To celebrate this week's release of THERE, I SAID IT: Bob Dylan Is Overrated (and a few other carefully considered objections to the greatest musicians of all time) - which is on sale now and makes a heart-rendingly perfect holiday gift - I'm releasing a few of my favorite chapters, here on m'blog.
Not that I have favorites, mind you. I love all my children equally. Except, of course, for the children who are simply funnier and more talented than the others. Those children I obviously love more, and as a result will receive a greater share of my love and resources.
Will I publish ALL of my favorite essays here on my blog? No, I will not. Some children, you see, must be nurtured with cold silence. For it is only in this hardy environment - deprived of my love - that they will grow strong and self-sufficient. They may cry out in the night, for now. But in the long run - long after I have left this earth, perhaps - they will thank me, and recognize the depth of my affection.
Here's Aimee Weingart Pollak's terrific essay on The Who. Buy the book!
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Every couple of years I meet someone, usually a woman around my age, and take an instant dislike to her. On the surface, we should be friends. Our kids are on the same soccer team, we grew up in the same town, we both like yoga, we both hate bananas. We even have some friends in common. Yet, despite outward signs pointing toward compatibility, I just can’t stand her.
That's sort of how I feel about The Who.
I’m friends with most of The Who’s friends. I hit it off immediately with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin - we were BFF’s all through high school. I had a two-year love affair with Eric Clapton, culminating in a slow dance at prom. I gave in to a drunken one-night stand with The Clash in 11th grade. And Queen has been my gay best friend since we met on the first day of chorus.
But The Who and I could never get past grudging acquaintances: that forced head nod as you pass each other in the hall. Sup.
After high school, The Who and I went our separate ways, thank God. I hooked up with classic jazz in an East Village record shop, and never looked back. Hard bop and I were soon inseparable. We drank ourselves blind on shitty red wine, Coltrane and Miles and me. I fell in love on a cliche New York City fire escape, flying on Kind of Blue.
And then, in the blink of an eye, I was married and suburban, belly swollen in a starter home. Soon my music collection was as bloated and misshapen as I was. My five-CD changer spun a hideous Lazy Susan of Laurie Berkner, Raffi and the Wiggles.
Running into The Who again was the furthest thing from my mind.
And then. One day.
I was neck-deep in my minivan, kids asleep in the back. I sneaked a hit of low-volume Eminem. I remember driving the long way home, through my old neighborhood. Fate even found me a parking spot. Pushing a groggy double stroller down those memory-soaked streets, I felt the unmistakable tug of nostalgia for my fumbling classic rock days. It felt like only yesterday that Pink Floyd was nibbling at my ears, while I lay in the back seat of that ’81 Monte Carlo, my shirt pushed up to my armpits by the overeager boy.
But this was now, and someone had put on a ring on it. After months of skulking around the edges of the playground, I was thrilled to have scored a hot invite to a cool-mom wine-and-lunch playdate. I spent the morning worrying that my not-quite-toilet-trained kid would pee on the cool mom’s sofa. It never occurred to me that I would be the problem.
I was on my third-and-a-halfth glass of pinot grigio when "Pinball Wizard" hit the Bose.
In a flash, I was a teenager again. I looked around at my fellow moms, instinctively rolling my eyes, making a “gagging” face. The moms stared back at me in shock. I realized - way too late - that they were reacting with pleasure, even joy, at The Who’s arrival.
I retreated into myself for a second, listening to the music for clues. Some deaf kid was being led into a game room by a pack of disciples. I tried my damndest to appreciate the sounds pummeling my eardrums. Nope. The Who was still that same old schmuck from high school, now trying to hide behind a combover and a salesman’s plastic smile. Same as the old boss.
But Jesus, look at these new friends of mine, cooing along when the guitars drop out: sure, plays, a-mean, pin, ball. Like he’s still the coolest guy, evar.
Now I run into this fucking asshole everywhere I go. The Who is all over their book clubs and mah jongg groups, even their kids’ birthday parties. Their husbands invite him to Friday night poker and Sunday morning tailgates. When he shows up at our favorite bar, I grit out a smile and walk into the next room, avoiding ear contact. As often as not, I’m forced to give The Who an insincere hello, telling him how good he looks (is that a new shirt? did you lose weight?) and pretending to be interested in his latest tour (how the hell are they still touring??). Even our ski vacations provide me with no escape. Lifties love The Who. At the least my helmet dulls the pain.
The absolute nadir was 2010, when The Who played halftime of the Super Bowl. Our entire g-g-generation screamed along to “Who Are You.” I was disgusted. Then my husband joined in. I turned to him with icy eyes. This was the final straw.
On the car ride home, I laid down the law. There could be no casual friendship with The Who. I would not be fooled again. He couldn’t agree with me in private about The Who being the worst, and then jump right in with The Who and his buddies for a cigar out on the patio. Maybe I was being unreasonable. Fine. But he was going to have to take one for the team.
I remember his hand hovering over the radio station pre-sets. I waited anxiously for his choice. He picked AltNation. My new best friend Muse sang to me about resistance. And I fell in love with my husband all over again. I was back on the fire escape. Free.
In the end, he said it was an easy decision for him. After all, The Who would never open its heart or legs to him. See me, feel me, touch me, bitches.
[THERE, I SAID IT: Bob Dylan Is Overrated (and a few other carefully considered objections to the greatest musicians of all time) is on sale now in paperback and Kindle formats.
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