I love music. Given the right mood, I can listen to almost anything. Back in the day I'd scour record bins in search of a forgotten, neglected or overlooked masterpiece, spending hours upon hours looking for I knew not what until I'd find it. Folk, blues, jazz, rock, R&B, soul, indie, rap, prog, classical and avant-garde? Why not? Gamelan music from Indonesia? Bring it on! Music for me was a journey, very much political at first with Peter, Paul and Mary and Dylan, who eventually led me to Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson and Al Green and into Motown and '60s psychedelia. Living in New Orleans in my early 20s, I tuned into local legends like Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas and the Meters. (I'm listening to the Wild Tchoupitoulas as I write.) One day a friend returning from a visit to Manhattan brought back a new record. It was the first time I'd heard of the New York Dolls, and seen their cross-dressing album cover art. I listened but wasn't impressed, preferring the homegrown sounds of Lee Dorsey and pianist Ellis Marsalis, who played regularly at Lu and Charlie's on North Rampart Street.
A few years later I moved back to New York City. I was working at the SoHo Weekly News in January 1978, when the Sex Pistols broke up only months after they released their influential album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Nine months later, Nancy Spungen was found dead in the bathroom of the room she shared with Sid Vicious in the Chelsea Hotel and I was assigned the story. I bought Never Mind the Bollocks... and listened to it over and over and over again. Looking past Vicious and Spungen's sad, drug-fueled relationship, the Pistols felt like the return to pure rock 'n' roll, and had an anger and energy that fit in perfectly with the decay of the city in the late '70s. I was hooked on punk: Ramones, Television, Talking Heads. Everything else suddenly sounded old until the emergence of rap, which Afrika Bambaataa maintains had the same radical energy as punk.
looking for the perfect zeitgeist
So when it's time to put together our music issue, I'm always asking my editors to take a stand on what's moving the culture today. Is there a zeitgeist-shifting sound that will take us to a new awareness of the times and the world around us?
Recently, a chorus has risen declaring that EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is the music that will change your life. EDM icons Daft Punk have blown musical minds everywhere with the new album Random Access Memories, the band's first album to hit number one in the U.S. But ultimately its retro-future grooves driven by Nile Rodgers' guitar riffs hark back to the '80s. One of the year's biggest musical highlights was the 73-year-old Giorgio Moroder -- the godfather of electronic music, the Italian-born, Munich-based producer and creator of a Kraftwerk-y Euro disco sound made famous by Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" -- making his DJ debut. As part of Red Bull Music Academy, a sensational month-long extravaganza, Moroder packed Williamsburg's Output with worshippers --including me -- who shuddered with excitement in beat to the sonic vibrations created by the booming system. So old it's young, but not a musical shape shifter.
Alas, the editors weren't buying the EDM hype. What's more to the point, we decided, was the lack of a predominant sound. Sure EDM is infecting everything from hip-hop to indie to pop, but is it taking over? We don't think so. Whether you blame it on everyone's favorite scapegoat, the Internet, or a myriad of other socio-cultural-political phenomena, the fact is that the musical attention span is all over the place--abetted by the fact that you can listen to almost anything at anytime. There's Spotify, Amazon and Pandora of course, and now Google has launched a paid music subscription service that will put it in direct competition with other streaming services that use your catalog and analytics to introduce you to new music.
No one reflects the multiplicity of the musical moment better than our Grammy-winning style-loving cover star Miguel, an R&B singer who has crossed over into the pop and mainstream worlds, a feat that reminds me of Marvin Gaye's work. The rest of the issue is similarly eclectic, jumping from sound to sound, from noise rapper Antwon to Satanic FM rockers Ghost B.C. to gospel legend Mavis Staples.
So get on your pogo stick and start jumping. You'll enjoy the ride and meet some musical mayhem along the way -- while we keep looking for the perfect zeigeist.