Thursday, July 27, 2006

Smells Like Teen Spirit

In preparing for tomorrow's (ed: well, technically today's) lecture on 80's metal and 90's alternative, I realized that in my last lecture, I unwittingly passed an important milestone.

On Tuesday I played my class a snippet of Michael Jackson's "Beat It", just to point out that Jackson's complex fusion of many musical genres included heavy metal, in the form of a guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen. Ladies and gentlemen, "Beat It" was the very first pop song I can remember. I don't believe I heard it when it first came out, as Thriller came out when I was only three. But at a very early age, probably about five, I distinctly remember hanging out with my best friend in his kitchen, and he had a cassette tape of "Beat It." We both thought it was pretty cool, and I memorized the words as best as I could. Even then, in my pre-musicological childhood, I could sense that illicit danger early Michael Jackson communicated so effectively and creepily.

As we now move further into music with which I have very deep personal connections from my youth--particularly Nirvana and Metallica--I admit I feel a little trepidation. Am I going to do this music justice? Am I going to be critical enough? Am I going to have any insights, or am I just going to sit up there and be Mr. Fanboy? I'm bringing in my guitar, mostly to demonstrate power chords and two-handed fret-tapping for the 80's metal, but I know I am not going to resist playing some Nirvana. After all, I learned how to play guitar by playing along with Nevermind for hours at a time, and I can still more or less play my way through the entire Nirvana catalogue, from Bleach to In Utero. (Unplugged too, which although clearly sub-par did introduce me to Bowie and Leadbelly.) I hope it works--I've found that some of my most effective lectures have been on music with which I very clearly did not identify, such as early hip-hop.

I considered including in my slide show a picture of me in full grunge regalia, with shoulder-length hair dyed black, but I think that might cause them to lose all respect for me.

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