When I was eleven years old, my parents presented me with an awesome music rig for Christmas. Within minutes of opening the box, after installing the batteries and internal storage, I was listening to popular tunes. With the press of a button I could download songs and play them back at my leisure. And download I did.

But there were drawbacks to this particular rig. It possessed only one speaker. Its wireless connection was actually an AM/FM radio, and the internal storage was a finite supply of Certron Normal Bias 90 minute cassettes. Also, whenever I recorded songs to tape, the first ten or fifteen seconds were invariably marred by some jackass DJ talking over the top of the music. And the batteries ran out too quickly.

Rock of Ages

By Gloria Harrison

Notes

I’m three years old. My parents call me outside one day and point at the sky, from which water is falling onto the hard, dirt-packed floor of the Mojave. I can’t imagine where this water is coming from, but it’s everywhere, making the air smell like wet earth. I’m amazed. Later, I’m playing outside, digging earthworms out of the dirt with a spoon, when I spot the biggest earthworm I’ve ever seen. I’m thunderstruck with joy, but as I try to approach, my dog and my best friend, a cockapoo named Gnome, jumps in front of the worm, barking like he’s crazy. I keep approaching when, suddenly, the giant worm lashes out and bites Gnome, who yelps and falls to the ground. The worm rattles off. I run inside to get my mom, to tell her that a worm just bit the dog. She gets to him just in time to take him to the vet and save his life, as he has just done mine. My mom holds me on her lap and we sing my favorite song. “Say, say little playmate – come out and play with me. We’ll climb up my apple tree.” I think about how I wish I had an apple tree with rainbow slides and branches brimming with playmates.

Imagine you’re an 18 year-old bloke born and raised in Sheffield, England. You’ve just finished high school, have no plans for university, and are trying to figure out what to do with your life. There aren’t many apparent options. Sheffield is a gray, aging steel town, and if you don’t think of something else you’re going to end up working in a factory. Or maybe not, because the local economy is shit and a lot of the steel mills are closing.

The one thing you have going for you is you’re an aspiring musician. One day you miss a bus and find yourself talking to another chap who’s in a band. He invites you to audition. You’re thrilled at the prospect of joining an actual band, and you want to play guitar, but it’s clear your skills aren’t quite up to the task. Or at least not playing an instrument. To your surprise the band asks you to become their lead singer, which at that point is the greatest moment of your life.

My love for world music is not a secret.While my default setting will always remain rock and roll, tribal rhythms and drum beats never cease to move me.I am inspired by the naturalness of it all, not always adhering to the Western verse/chorus/verse approach, and not always in a language I understand.It is pure energy captured by instruments and vocal chords.

I wish sometimes that I were capable of producing sounds like that, but I possess zero musical talent myself.None.At all.I own three guitars and can’t play any of them.I can play G, C, and D, and I fake the C because it’s too hard to play the right way.My friend Kevin once brought me on stage to play the tambourine, and we have since struck an unspoken agreement that we should probably never, ever do that again.I apparently have the rhythm of a broken metronome.It’s for the best I suppose, as I’d hate to find out that I possessed a talent for such an instrument.

I would feel obligated to pursue a gift like that.

Joe Daly opened his “Five Bands I Should Like, but I Don’t. At All” piece by noting there is no accounting for taste.

Steve Almond responded by recommending five uber-obscure bands for listening pleasure, which might have worked without the additional discussion of Daly and his piece, but I think there’s a more important corollary.

Notably: if there are, as Joe suggests, bands we should like a lot—by dint of reputation or acclaim—but don’t, there are probably, conversely, bands we shouldn’t like but do.

Taste seems to have a lot to do with it. The idea that taste and quality are subjective seems to be a popular argument.

I’m not saying that’s not true, but I will say this: like Joe, I don’t like the Beatles, but it has turned out I like their songs and music on the condition they be performed by other musicians. Between The Wonder Years and Across the Universe, I think Joe Cocker may be the best thing that ever happened to the Beatles.