Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Crusading against the brown-eyed girl

The Strip in Lubbock, for the uninformed, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the dusty town. No, not that kind of strip, but a stretch of land just outside of the county line that attracts people of all kind. Well, all kinds that drink anyway. You see, I decided to spend my college years in a town that decided to remain devoid of selling alcohol. Afterwards, I would literally stand in the beer section of grocery stores in Austin staring in disbelief. “You mean you can BUY beer right here?! No being ostracized to the outskirts of the community?”

Since there’s just about nothing to see in Lubbock, most people take their visitors to the Strip to see the glimmering lights and neon signs of liquor stores and lines of cars. I loved my time in Lubbock, but even the most devoted citizens of the town should be able to admit that the fact that a cluster of beer toting shacks constitutes a tourist attraction is pretty sad.

But God bless it anyway. I would’ve never survived Lubbock or college without the Strip and its social lubricant (still talking about alcohol).

On one of the many trips to the Strip with Chad in his Chevy pickup truck, he digs through his CD collection and asks if I’m a Van Morrison fan. I think to myself, “Sure, I’ve heard that catchy Brown-Eyed Girl song. He’s pretty good.”

Before I can say those now obviously foolish words, Chad mutters, “Man, I hate that Brown-Eyed Girl song. Worst song of his career. Makes me sick that that’s all people know of his.”

I give a small laugh and slink down in my seat a bit.

Over time, thanks to Chad, I’ve come to be amazed at Van Morrison and the music that no one ever hears. Sure Brown-Eyed Girl is a good song; even today I can admit that. But should one song cast a shadow over an entire body of work? Wouldn’t it be a crime if people only hear Love Me Do and never bothered to listen to Strawberry Fields or Dear Prudence?

I’m big on hunting for good music that you never hear, and one of my methods is to find artists that aren’t necessarily that obscure and hear tracks that no one ever hears on the radio. I always say that I like to “spread the gospel of Gomez” because I think they’re a fucking great band. People will recognize the voice on the Getting Better cover on the Panasonic commercial, but my god, so many of their songs are beautiful.

Fiona Apple will forever be tied to that Criminal song, but look past the angst, heroin-look and there is genius in the album, When the Pawn. Yeah, it’s still full of the girl angst but it’s hard to deny that there’s plenty of musical talent behind it all.

Then there’s Radiohead. One of the few bands to climb out of the 99 cent One-Hit-Wonder bin and be widely recognized as “freaking amazing”. Radiohead certainly deserved another chance after Creep (still a great song, but again it doesn’t deserve to steal the spotlight from the rest of their work).

So in the spirit of getting people off their musical asses to rediscover and redefine what they think they know of an artist, here’s a sampling of Van Morrison songs (better than Brown-Eyed Girl) that more accurately defines his body of work. I’ll admit that I’m not as thoroughly familiar with his entire music collection so I’ll direct any further exploration to the Matador.

Everyone – Bless Wes Anderson for placing it in the Royal Tenenbaums. He’s known for great musical selection in his movies and this is a shining example.

Into the Mystic – The song in Chad’s truck that truly won me over to the greatness of Van Morrison.

I’ll Be Your Lover, Too – The most beautiful song ever.

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