Song Versus Style
So many times we get caught up in what style we like, or play, or even are. (Well, maybe the ‘are’ part is just junior high. I didn’t listen to punk. No. I was punk. Like, punk like the Dead Kennedy’s literally believing that anarchy was a governmental option? No. Not real punk. I was ‘Blink-182 punk’. Which means you safety pin an MxPx patch to your pleather jacket and yell ‘You suck’ at traffic going 50 miles an hour. And it’s the traffic going 50 miles an hour, not me and my ‘punk’ friends. We’re walking…and trying oh so hard to look like the only reason we we don’t have a car is because we don’t want a car. And failing. Ah, my younger years.)
But it amazes me sometimes how into the ‘style’ of music I get. And then I try to listen to music around that style, and play music around that style, because I think I like it. And that’s partly true. But I’m blown away sometimes when I hear a song in a style that I normally can’t stand, but for some reason with this particular song, I love it. (And I’m pretty sure this ‘getting caught up in style’ goes for most people, too……not just me. Just turn on your local indie station. If I hear one more band trying to be The Shins…….)
I think it goes back to what Johann Sebastian Bach said in the 17th century. He said, ‘Music is melody.’ I love that. A good song, sound, and music will always trump a good style. Style is important, but it’s secondary. A good song will come through no matter what style. You might love it more if it was in a style you dig, but you’ll still be drawn to a good song even if it’s not ‘your style’. Whereas a bad song in your style will still be a bad song.
Here’s an example of a good song. And here’s five different ways it’s been done. And some of the styles aren’t really my deal. But the song, melody, sound, and music are so good that it transcends style.
Here’s the original version. Vintage Stones. (And for you toneheads, pay attention to the sound Keith can coax out of that acoustic. Really nice. That guy really does have tone in his hands. Edit: never mind, youtube took that version down…too much tone for the internet, methinks.)
And then here it is, totally different, and sung wonderfully by Franco Battatio. This song just wrecks me every time I hear it. If you’re into film, this was one of the highlights of ‘Children of Men.’
And yet another version. Still beautiful. This is Melanie Safka.
And here’s the U2 cover. (You knew it was coming, right?) They go into it a bit at about 6:20. Gorgeously played; nice and simplistic. (And, as side notes, if you like U2, this is one of their best live performances right here. And yes, I am aware that Bono is half naked in overalls, and it does disturb me, too. Also, pay attention to the fact that Bono is roaming all over the stage with a wired mic. Watch the guys behind him scramble to keep the cord from getting tangled.)
So, a good song will always come through. Focus on your getting a good sound out of your instrument…melodically, tone-wise, and as it works with the music. Don’t worry so much about what style it is. Just sound good. Then add the style you’re looking for afterwards.
Style doesn’t matter at all when you’ve got a good song. Well……except for maybe this one:
Splendid. And sorry for that last arrangement. There are a few styles, I guess, that can kill good songs.
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