Alternative…To What?


This afternoon, I was hanging out with my mom.  We had went out to lunch and we were over at her house, chatting. I was “rekanizing” the dog and making him feel important.  And she was driving me INSANE. she had said something about putting some music on. She’s all about her cable package that comes with the 9457 “Radio stations,” as well.  And she was sitting there with her remote, just SURFING.  I was fine for about 10 minutes but then it was getting on my very last nerve.  “Ok. No. You have GOT to pick something or I’m going to put Carlito down and take it away from you.”  Her next click lands us on “Stairway to Heaven.” It’s just starting.  “Ok this is fine. We can listen to this.”  “Well this is like.. the 70’s station…”   “And?”  “And you never really like to sit and listen to 70’s music.”

“Well we could worry about that later? I mean… this song does drone on for an hour and a half…”

*CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK*  Her “Ok. We can listen to this.”   It was the Foo Fighters, but a song of theirs I can deal with..

We continue to chat about this and that.. about 10 minutes later, I say… “oh hey.  I’ve been ok with like every song that has played… what is this?”

“CLASSIC ALTERNATIVE”

Me:  “……what does that EVEN MEAN? ”

I really hate standard titles for genres.  Most of them make absolutely no sense.  “Classic Rock”     < Evidently – all that means is a song is 15 years old and people still want to hear it.  These days, along with your standard Led Zeppelin and Bob Seger tracks, the classic rock station now plays The Pointer Sisters, Bryan Adams, and U2.   (I didn’t say *I* still wanted to hear it, mind)

“Alternative.”  <<< That one perhaps annoys me the most.  It means virtually nothing.  Because nearly anything could legitimately fit in that. And the entire point of labeling something by genre is that someone else would know exactly what is being described.

So anyway..  one track bleeds into the next.  Before I go any further with this, I do want to get something on the record.  While I will admit freely, I love to fuck with my mom, I am always amazed and awed at the breadth of her musical taste and knowledge.

Anyway, some of our conversation is based on the songs that are playing, while other bits have nothing to do with music.   About the 13th or 14th track, she starts talking about “Tears for Fears,” and “Everybody Wants to Rule The World.”

All I contribute to this line of the discussion is:  “I hardly feel this song should make the cut. It wasn’t alternative to anything. Ever.  This song ruled the radio.  Everyone and their grandmother knew every word. And I remember when you couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing that video playing.”

Next song up: Depeche Mode’s   “Policy of Truth.”     Another little aside to this: as the songs play, the screen shows up “DID U KNOW” and gives fun little facts about the artists along with a couple of pictures.   She’s listening intently to this song and “I REALLY LIKE THIS.”    me “Yes. Violator is an incredible album.”  “Yeah, I never really listened to it. I was done when I heard your ‘Personal Jesus’ song.”   About this time, one of the little blurbs said….something about Dave Gahan.   “Now…..WHY DO I KNOW THAT NAME?”  “uhm.. cuz he is in Depeche Mode?”

Her “….” “NO I MEAN.. HE IS IN SOME OTHER BIG BAND”

Me: *thinking a moment*  “OH DO YOU MEAN THE FOO FIGHTERS?”

Her:  “YES!”

ME:  “No. that’s Dave Grohl.”

Conversation rolls on…  I’m pretty much rambling about MY FEELINGS on genres and why “Alternative” is like one of the silliest of all of them.

I notice a new song come on and I gesture to the radio  “See? Now this one counts. I’m totally ok with calling Echo and the Bunnymen “ALTERNATIVE”  although I know… technically .. one WOULDN’T because they were before anyone thought to ruin music with that term.”

Her: “…………………….well I’ve never heard of Those People.. did you just say *squinting at the tv screen* ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN?”

Me: “Yes. that’s kind of my entire point.  If the WHOLE WORLD knows the songs. And they are all top 40 songs that every “popular radio” station plays, they ARE NOT  *ALTERNATIVE.* They are “MAIN STREAM”  (NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT).”

I always have to tag that little coda onto the end of my rant.  It’s not that I feel some big need to only like music that “The rest of the world” does not know, yet.  I’m good with the whole world deciding they love a great song. I get sad about that only because, often, once the rest of the world gets a hold of it, the popular media wrings every bit of goodness out of the song. And generally within a week, I hate everything about it and want to throw the radio when I hear it for the 4th time in an 8 hour period.

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~ by Layla on November 11, 2012.

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