Hiding In Plain Sight
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This is the third (and final) installment in my “Discovering New Music Trilogy”. I love music. That much should be obvious by now. I am always on the lookout for music that grabs me emotionally. I always check Spotify’s New Discovery playlist, I check out various websites (AllMusic, Blabbermouth, etc.) and ask people what they are listening to. I’m always on the hunt for that new artist or album that will grab me. Recently I discovered an unexpected source of new music to choose from, the past. No, really, hear me out. I’ve been watching MTV’s 120 Minutes. Now I hear you saying “wait a minute that show has been off the air for 20 years”. And to that point you would be correct. But what I found was that in watching reruns there were songs that didn’t connect with me then that do now.
Let me step back a bit. I grew up during the MTV era. It was a great time to discover new music. For those who may not know, the advent of MTV was revolutionary. It really did change everything. Before MTV there really wasn’t a national outlet for music. There were local radio stations that might play the hits but it could be a regional thing and if you weren’t in that region you may not have been exposed to the works of an artist like Bruce Springsteen. If you didn’t live on the east coast it took awhile for Springsteen to become well known. But when MTV debuted in 1981 you could see a variety of musical genres 24 hours a day. That was pretty awesome. Initially MTV just showed
individual videos, then concerts and then hosted specialty shows based around a particular genre of music. Shows like Headbangers Ball, Yo! MTV Raps, and the aforementioned 120 Minutes. Now the thing I didn’t realize then, but now understand, is that I had a very distinct yes/no opinion to the videos I was watching. If it didn’t fit my worldview of what constituted a good song I ignored it. This wasn’t malicious on my part, it’s just that I either liked it or didn’t and if I didn’t like it right away I didn’t want to waste my time with it. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can honestly say that my musical tastes were relatively narrow. Usually loud and hard. When I started liking music, most of the bands I liked had 4 or 5 guys and were mostly from England. Bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Foghat, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Yes, Led Zeppelin, etc. It took a while before I even liked a group with females in it but when I first heard Heart I liked the guitar playing so my musical catalog slowly started to expand.
As time went on the genres I liked broadened, there was so much new material and new styles to choose from. But sometimes I went kicking and screaming. I remember absolutely hating The Human League, Depeche Mode and Madness and having no room in my consciousness for Johnny Cash, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bruce Springsteen and countless others. But a funny thing happened on the way to now. I actually stopped (very gradually and subconsciously, I might say) viewing a song, or artist, in a pass/no pass way and started to actually listen to them. The first step was to accept that even if I didn’t like a song, or artist, somebody did and there had to be a reason for that. That there was value in it even if I didn’t value it meant I was opening up to the understanding that there was more to the universe than just me and my opinions. Pretty heady stuff for a teenager. And by opening up to the possibility that my musical taste wasn’t necessarily the best I found a wealth of new music to appreciate. I discovered reggae, world beat, country rock, rockabilly, folk, new wave, jazz, even classical. To be honest I am still working on hip-hop with a little help from my friends here at Power Chord TV.
So, my Time Warner cable package had this really nice channel called Palladia which was a music channel. They had live concerts, the Later… With Jools Holland show (check it out if you’ve never seen it), Live from Daryl’s House, The Best of Austin City Limits and other good music shows. Well, they changed to MTV Live, which bugged me because I had felt that MTV had jumped the shark when they started going away from music to things like Road Rules, Catfish and other scripted content. But one of the things that MTV Live did show was old episodes of 120 Minutes. This was a show that back in the day, presented new music for 2 hours each week, kind of like an updated version of American Bandstand. 120 Minutes focused on modern, alternative music during the 80’s and 90’s. This was a far cry from the rock (it wasn’t classic rock yet) and heavy metal I had been listening too up to that point. I used to watch 120 Minutes religiously on Sunday nights to see what was new in alternative music, it made me a fan of Depeche Mode, The Mighty Lemon Drops, Oingo Boingo and many other bands I would never have been exposed to. But what I came to realize as I watch these 20 year old re-runs is all the bands I didn’t like, or even acknowledge, then that I now like. Bands that hadn’t even registered on my radar. I had just discovered new music (to me) that wasn’t new. Bands like Fishbone, Placebo, The Bo Deans, Yellow Magic Orchestra, The Stone Roses, Civ, Age of Chance and on and on. Bands that may have run their course but had made good music which I had ignored. So now, in addition to listening to new bands like KXM, Mumford & Sons, Big Kettle Drum and Rival Sons I am listening to fresh (to me), old music by Placebo, Fishbone, TV On The Radio, Pulp, Gil-Scott Heron and others. I have a newfound respect for artists that I had passed over in my more narrow minded youth.
Now I could kick myself for having ignored these artists in the past (I remember not wanting to see The Cure or Stevie Ray Vaughn when they came through town) but I feel that I had to grow into them emotionally. I had to allow my tastes to expand beyond what I initially thought of as “good music” at a natural rate or I just wouldn’t have accepted these artists. When I was young if someone asked me what I liked I would have proudly declared “metal”! Now my answer would be “anything, as long as it’s good”. So now I pay attention to many TV shows that I hadn’t before, as well as the streaming services and the articles, whiteboards and podcasts here on Power Chord TV. There is a vast wealth of material to choose from, from a myriad of sources. I now try to keep an open mind and not pigeonhole an artist in my musical continuum. I have realized that in addition to all of the new venues for discovering new music (of which there are way too many), there is also an entire back catalog of recorded music waiting to be experienced. It’s an exhilarating thought.