Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Greatest?

People, use care when applying adjectives, words are powerful. We throw them around far too arbitrarily. For example, the ad that played for weeks and weeks, touting REO Speedwagon as "one the greatest bands in the world", or Rick Springfield being described as an "international superstar". Ri-ight. You see and hear it all the time, superlatives added to make things seem like the greatest, most wonderful, super duper...okay, I'm running out of them because I tend not to use them often.

Sorry, I know there are those who might disagree, but when I think of applying greatest to a band, REO Speedwagon does not spring to mind. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Nirvana, U2, Black Sabbath (with Ozzie), Led Zepplin, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Smiths, The Clash, The Cure, The Police, yup, I think they've achieved "greatness", but I know the definition of great is subjective and I am willing to concede that some of these choices might be mine alone. Thing is, REO Speedwagon may have had some good ballads back in the eighties, and I don't begrudge them taking any opportunity to make some more money, not by a long shot would I call them one of the Greatest bands alive. No apologies there. Great to me implies that you have a seminal body of work that survives the test of time and not only as elevator music. All the above mentioned have been and continue to be huge influences and this is not confined only on music.

The injudicious use of adjectives and superlatives drives me crazy, yes, literally. I hate having to wade through all the gushing to get to the point. It's one of the reasons I gave up reading Salman Rushdie, while I loved his prose, the clever use of metaphor, double entrendre, poetry like constructions, after a while it became too much. Advertising has partly contributed to the curse of the adjective. For years the promises have been getting bigger and bigger, everything is more than. We have no real barometer of what greatness or even good is. As a result, we have ended up with a truly disposable society. Because EVERYTHING is judged to be so wonderful, nothing has any real value anymore. Whether it is a description of the powerful action of a cleaning detergent, power under the hood of a car, insurance rates etc, great has come to be one of those meaningless words that is used to make you part with your hard earned cash. Keep in mind today's super wonderful iPod is tomorrow's back of the drawer junk.

To wit, I remember years ago seeing a Carnival costume that caused my jaw to drop in absolute wonder. It made me want to know what it was to "play MAS". It was a Peter Minshall design from Carnival of the Sea. Round, with fluttering sparkly blue THINGS. It's been thirty years and I still remember it vividly and I am not the only one. Ask me what any of the costumes today look like and I'll shrug. It's a bikini with something stuck on to it; actually, the X-man and I have a game we play during Dancing With the Stars, it's called who's band did that costume come from. It would seem that the wardrobe department raids mas camps for clothes for the girl dancers. The point is that every single write up you read describes the "greatness" of these infinitely forgettable costumes.

This attitude to "greatness" is all so pervading. I cannot tell you how many times I've tossed books in disgust having bought them on the basis of a glowing review, if not the jacket description; only to find while plumbing the pages that they are puerile, florid, overblown or just plain BORING.

As Coffeedude might be wondering, what is the point of today's diatribe? There in none really, this is simply me putting in my two cents. Meanwhile, purging my ears of the muzak by playing the Stones at loud as I can without pissing off the other people in my office. So there.

6 comments:

Gabriela García Calderón said...

In Spanish we have a very popular Argentinean group, Soda Stereo. Anyone who was a teenager back in the 80s knows and loves their songs.
But you made me wonder, and once again you are right: everything is the greatest, the best and a long list of superlatives.

Gabriela García Calderón said...

Hello my friend:
I hope you may understand the whole text of this post. Thanks, thanks a lot!
Regards from Peru.

Marcus the Coffedude said...

ironic that your thoughts today are aligned with those of the Stones themselves. Enjoy!
the Coffeedude

***Satisfaction by M.Jagger/K.Richards***
When i'm drivin' in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that's what i say

I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
'cause i try and i try and i try and i try
I can't get no, i can't get no

When i'm watchin' my tv
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarrettes as me
I can't get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that's what i say

I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no girl reaction
'cause i try and i try and i try and i try
I can't get no, i can't get no

Marcus the Coffedude said...

We could almost fall out for that tap dance you just did on Salman Rushdies very bald held but I will let that one slip.LOL. In all seriousness though, it goes back to my earlier comments. No one else can define for you what makes you feel good (especially critics).

"The ground beneath her feet" (1999) picked my Rushdie cherry and splattered me against a metaphysical wall. I am still yet to recover. Yet "Fury" (2001) left me uninspired. I just finished "Midnights Children" (1981 - supposedly his work of art) and didnt walk away with that feeling of awe that my virignity losing experience to ol Salman in "Ground beneath her feet" did to me. Salman really jumped the shark for me by turning to acting (Bridget Jones) and divorcing his very hot wife.

Dont even get me started on Naipaul.

I comes down to what floats your boat as much in the literary and music worlds as in real life whether it's Nietzsche , Mozart, Rushdie, J.K.Rowling, the Clash or Enid Blyton.

the Coffeedude still cant get no satisfaction

safespaces said...

Coffeewallah,
Thank you so much, you are doing the book at last and it is better than if you had sat down and tried. If you are puzzled by what I mean, I mean this blog right here, right now. It is wonderful!!!!!
~A

Coffeewallah said...

Coffeedude, satisfaction is where you find it. Go read Haroun and the Sea of Stories, best thing Salman ever wrote. Today the soundtrack includes Aerosmith, Queen and odd I know, 3 Canal. All drowned out by the sound of my coughing!