Monday, November 12, 2007

Waving the Rebel (er, White) Flag: Making Peace With Lynyrd Skynyrd Fans

Hardcore music fans, me included, take insults against their favorite artists personally. To prepare my wife for the recent Elvis Costello show in St. Louis (with Bob Dylan providing a disturbing letdown via garbled mumblings and frog-voiced croaking), I dropped a number of Costello songs on her a few weeks before the show. I was convinced she’d be overwhelmed and completely dig the music. I was as wrong as a “kiss your sister” contest in Arcadia, Louisiana. Every Elvis may indeed have his army, but she clearly wasn’t one of the soldiers. “If you say these are his best songs,” she said with something I detected as a bit of a mocking sneer, “I can’t imagine what the bad ones sound like. All of these sound like carnival songs.”

I was crushed and insulted. Her dissenting opinion registered like a cruel, hard knee to the crotch. I had deliberately steered her away from the crap of Costello (“She,” “God Give Me Strength,” and anything that featured Costello’s occasional excessive vibrato and sissy wimpyness), in favor of classic Costello (no, that doesn’t include North). How she couldn’t like My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model, Armed Forces, and Get Happy!! was beyond me, and borderline grounds for divorce. I argued with her and tried to convince her she was missing The Point. But why did I care if she didn’t share my opinion? Although I couldn’t change her mind, it at least made me understand why some people take criticisms of their favorite performers to heart.

Within these HTML-enhanced pages of Blogcritics, I’ve dished out my share of shallow, petty, innocuous, childish, and fairly obvious insults about musicians, particularly those who have been around since the Hawley-Smoot Tariff was enacted.

These shots have generally been along the following lines: 1 – said musician is old; 2 – said musician is really, really old; 3 – said musician is really, really old and resembles a rotting corpse on stage; and 4 – said musician is really, really, really old, resembles a rotting corpse on stage, and is making a king’s ransom via exorbitant ticket prices.

When I started writing this blog, I expected most of the wounded, snotty, or violent email replies to be provided courtesy of the Dylanphiles of the world, who from previous experience tended to be extremely boorish and to interpret any critique of Heir Bobness as a declaration of war. Well, actually, I didn’t expect any replies at all; blogs are a lot like assholes these days. Everyone’s got one. And most of them stink.

To my surprise, most of these comments emailed under cover of night haven’t come from Dylanphiles. Perhaps that’s because the Dylanphiles don’t feel like they owe anyone a rebuttal at this point; they’ve chosen their horse and they’re betting on it until the, er, wheels fall off.

No, some of the most hilarious, angry, and downright snarky volleys have come from a surprising source: Lynyrd Skynyrd fans, with typical code names like suthernman, skynyrd-rulz-bitch, and bama-luves-the-guvner.

Now I will readily admit I thought all remaining Skynyrd fans were either incarcerated or in that great big trailer park in the sky. But, judging from the reactionary emails I’ve received in response to this posting, apparently I was wrong. Although this article was meant to be pure exaggeration and not taken seriously (not to mention the fact that it was a silly article and that I actually like some of Skynyrd’s honky music), something must have been lost in the translation.

So, motivated by own wounded feelings at my wife’s harsh dismissal of classic Costello and as a peace offering to those mullet-sporting, Wrangler-wearing, Southern Comfort-swilling Freebirds out there, I offer the following concessions:I don’t have any problem (excuse me, I ain’t got no) problem with Skynyrd as a band, even if I am a “Yankee blueblood bastard.”

Just to clarify: my ass and my face don’t serve the same purpose.
You’ve convinced me that “That Smell” is a landmark song. Please no more emails about how “even a jackass with a PC and sympathetic editors” can’t argue against the “bad assed awesomeness” of this song.
There was nothing redneck, gun-totin,’ or Suthern’-luvin’ about Skynyrd. We’ll just let album titles like Gimme Back My Bullets and Nuthin’ Fancy slide. I’ll even ignore song titles like “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” and “Down South Jukin’.”
If it makes you feel better to think that Skynyrd’s use of the Confederate flag was purely meant as a display of Southern pride, and in no way showed blind ignorance or unimaginable stupidity, I’ll play along.
The bravest man I’ve ever met was this guy who brazenly wore a shirt that read, in bold giant black letters across the chest, “Your Favorite Band Sucks.” Of course, this was at a Built To Spill concert with the typical indie crowd, which is to say anyone who took offense to the shirt would direct their anger inward, in the form of classic EMO shoe-gazing.

However, as I exited the venue I noticed a shady fellow in a torn Skynyrd t-shirt eyeing the guy like Robert E. Lee spying the Union army at Second Bull Run. And something told me he had a Free Bird-sized chip on his shoulder about that guy’s t-shirt.

1 comment:

Al said...

Yee-haw there, Yankee! I is a #1 Skynyrd fan. You may personally disdain them for being Southern. Obviously anyone who would sing about bullets isn't a legitimate artist. And I don't recall Skynyrd particularly making a big deal of Confederate flags, though your disdain is unwarranted.

But I don't care about all that. Thing is, Lynyrd Skynyrd were excellent songwriters, much more accomplished than pretty good but highly overrated college boy bands like REM. "Free Bird" is a beautiful song. "Simple Man" is in fact elegant and profound. And as guitar players, there's no REM or U2 competitive with these guys.

Though granted, they're no Elvis.