Can elevator music be elevating…or is it just superficial fluff peculiar to our age?
What makes easy listening at once so popular and yet so reviled by ever self-respecting and serious music fan? I thought about this recently when my wife, who is Venezuelan, put on a CD in the car by a Mexican artist called Rocio Durcal (you can hear her at the bottom of this article). I had never heard of her or the music before (she was a Mexican singer) but enjoyed it, and it struck me that at one time I would never have admitted it, for with its gushing strings and romantic themes this was definitely, dare I say it….easy listening.
When I was 18 and took music seriously, and I mean really seriously, you defined the sort of person you were by the music you liked. This was in the days of large vinyl LPs with brightly coloured covers and so I always made sure that I would be seen carrying the socially acceptable record covers around the school campus. I was a serious ‘progressive’ rock fan branching out into jazz rock/fusion and used to love quoting band names that I thought you hadn’t heard of such as Brand x (Phil Collins’s part-time jazz rock band), Bruford (the former Yes drummer’s jazz rock band) and Return to Forever featuring Chic Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass and Al Dimeola on guitar.
I had long hair (or as long as I could have it without getting into trouble at school), flared jeans and embroidered motifs of my favorite band on my denim jacket. If you had no clue who the people I referred to were, or had never heard the music, that was great. Half the attraction was that they didn’t have mass appeal – or only appealed to the right sort of person. We were teenage musical gnostics with elite sensibilities and eclectic tastes that we though only the adolescent cogniscienti would understand.
If any artist was too popular or popular with anyone other than the right sort, I would like them less. I remember taking delight in the BBC using instrumental sections from Genesis’s The Musical Box as background music for a news magazine feature on Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979. What made it perfect for me was that while the BBC producers obviously knew this music, very few watching the TV (Read More)