By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
When Rock Goes Bad...
A friend of mine tells this story about Elton John's "I'm Still Standing." When he first saw the video on MTV in 1983, he burst into tears. He was 9 years old.
"Oh, God, that song depresses me," he says when I call him. "It's in a minor key. The lyrics are scary. It just puts this hollow in the pit of my stomach."
I actually like "I'm Still Standing"--it's the first Elton John single I remember, and it sparked me to dig back and discover such songs as "Rocketman" and "Benny and the Jets." But it creates this Pavlovian response in my friend--even now, he gets upset thinking about it.
"I guess it reminds me of a bad time in my life," he suggests. That year, several of his friends left for middle school while he stuck around in elementary, constantly getting in trouble. And somehow, seeing Elton John in that white suit and top hat, cavorting around some neon videoscape, touched off a kind of wee-life crisis for him. Pop music, once the embodiment of good times, seemed so false and empty. Soon after, he began listening to the Smiths; these things are not unrelated.
People always talk about the first album they loved, the one that hooked them--Michael Jackson's Thriller for me--but what pop music did we first truly hate? What turned us off Top 40 radio, forced us to bargain bins and independent record stores?
My impetus came in 1989 with Michael Damian's "Rock On," a song so relentlessly awful that it still typifies the bankrupt state of late-'80s entertainment: sung by a star of Young & the Restless and used in a movie with the two Coreys. And it's a cover song.
"How can you hate 'Rock On'?" my friend asked when I told him. "That's just a doofy pop song."
But come on--these things are not rational. Anyway, that year, someone handed me a cassette of 10,000 Maniacs, and things were never quite the same.
So I put this question to you: When were you first disillusioned about pop music? It's not the easiest question, I realize. It takes some thinking, but it's an interesting topic. Send your stories to me at email@example.com, and I'll print the best responses in this space. And hey, kids: rock on.