OK, time to get back onto the ululating horse and ride it. Not pain-free yet, but pain now seems to be morphing into something more tolerable, like discomfort. Yesterday I went into my doc’s office for an IV drip of glutathione and other nutrients, and the assistant (not the usual one) couldn’t find my vein, was poking around, and suddenly… I got very… dizzy… and sweaty… and passed out. I suppose it was a combination of being overly warm and a little freaked, but I’m usually OK with needles. My doctor said that sometimes that hunting for a vein can trigger a vasovagal syncope, or fainting spell, or, if you will, a swoon.
Did you ever notice how when you lose consciousness, time just stops? Or rather, extends? There’s a feeling of panic as you go under, then… surrender. I felt as if I stayed in that place for at least fifteen minutes, or as much as a few hours, but really it was probably only a minute or two at most. There were thoughts and events there that I can’t remember now, but I absolutely felt myself to be in some parallel reality. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever had an experience like this? It’s like reading (Proust, specifically), or dreaming.
So my poemtalk in Philly (on a characteristically brilliant poem of Sharon Mesmer’s), to which I’d been very much looking forward, has been postponed today because of the blizzard, and I’m at home with Gary and the little felines, looking out the windows at the snow-covered streets and tree branches, and, if you can believe this, listening to Fleetwood Mac on Rhapsody.
I hate Fleetwood Mac. I believe I have always hated Fleetwood Mac. But just the other day over at James Sherry’s loft, Drew Gardner, who likes Fleetwood Mac very much, was challenging me to explain why I hated them. He said that when I talked about them (or about other bands I hate, like U2), I looked as if I were about to spit up, but that I wasn’t really able to give reasons for my intense dislike. I defended myself by saying that I don’t really have the vocabulary to talk about music in the same way I talk about poetry, but thinking more about that, I’m realizing just how lame that is. I am a writer. I can write about anything I want – pitchforks, pipe dreams, periwigs – but to be articulate about things I dislike I need to pay some analytical attention to them, even if I am loath to do so.
Drew’s right that it isn’t enough for me to say that I hate Fleetwood Mac because I hate the bourgeois & complacent mindsets of the people who are their most devoted listeners, and that I can’t just make like Holden Caulfield and say I don’t like them because they sound “phony.” I really need to be able to back up my convictions with something more than just a sociological value judgment, or the vague statement that they sound too shallow or too sweet. Musically, what is it, exactly, that turns me off about the music of Fleetwood Mac, besides the fact that I had to endure living in Marin County as a young teenager around the sort of people who embody everything I dislike about them sociologically?
So I listened to three songs: Chain, Rhiannon, Say That You Love Me. Here are some things I notice that I dislike:
I dislike the bass line of Rhiannon. It sounds like it is recorded in a box. I am too aware of the way it bosses the song around. Somehow I am also too able to picture the way the strings look and how they feel on the musician’s hands, and that irritates me. It seems like the gestalt of the song gets lost in that bossy bass line.
I dislike the singing styles of both female singers. I know that Stevie Nicks in particular is a good singer, and there is a richness to her voice. But I still don’t like it. Neither she nor McVie ever sings full-throatedly (as, for example, Janis did, or Grace Slick), and that restraint sounds boring and lifeless to me. For that matter, I don’t like Sade either, although I haven’t heard her new album.
I admit that the songs are memorable, and I suppose that is something one wants out of pop music. But one also wants the songs to speak to one’s own experience in some kind of resonant way. This doesn’t happen to me for any of the songs of Fleetwood Mac, although they do call up memories of a specific time and place (Marin in the late 70s: ugh); I can’t imagine, though, ever wanting to listen to these songs for commiseration or solace or entertainment or motivation. Formally, what is it about them that makes me feel this way? It can’t be the repetition of lyrics, because all pop songs have that. It isn’t the cheesiness, because actually the songs aren’t that cheesy. If anything, they aren’t cheesy enough. I can still happily listen to “I Write the Songs” and “Knights in White Satin,” and feel suitably, if ironically, moved, but Fleetwood Mac songs feel, to me, almost perfunctory in comparison. They are too fluid, perhaps?
But that can’t be it. Joni Mitchell is the paragon of fluidity, and I don’t feel that way about her music at all.
I do like the harmonies at the beginning of Chain. It reminds me of CSN (Y?)’s Tin Soldiers a bit. But that 4/4 beat that sounds like someone is thumping on cardboard is just… insulting. After listening to Arabic pop, I can hardly bear it. Also, the lyrics of this song are boringly self-pitying…no?
The tinkly earnest guitar plucking of Landslide… does anyone like that? I mean, I like that in Donovan, and Dylan. Why not here?
“Mmm mmm, I don’t know,” sings Stevie, in this co-dependent song. I don’t know either. I don’t think I can separate from my long-held prejudices about the total boringness of this band, especially when I’m still on a typing quota, so, sorry Drew, I don’t think I want to bring my admittedly non-formidable analytical powers to bear on Fleetwood Mac any longer, because I think I’m going to be sick.