(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Saturday, November 23, 2002


One of my oddly-Eminem-acceptant friends says, re my assertion below that I don't like arrogant, swaggering, recording artists,
Jeez, Sam. If you don't like arrogant swaggering singers, you must not like
Rock'n'Roll. Or the Blues for the matter. I mean, Robert Johnson and Mick
Jagger and John Lydon and Jerry Lee Lewis are nothing if not arrogant and
swaggering. Then there's Bob "Idiot Wind" Dylan.
I think that we may be on to something here -- and it may be a useful thing for Amazon's Chief Algorithms Officer to know. (I used to think that I was an individual. Now, thanks to Amazon, I know that I'm "just another one of those liberal intellectuals who likes to listen to alt-country music while he cooks.").

I do find, now that you mention it, that I don't really like the swaggering arrogant blues musicians -- I gravitate towards the shuddering-in-fear-of-God sound of Blind Willie Johnson, and like Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" etc. a lot only because I sense a smile behind that arrogance. (Same with Howling Wolf; and definitely, obviously, with Bo Diddley of course). Mick Jagger, you can have; give me Peter Wolf, shuffling pleasantly down the street in Boston without knighthood, entourage, or lycra. (Though to Mick's credit, he does some great backup singing on Peter Wolf's latest record). I would rather listen to an hour of Buddy Holly than five minutes of Jerry Lee Lewis; this probably makes the people who made that test all the more certain that I am female. In punk, too, I gravitate towards the people who seem (in, and from, their music) to be self-effacing or at least reasonably-self-doubting rather than the people who are full of themselves. As for Bob, I satisfy myself that his arrogant side is only an occasionally-worn mask to hide the turmoil; I hope I'm right. Even with old-time music from the 1920s and 30s, a genre notably lacking in artists who were unadulterated self-congratulators, years can sometimes pass before I'll put on a record of Uncle Dave Macon, with his flashy clothes and banjo-twirling and sometimes self-applauding stance.

Yep, that's my Amazon music profile: I like records by musicians who either aren't arrogant and swaggering, or are swaggering with a little wink to let you know that it's just (or at least partly) a put-on. (The one exception: Hendrix. If I had been Hendrix, I would have swaggered too.). If Eminem has that wink, then maybe it'll grow on me.

posted by sam 6:40 AM 0 comments


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