Musical Coolness and Lack Thereof QUESTIONS

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about Tom Petty: Rock God Or Mere Mortal? “As Tom Petty prepares to release a career-spanning anthology next week, an attempt to determine where he falls in the music pantheon.”

The basic premise is that though he sold a lot of records, maybe because he was prolific with the pop hook, he just seems to lack the “cool” quotient. I’m thinking the way Huey Lewis & the News, even in the height of their success, was uncool. Whereas the late Johnny Cash, on whose second American Recording Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played on, was “cool”.

This has less to do with talent or chart success as it does with the artist shaking things up musically, as Elvis Costello or Bruce Springsteen were known to do.

There was a chart on the page suggesting coolness, from uncool to very cool, which looked roughly like this (there was also a loudness axis): Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel (sorry, SamuraiFrog), John Mellencamp, AC/DC, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Pretenders, Eagles, Jimmy Buffet. Carlos Santana is about in the middle. Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, David Byrne, Neil Young, Nick Cave.

First, do you agree with the ranking? I always thought Pretenders were cooler, and James Taylor, not so much. Neil Diamond put an album with producer Rick Rubin a couple years ago, which always seems to enhance the cool factor; it certainly worked for Cash.

Secondly, where would you place Petty on the list? He’s played with George Harrison, Dylan and the aforementioned Cash. He put together his old band Mudcrutch and put out a decent album a couple years ago. I’d say he was at least as “cool” as the Stones, who would be cooler without most of their output of the last couple decades.

Finally, what other artists do you think fall on the “uncool” pantheon unfairly, or on the “cool” list unjustifiably? Let’s face it: Jeff Lynne, even as a Wilbury, has never been particularly cool. But I always thought Linda Ronstadt, who moved from genre to genre, was more cool than she was given credit for.


Why I Own Three (count ’em, 3) Paula Abdul Albums

I was at the Olin family reunion; the Olins are my wife’s mother’s people. They were having their international family event, which they have every lustrum. In 2001, the event was held in my hometown of Binghamton, NY. (The 1996 event was in Fargo, ND; the 2006 in eastern Washington state; 2011, somewhere in Ontario.)

One event was an auction. Many of the items were handmade items, or family treasures; I know Carol got a much-coveted family cookbook with typed or hand-written recipes from various members of the tribe. One lot, though, was for a bunch of mostly classical CDs, maybe 10 or 12 of them. I bid on them, but I was outbid by one of Carol’s cousins in her late teens. Truth is I probably could have put in a pre-emptive bid, but it didn’t seem sporting to overbid a poor high school student. She was really happy to get a dozen classical albums for $20, but what the heck was she going to do with three Paula Abdul CDs? She looked SO pained, so apoplectic, that I bought them from her, for $8 or $10, which she appreciated at a couple levels: she was rid of the albatross AND the albums she REALLY want were even cheaper.

I was recalling this as I finished my annual playing of my entire collection of Paula Abdul albums – Forever Your Girl, Shut Up and Dance (The Dance Remixes), and Spellbound, in anticipation of today, Paula’s 45th birthday. I don’t care what you say: I really like Straight Up. The rest of it: eh, not so much. I didn’t really go through a phase of eighties divas – Paula, Taylor, Madonna, Expose, and Gloria – like some people I know.
I’ve had a long-standing affection for the Traveling Wilburys and have Volumes 1 and 3, now out of print. I’m having a hard time thinking about buying the re-release, despite Nik’s appealing review. So, I decided to go to You Tube and watch a couple videos, including the star-laden Wilbury Twist, at lunchtime yesterday. But by 9 p.m. EDT yesterday, the Twist video that I saw only hours earlier was “no longer available due to a copyright claim by Warner Music Group”; it’s part of the new collection. However, what remains on You Tube is the 2007 version, with more George, Bob, Tom, and Jeff. No Wonder Years kids, Milli Vanilli, Cheech Marin, Whoopi Goldberg, or Woody Harrelson, but the John Candy/Eric Idle intro remains.
A link to reviews of Paul McCartney’s new album, Memory Almost Full. A couple of them have links to the music and/or videos from the album.


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