Is it ‘bubblegum music’ or does it have soul?
Strange, how the mind works.As I was thinking about column topics one day this week, I got on the subject of soul, as in, “What exactly is a community’s soul?”Other, related questions and concepts started spinning around in the centrifuge of my brain, as I wrestled with my initial thesis – is there a way to quantify Aspen’s soul, and if there is, should we try to identify it and save it somehow, or just let it wash down the toilet of life in a flush of greed and apathy? Either way, is there some one person (or pair of persons) at whom we can point with condemnation and fury, that we can blame as the soul of our town disappears in a swirl of murky, green effluent?When this kind of mood strikes me, my brain often recoils in shock and fear from itself, and goes skittering off along the surface of consciousness, seeking solace or at least a little harmless distraction. At moments like this I liken my mind to a water-skater bug, one of those odd creatures I used to study as they darted across the surface of the lake near my home in the late ‘ 60s. Their long, bifurcated legs move faster than the eye can follow, carrying them along leaving scarcely a ripple on the water’s surface. Used to spend hours watching them, and I’m sure it had nothing to do with what I’d smoked earlier.Anyway, so it was that morning, when I found myself humming that old 1967 hit by The Music Explosion, “Little Bit O’ Soul.”What? You don’t remember that particular bright spot on the musical map?Your loss, tadpole, but I was so intrigued by this mental diversion that I Googled the song’s title and found, to my surprise, the lyrics, a discussion of plans for a reissue of the band’s greatest hits and an e-mail exchange between two unapologetic music nerds about whether “L.B.O’.S.” should be included in that mind-depressing genre of noise called “bubblegum music.”I should note here that I call these two, whose names are “Andy” and “Dr. Mindburger,” music nerds in the most respectful sense. I mean, where would the world be if there were not room for two grown men to hotly debate the classification of a rock ballad that’s been out of circulation for 40 years?Andy, apparently a professional musicologist, mentioned in his notes on the song that it was written in the early 1960s by two Brits, John Carter and Ken Lewis. The pair were members of something called The Ivy League vocal trio, and also wrote a song for Herman’s Hermits, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat?”By now I was hooked, fascinated as I am by the music of that seminal decade. All thoughts about Aspen’s soul, the fate of that soul and whether there was anything I could or should do about it had drifted out of sight like so much smoke on a breezy day. After all, I’ve lived in this valley for 28 years, and the same debates come up year after year. It’s not like the subject is going anywhere anytime soon, and I can certainly take it up later – and again even later – without fear of being too late.So Dr. Mindburger took the line that L.B.O’.S. was NOT bubblegum music, that it exhibited too much grit and was “just a great pop/garage song.” He did concede that other tunes by The Music Machine deserved to be relegated to the bubblegum bin, but argued that “Soul” and several others do not.The good doctor also accused Andy of being too young to have appreciated the songs in their original times, a condescending remark that got Andy’s back up and prompted him to note that he was born in 1959, and that even though “I got the Beatles and the Monkees mixed up all the time” that songs like L.B.O’.S. were “geared for me and I thought it was bubblegum.” He mentioned little girls playing hopscotch on the playground to the strains of L.B.O’.S as proof.I’m still reading through the e-mail tit for tat. As far as I can tell, these two guys are still friends. And perhaps that’s the lesson to be taken away from all this. Rational people can debate endlessly, about any number of topics and with great heat, but still be friends when all is said and done.We here in Aspen might do well to take a moment and think that one through.John Colson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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