Friday, September 28, 2012

Jian Ghomeshi's Musical Life

Each Friday, I have noticed, I have mentioned something relating to music with my posts. Today, I am cheating a little, as I came across the Maclean’s review of Jian Ghomeshi’s memoir 1982:
The book suffers from one rather large problem: it is addressed to teenagers who will probably not appreciate most of its cultural references. His subject is the timeless teenage quest to be cool, but at times the book feels like an excuse to write about his favourite ’80s bands. The wafer-thin storyline—loser likes girl, gets hip, gets girl—punctuates far richer tributes to the tunes of David Bowie, the Clash, and Talking Heads. Ghomeshi had crushes on girls, but he loved music.
Andrew Stobo Sniderman feels that the book does not succeed as it intends. As a memoir, it is only effective if the subject can create empathy with its readers. With such a fixed time frame (the title should be a giveaway), this book may only appeal to, as Sniderman suggests, those who are old enough to remember this era. However, music fans of all ages should be able to close that gap quite easily. For instance, another writer that I appreciate, Jonathan Lethem, wrote a book dedicated to Talking Heads’s Fear of Music for 33⅓. It is an excellent book about an excellent album, one of my favourites (both the book and the album). Lethem carefully explicates each song based on its musical, lyrical, cultural and artistic merits. I listened to the album several times over while reading this book. His love of the album clearly shows in his writing.

Of course, Lethem’s experience with the album is listening to it for the first time when it came out, on vinyl, when he was a teenager. His attachment to the album are tied with growing up, attending his first Talking Heads concert, sharing the music with friends and strangers. My experience, certainly, is different than his, separated by time and distance. I will never be able to experience Talking Heads live in concert, nor can I replicate the experience of listening to the album for the first time as a moody teenager. But I had a similar response, even though our initial experiences were so different. It elicited memories of my own teenage years, as I remembered listening to R.E.M., U2, Nirvana, etc. for the first time. I have Cameron Crowe to thank for my first listen of Blood on the Tracks, as he used "Shelter From the Storm" in his film Jerry Maguire. After I saw that movie, I came home and search through my dad’s vinyl collection until I came to Blood on the Tracks, and proceeded to listen to the album several times over start to finish. I will never have the experience of hearing Dylan for the very first time, as listeners in the ‘60s would have. But I would argue that I will have a similar experience in listening to Dylan, and as I get older the experience of listening to Dylan’s music changes as my life does.

I am intrigued now by Jian Ghomeshi’s memoir, as he seems to connect the important times in his life to the music that was on in the background. Just like me.

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