Friday, December 18, 2009

Simon Cowell Ain't No Dick Clark: Duane Eddy: "Because They're Young"

Lately I have been thinking about this odd transitional period a lot, and how those who were just infants at the time - I am thinking of one man in particular here - would love nothing more than to go back to it - in essence, to return to a time when the 60s weren't "the sixties, man." It was a time of sharp suits, of short haircuts, of business and commerce, an utter squareness that was at the same time vastly ambitious and, while willing to nod towards the idea of a generation gap, didn't think it was anything that couldn't be remedied through some careful grooming, etiquette lessons and practice, practice, practice. In short, this is showbiz - the hot spotlight, the gloved-and-pearled upper level seats, the big orchestra in the pit, the works. (The show Mad Men starts in this time, and its popularity alongside the X Factor and various Idols may or may not be a coincidence.)

You might think Duane Eddy is a long ways away from all this, and in his utterly committed way he makes showbiz look a little...flashy. (Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel speaks more of his country background and Arizona pal/producer Lee Hazelwood than his actual New York City roots.) Even if this, the theme song to the movie Because They're Young is relatively slick, it still has that pioneering what-the-hell rock 'n' roll vibe to it, Eddy's guitar as ever the sonic equivalent of that long, cool look - of interest? of provocation? - that made him so popular in the first place. Music for people who are getting down to do something, as opposed to music that is merely about presenting something in order to...present something. Who knows how many people listened to this and his other songs and were not just interested but compelled to find a guitar and learn how to play it? In the field of music, it is the artistry that lasts, far beyond anything else; it is the heart, for lack of a better word, that gives young people courage. Not the businessman's idle pleasure, as he plots an even bigger version of something that is, in itself, already exaggerated.

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