B-Sides and Angry White Man Music
Last week Tyler and his friend stopped by the house for a bit around lunchtime. Before they left, he told me that they had been listening to CDs that I’d made on the computer that they’d found in Darrell’s old car that Tyler drives. Apparently his friend was surprised that the music on the CDs was mine. Tyler said, “Yeah, we call my mom’s music Angry White Man Music”. I had to laugh because he actually said it with a little bit of pride. Personally, I can be a little self-conscious about my taste in music because it doesn’t seem very cultured or Mom-like.
For example, not too long ago we were at a get together at our friend’s house and the subject turned to music and old 80s bands, which I love to talk about. I can’t even remember exactly what or who we were discussing, but it was probably along the lines of what bands some musicians had bounced around between and what they were up to now. After a while I looked around and realized that all the women were gathered in the kitchen, while I was in the living room with all the guys. I’m guessing women who are sports enthusiasts experience that kind of thing a lot, but I felt like I’d breached some kind of social etiquette even though they’re all good friends of ours and they love me anyway.
Back in my high school days, when everyone else loved Madonna and Michael Jackson, I was listening to Dokken, Triumph, Whitesnake and hair bands. It was just weird to people that a girl would prefer heavy metal—at least at my high school. (Clarification: what was called heavy metal in the 80s was not speed or death metal like it references more today. I think now it’s classified as “hard rock” and some even labeled—gasp—classic rock). I tried to like the pop stuff, and some I did listen to, but it wasn’t my go-to genre. I think a lot of girls did like the type of music I did, but a lot of them were the groupie types that just liked the bad boy images of the bands. I was not a groupie—I truly liked the music and loved learning the stories of the bands. Although I’ll admit I secretly thought someday I’d meet Joe Elliott from Def Leppard and sweep him off his feet. Good thing that didn’t happen.
Looking back, I think it had a lot to do with my attitude and personality in high school. I didn’t fit into any of the particular “groups” in high school, but I had friends in each of them. I was an Honor Roll student, but I wasn’t intellectual enough to fit in with the Brains. I certainly wasn’t in with the Jocks or Popular Crowd. I wasn’t a Rebel, but I was friends with a lot of kids who were considered a part of that group, even though they really weren’t once you knew them. (Just typing these labels makes me laugh a little—and think of The Breakfast Club.) To me, my taste in music only solidified my identity in that I didn’t really have to like everything that all the kids my age did. Oooh, what a rebel I was!
Before high school, I remember listening to entire albums and always liking the other songs, the B-sides, more than the hits. The B-side of one of my Blondie 45s back in third grade was a song called Suzy and Jeffrey, which I listened to much more than Rapture. And when we got our 8-track tape player in the living room, you were kind of forced to listen to the whole album, or at least how it got divided up into four quarters. If the song you liked was the second song on Track 2, you could push the button to cycle back to Track 2, but you most likely had to listen to the song before it if it wasn’t the first one on the track. And what a shame it was when a song got cut up into two separate tracks!
Today, I have to explain to my kids what a B-side on a 45 was. They know CDs of course, but they mostly download all their music on their phones or iPods. Consequently, I think they miss out on a lot of great tunes because they mostly only download the songs they hear on the radio, and not the entire album. If I were a recording artist that would make me a little sad, because songs that are considered commercial successes by the record companies aren’t always a musicians’ most favorite, heartfelt work. While I’m sure they cry all the way to the bank, it would be discouraging to me to know that my personal masterpiece is buried on an album where only a few people bother to listen to it.
Almost 30 years and three kids later, my favorite satellite radio station is Hair Nation. But I’ve branched out a lot since then—if you look at my iPod you’ll find everything from Alan Jackson singing church hymns to Avenged Sevenfold. Still probably a little light on the pop, but now when I hear those pop songs from the 80s that I got so sick of back then I love them, because they bring back great memories. And they’re much better than I remember.
Nowadays, I like a lot of what’s considered alternative rock bands, like Rise Against and the Offspring. I love to listen to my “Angry White Man Music” when I’m running or working out for obvious reasons. And I confess I’m the Mom who has to be careful what’s playing with the kids in the car. I don’t want one of their friends to report to their parents the lyrics of Panic at the Disco’s I Write Sins Not Tragedies after I take them to Girl Scout camp! I have found some great Christian bands like Kutless, Thousand Foot Krutch and Skillet so I can get the rock sound with more uplifting lyrics at least. Still, when the time comes for me to hit the Retirement Home, I hope they play Breaking Benjamin at the parties instead of Justin Bieber. I’m sure I’ll be in good company, right?