Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Jump" By Van Halen

You heard me: "Jump," by Van Halen. Not a great record, but not bad either, in my opinion. ("Dance the Night Away" by Van Halen -- now THAT's a great record. That is some world-class electric guitar.)

People have been known to have strong and conflicting opinions about popular music. In 1984, I turned 23, and I and some other people would smoke weed and watch MTV, and "Jump" was in heavy rotation, and I thought Eddie Van Halen was a great guitarist (still do), and another one of those people definitely did not.

It's not so remarkable that a certain guitarist is not a certain person's cup of tea. The reason I'm writing this post is how much this guy disliked Eddie Van Halen. When "Jump" appeared on the tube, he would begin to snarl about how stupid Eddie Van Halen was, putting a fake moronic smile on his face meant to mock Eddie's smile in the video, and bob his head around and say, "Hi! I'm Eddie Van Halen!" and seemed to think that that was a devastating critique. I've been thinking about it for 32 years now, and I still can't see what was deep about his mockery: that was, in fact, Eddie Van Halen in the video, and why shouldn't Eddie smile if he was happy?

And none of this would have been remarkable if the guy who hated Eddie Van Halen so much was a moron, but this guy often said things which were devastatingly profound, about music and about other things. He was better-read in English than I was, and that's saying a lot. He was also a no-foolin' musician, with an impressive knowledge of jazz and classical as well as more popular forms.

It was not just the video of "Jump" which annoyed him greatly. I did as well, when I said that I thought that Eddie Van Halen was quite a guitar player.

I don't know what the consensus of music critics is today concerning Eddie Van Halen -- because I've pretty much stopped paying attention to music critics -- but back then, among critics who paid any attention to popular music at all, most thought he was awful. It's not so much that my friend agreed with them: he WAS one of those critics. Back then, as always, there were some of us who weren't inclined to let any critics' opinions interfere with us enjoying music we actually thought sounded good.

Each one of us was better friends with a third person. It wasn't so much that the music critic and I visited each other. That did happen, but far more often we just happened to visit our mutual friend at the same time. Our mutual friend was more into popular stuff and less into jazz and classical and "alternative rock" than the critic, but I think he followed the critical consensus more than I. I can't remember whether he weighed in when the critic and I would argue about Eddie Van Halen. I don't know whether our mutual friend had no opinion about Eddie. It may well have been that expressing that opinion was less important to him than not aggravating either one of us.

Or maybe he piled onto to me right alongside the critic, and I've suppressed the memory of it.

I heard David Lee Roth (Van Halen's lead singer on "Jump") talk about recording "Jump." He said that he came up with the keyboard riff which opens the song. He said that he was drinking a can of beer, and just mashing the can absentmindedly on the keyboard, and Eddie said Hey that sounds good, and that's the riff. I wonder whether that's true. If so, maybe that anecdote is a legitimate argument, from the critic's point of view, for people with his knowledge of music and his standards, that he's right about Van Halen being crap and about me having my head up my ass when it comes to music: cause the stuff I tend to like amounts to morons absentmindedly mashing on keyboards with beer cans as if they were apes.

The thing is, I don't care. And I think I'd enjoy hanging out with Eddie and David much more than I ever enjoyed hanging out with the critic.

But that's not the end of it: this also gives me insight into how I can be right and justified in my dislike of some writer -- say, Stephen King -- but at the same time, a Stephen King fan could be right not to care what I thought.

Not to mention how both a food critic and I could be right about the same meal, if I ate it and thought it was delicious, while the food critic thought it was disgusting and inedible -- not to mention that we could both be right if he was reading a Stephen King novel and thinking it was genius, and I saw him carrying the novel around and was unable to eat for a day and a half, or how we both could be right if the food critic saw me deeply enjoying Van Halen's "Dance the Night Away" and was appalled, and so on and so forth forever, when it comes to the arts (considering cuisine to be an art form, and there could also be legitimate disagreements about that, and so forth and so on...)

In conclusion, France is a land of contrasts.

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