go see him live, no, no, no, no.

Deep Six rocked my damn world. I bought it and listened to it over and over. I couldn’t believe I loved something Marylin Manson created. And then I dove into his catalog and bought the hits that I couldn’t admit I liked as a kid. Songs like Lunchbox and This is the New Shit. Then I went through the “Pale Emperor” album and fell in love with Killing Strangers and The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles and then I didn’t recognize myself. I started liking Alice in Chains and a little Disturbed and a little Godsmack and a little Pantera. I didn’t dive head-first into the genre just yet. But the seed had been planted. 

Then Manson released another album in 2017 and I bought it and loved him some more. Then, I bought tickets to see him and Rob Zombie in Atlanta in 2018. And it just so happened that Godsmack was playing in that very same venue two days later and all of a sudden, I was off on a hard-rock adventure. (I documented both shows in my Instagram stories) I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun at a concert as I did at those shows. I was the one who stood out, dressed like I just walked off the golf course, but it didn’t matter. Freaks were there, oh yes. But we were all there because we shared something in common and that was really nice. 

I mentioned “a little” Disturbed and Godsmack because it has grown into “a lot” of both bands. Like, all they have ever done, a lot. You have at least heard part of a Disturbed song if you have attended a Carolina Panther game in the last few years. The team is introduced by one. That drum and guitar medley is from Down with the Sickness. 

I am a “Disturbed One” as their fans are called. I’m all in. I went to Denver a few weeks ago to see a good pal of mine, but I also went because Disturbed was at the Pepsi Center, touring after the release of their album “Evolution.” It’s a killer album too, with beautiful songs on it like A Reason to Fight and Watch You Burn and also some songs that kick you right in the ass like The Best Ones Lie. They hit the mainstream a few years ago with the popularity of their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. 

Godsmack is even with Disturbed in my metalhead. I saw them last year in Atlanta after the release of their album “When Legends Rise.” Don’t let the name fool you, it’s only rock and roll and I like it, like Mick said. I remember seeing an ad on TV in 1998 advertising their self-titled album. I remember it because of the picture of the woman on the cover and because of their name. I was 12 years old. I remember thinking about how dangerous I thought the name was and about the weirdos that must go to a concert like that. Twenty years later, I was one of those weirdos.

I’m not your average metalhead, that is for sure. I don’t much care for Metallica. I love Enter Sandman but that’s about it. That’s like metalhead heresy, I know. But it’s my metalhead and I get to fill it with whatever I want. I love Sevendust and Bad Brains and Ramstein. I love Rob Zombie and Drowning Pool. I love, love, System of a Down. Man, what a great band.

I feel sorry for you if you allow yourself to be ruled by one genre of music and especially if you shun certain others. If you told me ten years ago I’d be thinking about spending hundreds of dollars to go to Nashville to see Disturbed for the second time in two months, I would have asked you to kindly leave if you were tripping acid. I would have told you I’m definitely not the type of person who likes metal music. But I would be wrong because the only stereotype that is true of those people is the art that they collectively enjoy. Not their look or their background or anything except the art itself.

I left a lot out of this post. Steely Dan, James Brown, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Please Pardon Me and Sweet Thing by Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Neo-soul, classics like Aretha and 90s pop like Weezer and Incubus. There’s a lot I didn’t cover because I’m thinking of your time, dear reader. I could go on forever. This post began because I was apologizing repeatedly for not liking Tool. I think that the point of this post is to say that I tried to like Tool and I just don’t. You should try to like Tool too, or Disturbed or Frank Zappa. Try and see. You might be pleasantly surprised. And before you know it, you’ll find yourself at a “Twins of Evil” show featuring Marylin Manson and Rob Zombie. I might see you there.

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