Five Ways to Soothe The Savage Beast

There was recently a study published in The Wall Street Journal about the pros and cons of using earphones at work.  Count me into the “pros” camp.  I have a rather eclectic music collection, and listen to everything from old Ned’s Atomic Dustbin to Daler Mehndi to Miles Davis.  As my daughter and I are slowly getting into gardening, I may take up my SMBMatters pal Richard Lee’s advice and play Beethoven’s Symphony #9 to the blooming pea plants in her garden.

As my last post shared the Top 5 Titles in my movie library, I’d like to extend this “taste reveal” to my music collection.  Here are the top 5 groups that get heavy airplay on my trusty iPhone.

The Beatles The Beatles

Steve Jobs considered the entrance of the Beatles into the iTunes Music Store to be one of his final great works.  Not one prone to unmerited positive affirmation, Jobs was quite effusive in his praise for the group, finding close personal connection with John, Paul, George, and the fourth one.  As Jobs did with Apple, the Beatles continually reinvented their style: the psychedelic, scruffy hippies behind Helter Skelter bore little resemblance to the squeaky clean team that debuted on the Ed Sullivan show a mere six years earlier.  Looking at their expansive corpus of work, awe-inspiring in terms of depth, breadth and diversity, it’s hard to believe the Fab Four were only around for 10 years.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones' "Tongue and Lip Desig...

If The Beatles were the rock equivalent of Apple, we can then equate The Rolling Stones with Microsoft (a correlation made more literal by the use of “Start Me Up” in Windows 95 commercials).  While the Beatles flamed out fairly early on, the Stones continued cranking out the hits well into the present day.  As with Microsoft, the Rolling Stones of today are a much lesser version of their original incarnation.  Where the Beatles were all about originality, creativity, and an understated style the Stones were not shy about imitation and winning ugly.  Of the Stones’ 50 year lifespan, the 1968-1973 period is in my estimation their golden age.  Gimme Shelter and You Can’t Always Get What You Want artfully captured the tumult and upheaval of the Vietnam era.  Not surprisingly, Stones classics from this period factor heavily into the films of my favorite director, Martin Scorcese.  They always leave me with a great deal of Satisfaction.

The Doors

The Doors

In my teenage years I was not quite the paragon of politeness, obedience and the other virtues that I try to instill in my children.  I found a kindred spirit from the previous generation in Jim Morrison, frontman for the iconoclastic 60’s band The Doors.  As with the Beatles, it is hard to believe that they were only around for 4 years given the enormous cultural impact and the power of timeless tracks such as Light My Fire and People are Strange.  The Doors had many hooks, including the mysticism that infused their songs, accentuated by Ray Manzarek’s use of the organ.   Not to mention Morrison’s penchant for defying censors’ instructions and flouting the rules of public decency.

You kids out there – stay in school, and don’t be like Jimmy!

The Beastie Boys

English: Ricky Powell

Please see my earlier post on the Beastie Boys, inspired by the premature demise of beer-swilling hooligan turned enlightened elder statesman Adam Yauch.  The only thing I’d add is that the Beasties should have called it quits after Ill Communication.  While Hello Nasty gets passing marks, To the 5 Boroughs is quite embarrassing.

The Strokes

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”  One of the best quotes from one of the greatest movies of all timeThe Godfather.  The best cannolis I ever had were from Venieros, a humble little Italian hole in the wall in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  During our year in New York City, my wife and I would routinely trek all the way from the Upper West Side to the LES to feast on these flaky, pistachio-toped powder-sprinkled delectables.  This would prompt our NYC friends to glower in disbelief: “you have a car in this city??”

Along with cannolis, one of my strongest memories of the Big Apple in 2003 was “Room on Fire,” the second album from Lower East Side standout The Strokes.  This song also marked a demarcation in my listening habits from analog to digital, as it was the first album I purchased from the iTunes music store.  Many have written off the Strokes as being derivative of previous punk outfits such as Velvet UndergroundTelevision, and the Ramones.  All true: in fact, Triumph the Insult Comic damned them with faint praise, noting “look how cute you are!  You’re like the Monkees, with a drinking problem!”  There is something, however, about the rough-hewn, ragged rebelliousness underlying tracks such as Alone Together and Reptilia, that takes me back to life in NYC.  Their last album was, admittedly quite a jumbled mess nowhere near the caliber of their impressive debut Is this It.  Let’s hope they redeem themselves with their next showing, and let’s hope it doesn’t take another five years.

Listen Up…

To be sure, there are some anti-social implications of tuning out the world with headphones planted in your ears.  That said, the benefits of background music on productivity cannot be overstated.   I routinely keep music in the background, whether filling out TPS reportsrunning, or broadening my horizons with the latest and greatest reading material.

Bear in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive, as it excludes other notable such as Dave Brubeck, Pink Floyd, and Jay-Z.  Nonetheless, as with my post on movies, I hope this prompts you to take time out of your busy schedule, think about who your favorite artists are, why you like them, and what this reflects about you.

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