Guilty Pleasures and Establishment Critics
What IS a "guilty pleasure," anyway? This issue came up for me this week when a friend referred me to Rolling Stone magazine's list of 25 "guilty pleasure" bands.
Now this list has some bands I like, and plenty whose appeal escapes me, but I damn well don't feel "guilty" for liking ELO, the Monkees, ABBA, or Bread. So where did this notion of feeling bad about the music you like come from?
Oh, yes. From rock critics. Intellectually constipated baby-boomer rock critics. From places like Rolling Stone magazine, where Jann Wenner cast his magic spells for years, making sure his pet bands got good reviews (and firing writers who wouldn't comply). It's Wenner who keeps bands he doesn't like out of the ridiculous, overblown Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And it's Wenner whose rag now promotes models, emo bands he can't possibly relate to, and video games--video games!--in a ridiculous attempt to stay hip. Like it was ever hip.
Bozos like RS--and plenty of others--have, for years, been reminding us that nothing was ever as good as it was back in 1969, man, and if you weren't at Woodstock, you didn't rate. Music meant everything then, you see, and those of us who didn't experience that firsthand just don't get it. Janis wasn't just a singer, man--she was a warrior against the bad guys.
Well, then, count me as a counter-revolutionary and give me the biggest rifle, because I'd rather listen to the Monkees (or the Monks, for that matter) than Richie Havens or the Band. The very idea of feeling guilt about a record or band you like because some rock critic says so is the epitome of intellectual fascism. And I say that as someone who has more 60s records in his collection than his shelves can support.
Maybe we'll live to be old enough one day to see all the hoary old baby-boomer favorites--the Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, or even the Beatles--on somebody's list of "guilty pleasures." By then, we'll know the worm has turned.
Please feel free to listen, then, to one of my favorite groups...one that gives me no guilt to enjoy.