01 August 2012

Inflicting Hated Music on Loved Ones

Music is powerful in dividing and uniting families. NPR's All Things Considered recently aired a piece about a woman whose hatred for Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" (a song that her father loved) played an important role in father-daughter bonding. I have a similar if less compelling tale, but in reverse: it was I doing the inflicting. 

When I was prepubescent, I listened to a lot of what was then classified as "oldies" music: saccharine white-bread pop from 1952-1966; early, non-funky Motown R&B; Phil Spector's kiddie symphonies; and less-daring Beatles songs. On long, suburban drives, my mother would be serenaded by a curated selection of her own teenage follies. If I had been in her shoes, I would not have been able to take it. 

My mother persisted, except when confronted with one particular sonic nemesis: Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie".

Mr. Diamond's facial expressions are priceless.

Neil Diamond was responsible for some of the worst '70s pop with some of the most unfortunate staying power. His songs are teased-hair, wink-and-a-smile, over-orchestrated kitsch. They insult you with lyrical stupidity and playground-chant catchiness. "Sweet Caroline" enjoyed a recent renaissance of bro-comedy popularity largely because it is insipid pap best sung along to under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol.

"Cracklin' Rosie" is hardly Neil's worst -- that would probably go to "I Am, I Said" -- but the lyrics are horrid and meaningless. And vaguely mysogynistic. And, by gum, they get stuck in your head. To torment my loving mother I used to call the local "oldies" radio station to request that they play "Cracklin' Rosie." I would ask them to dedicate it to her. She would howl with indignation as I would sing with the chorus: "Cracklin' Rose, you're a store bought woman..." Ultimately, we could laugh together at how horrible the song was before the radio would be brusquely switched off.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why does Rosie crackle? Because she's a store-bought woman? Do other women crackle? Do men? If so, exactly how? I might find answers to these and other questions if I actually listened to this song, but I really really hate it! -JK

Jeff said...

Wiser words are rarely written.

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