Cosmic Slop #29: Musicians who don’t like music

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Roger Waters - Music hate

Roger Waters – Music hater

Two rock legends have confessed that they don’t actually like music, and Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby is befuddled. 

We all love music. Everyone at Getintothis loves music. Everyone who reads Getintothis loves music. Everyone Getintothis talks to loves music. I’m often a bit surprised to learn that some people don’t like music.

It raises many questions. “What do you mean you don’t like music?” is one of the many questions I might ask them. “What do you do in the shower or on long journeys?” is another. Of course, there’s also, “Do you just do mundane tasks without the aid of a pleasant soundtrack?” And that’s just off the top of my head.

It’s especially surprising when musicians say they don’t like music. I know that sounds far-fetched, but at least two rock legends have said as much recently.

Well, OK, one has. The other merely said they don’t listen to rock & roll, and some half-arsed publications put the quote up out of context in a transparent attempt to gets hits (it certainly worked in my case).

That was Pink Floyd bassist/lyricist Roger Waters. He told Israeli newspaper Haaretz:There are certain groups whose names you can just pluck out of the air, and songwriters. Like you can say John Lennon is an important songwriter, as is Paul McCartney. So is Neil Young, Bob Dylan, so is John Prine. Who else? There aren’t many rock & roll acts I would ever listen to or care about.”

It’s surprising to hear from the creative nucleus of one of the biggest bands in rock history, but in a way it kind of makes sense. Listening back to the Waters-era Floyd albums, and indeed his subsequent solo career, some of his ideas aren’t so much musical as ideological. The more control Waters had over the Floyd material, the less musical some of it seems.

The Wall, for example, is a classic album with some of Pink Floyd’s most recognisable numbers; Another Brick In The Wall, Comfortably Numb, Hey You, Run Like Hell. But as great as it is both as an album and a concept, there are a lot of moments where there doesn’t appear to be an actual song at play.

Obviously, that’s not total. The whole, in this case, is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. The Floyd albums without Waters were way more generic and often stumbled into out-and-out blandness. The difference between Waters and David Gilmour is that Gilmour can be a lousy lyricist and Waters occasionally puts too much focus on the lyrical content and forgets that there’s a song being written. Together they make a great team. Apart, they stumble far more, as the post-Waters Floyd albums and post-Floyd Waters albums can attest.

It’s still surprising to read. But consider both the above and that he hasn’t made an album since 1992’s hugely underrated (and recently reissued) Amused To Death. He has instead taken to touring large productions of classic Floyd albums Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, writing an opera and publicly berating Neil Young and The Rolling Stones for playing Tel Aviv when they couldn’t be arsed responding to his private letters.

The really surprising one was Eddie Van Halen. A man still regularly voted the greatest guitar player in the world. A man who literally changed what guitarists did overnight when he and his band burst onto the scene in 1978. Since then, 15 US Top 20 albums (that’s every one he’s ever made), and the most recent Van Halen studio album, 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, reached higher in the UK Charts than any album the band had recorded before. And yet, despite this, he hasn’t listened to a new record since 1986.

It seems the last time Eddie Van Halen bought a record was Peter Gabriel’s So. He told Billboard magazine: “I’ve been this way my whole life. I couldn’t make a contemporary record if I wanted to, because I don’t know what contemporary music sounds like.” That’s surprising not only because of the length of time it’s been since he heard new music, but because So, with Sledgehammer and a Kate Bush duet, is about as far from Van Halen’s music as one could expect.

Cards on the table, this writer has already spoken in-depth about his bizarre affection for the fun, ridiculous, ye olde time Hollywood influenced, Vegas pizzazz David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen. Replacement Sammy Hagar can go fuck himself. I’ve always found Hagar’s material about as enjoyable as watching six entire series of James Corden’s laugh-free git-fest A League of Their Own back-to-back without toilet breaks, or making small talk with a cab driver. And there isn’t much difference between his solo material and his work in Van Halen.

Come to think of it, much of Roth’s solo material is very much like his Van Halen work too. Maybe Eddie Van Halen’s main contribution to the band that bears his name has been the blistering solos.

It’s hard to comprehend why you would even pick up an instrument if you didn’t listen to music. Surely that’s a pretty important catalyst in deciding you were willing to not only put in the hours it takes to master the guitar, but to become the kind of trailblazing game-changer of an Eddie Van Halen. What’s driving you to be a musician if you don’t like music?

Or does listening to other artist’s too much hamper you? Would Eddie have adopted that playing style if he did listen to every guitarist under the sun? Would Waters have come up with The Wall if he was listening to all the other rock bands of the day?

Of course, they could both be bullshitting, which means that this entire article has served no purpose other than to kill time before we all inevitably experience death.

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