April 23, 2012

"Irving Berlin said, 'Popular music is popular because a lot of people like it.'"

"That doesn't mean it's good or bad – that's the equivalent of arguing the merits of hot dogs versus hamburgers. What the hell difference does it make?"

(Via Throwing Things.)

28 comments:

EDH said...

That was interesting.

Because I was just thinking about what Haystacks Calhoun's son was up to these days.

edutcher said...
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edutcher said...

There's a big difference between "Alexander's Ragtime Band" or "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody" and the stuff that's been out there since '65 or so (not that there isn't a difference between "Everybody's Doing It" and "Sweet Little Sixteen", but it isn't so great).

But, in the old days, guys like Dick Clark were also gatekeepers because the public wouldn't have tolerated the junk that's been the norm the last 40 years or so.

WV "tityme" What every guy hopes his sweetie will do right after lights out

Marine 83 said...

I've always felt that music like art is actually judged good or bad by how many people like it. Lets face it, if you write music that everyone hates then you just pretty well suck as does your music. Anyone who says different is probably just a crappy musician.

Tibore said...

Hmm. Say what you will, but if this quote from that link was indeed from Dick Clark, I think it's wonderfully apropos to 2012 and the Occupy "Movement":

"I think its partially fad and partially goldfish swallowing, as protest was. A lot of kids got into protest because it was 'the thing'. It was not popular to criticize legitimate protest at the time, but I used to make the joke about the kid who had the sign in the bedroom closet that said 'SHAME', and would at any given moment take the sign and go out and march. The sign was apropos to anything. That may be what's happening with the fag-drag crazy transsexual rock scene. I think that's a quickie. I think more importantly that's an indication of the desire to have show business return to music. That's why you have an Elton John, a Liberace, an Alice Cooper. That's show biz. We all know Alice is a put-on, a shuck. But what's funny is when you read the sociological commentators and how torn up the whole straight world is over this craziness. I can't attach any significance to that."

So, to transfer the metaphor, could we indeed draw a comparison between then and now in how sociologists and the "straight world" (meaning something different in this context) are all torn up over Occupy? Could we say that Occupy is an indicator of the desire for protest movements to return to geniune expression instead of faddishness? That it's an Alice Cooper show-off for show-biz product instead of genuine social dissent?

William said...

Like most self made billionaires, Dick Clark was pretty savvy about his product line, which included but was not limited to himself.....Of all the writers of the Great American Songbook, Irving Berlin was the only one who had experienced a grand romance. The love affairs of the others flitted from banal to sordid. My favorite was Rodgers & Hart. I think gay, alcoholic midgets like Lorenz Hart have a more precise understanding of the futility of grand romances.

Alex said...

ed - it's your loss that you think all music = pop music.

leslyn said...

I didn't know they were going to play Irving Berlin at the Obama dog-eating contest this week. How quaint. "A tasty bitch is like a melody...." Who's going to try for the title of HamBurglar king? Chuck Colson? No, wait, he's dead. Oh, and so is Dick Clark. Well, who cares about them. No worries--edutcher's Rag&Slice Band will entertain.

leslyn said...

@tibore: "what the hell difference does it make?"

Craig said...
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Craig said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrVb8Fzpn94&feature=related

I really like Froglegs. They're Russian so they don't actually understand the lyrics, but I'm ready to buy an ice cream truck just so I can hear them over and over again.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

Popular is what sells. Art is the stuff that only the critics seem to like : )

In the end, in a free society it's all mostly product. Good product becomes art and stands the test of time.

Revenant said...

All I know is the Led Zeppelin is the greatest band in the history of the universe.

And that's all I need to know.

Craig said...

Wiki says that Disney's $200 million flop bomb, John Carter On Mars, has broken all box office records in Russia. Kruschev was right. They buried us.

Robert Cook said...

"All I know is the Led Zeppelin is the greatest band in the history of the universe.

"And that's all I need to know."


You need to know that you're seriously mistaken.

Mitchell said...

Arguing the merits of hot dogs versus hamburgers would be like arguing the merits of individual popular songs (or perhaps types of popular songs), not arguing the merits of art music versus popular music, so that quote is probably not the smartest thing ever said by the accomplished Mr. Berlin.

Shanna said...

But, in the old days, guys like Dick Clark were also gatekeepers because the public wouldn't have tolerated the junk that's been the norm the last 40 years or so.

This is age talking. There was plenty of crap 40 years ago, it just doesn't get played anymore because it was terrible.

Robert Cook said...

"This is age talking. There was plenty of crap 40 years ago, it just doesn't get played anymore because it was terrible."

And, conversely, there's been lots of terrific music made over the last 40 years and even today.

ricpic said...

The difference between the mediocrity who wrote this piece and Irving is that Irving wasn't wordy. Economical and precise and poetic to boot, that was Irving.

rhhardin said...

Panzera Clair de lune

I was thinking yesterday how hard it would be to learn to sing.

Faure gets his characteristic music style by avoiding downbeats, which means that the singer has no natural cues when the next phrase starts.

There's not much popular music that avoids natural cues.

Yet it's popular enough to warrant a 78rpm release.

MadisonMan said...

the mediocrity who wrote this piece

But Irving didn't have the long flowing hair, or wear overalls!

Patrick said...

I'm curious, Robert Cook, whom would you nominate for best band in the history of the universe?

I'm still trying to choose.

DADvocate said...

Did Berlin ever hear Barry Manilow music. It's bad, really bad. And, it was popular. How, I don't know.

But, Berlin's right. Sometimes popular music is good, sometimes it's bad, especially when it's Barry Manilow.

Robert Cook said...

"I'm curious, Robert Cook, whom would you nominate for best band in the history of the universe?"

That's unquantifiable, and thus unanswerable, so the only answer can be: no one.

Steve Koch said...

Irving Berlin said, "Popular music is popular because a lot of people like it. That doesn't mean it's good or bad".

True enough, popularity does not mean quality. The public does not have reliably good taste.

Where Berlin loses me is, "...that's the equivalent of arguing the merits of hot dogs versus hamburgers."

Hamburgers are usually better than hot dogs. The meat in hot dogs is usually some mystery collection of parts while hamburger is usually all beef and sometimes good grades of beef. Hot dogs are what you prepare for people who have no clue about food (kids, for example). Hot dogs are for people who have no taste in taste.

Finally, "What the hell difference does it make?"

Berlin seems to be saying that it makes no difference whether popular music is awful or sublime. That would be true only if there is no positive correlation between the quality of music that a person listens to and the impact of that music on that person. Berlin may be right but I doubt it.

ken in sc said...

I once had a boss who really liked Neil Diamond. He made us play him when we made presentations.

Revenant said...

the only answer can be: no one.

According to the Intergalactic Journal of Rockology it has been scientifically proven that the answer is "Led Zeppelin".

Are you one of those "science deniers", Bob?

Blue@9 said...

True enough, popularity does not mean quality. The public does not have reliably good taste.

The problem is that the speaker of this statement is applying his own tastes. There is no objective measure of good taste or quality when it comes to art, so it's impossible to say whether the public has good taste or not. It simply has tastes.