Andrew Tanner muses on the sections of his record collection that seem to repel the opposite gender!
A few weeks back friends and I were discussing the forthcoming Television reunion tour. All were in unanimous agreement this was one not to be missed. Marquee Moon was one of the definitive albums of our collective adolescence, and the thought of seeing it performed live for the first time in Australia by Verlaine & Co? Heaven.
One wag then added ‘Of course, you know the room will be 99% filled with men’. It was a throwaway one liner, but one that rang true, and it sparked a thought. How much of the music that I love – the songs and artists who’ve sound-tracked much of my life – is flagrantly, undeniably ‘male’?
It led me to trawl through my back pages reconsidering what tunes had served to cool a warming liason, which albums had cleared the room of the fairer sex, and which genres had proved to be relationship deal breakers. To be crystal clear,I’m not playing the gender sound card. The stuff that populates our stereos transcends stereotypes, and I’ve no doubt there are gals out there with Close To The Edge in their collection – it’s just that I’ve never met any. Every girlfriend I ever had said no to Yes.
So then, let me present a very personal playlist of Songs Not For Lovers. It’s just my experience, but if it can help salvage just one musically marooned relationship, I’d be happy knowing I helped a brother out…
Is there a more lady repellent genre in the history of modern music? We think not. Maybe because the lyrical & musical intricacies of the form demanded so much attention, it left little space or energy for basics like physical contact,conversation or cleaning the bathroom. The monumentally bloated Yes double album Tales From Topographic Oceans was supposedly inspired by singer Jon Anderson’s interpretation of the four Shastric Scriptures. Phrases never uttered by any love interest I’ve ever known? ‘You had me at Shastric Scriptures…’
Emerson Lake & Palmer. Gentle Giant. King Crimson. Van Der Graaf Generator. All poison in love’s garden. Get rid of them, or at least put them to the back of the pile.
Outlaw music may not be exclusively about motorbikes, whiskey, methamphetamine production and run-ins with The Man – but it does form a reasonable swag of the content. Which is of course why we blokes love it. But there’s something in Steve Earle’s lazy drawl that gave my gal pals the irrits. Willie Nelson’s nasal twang and nylon string picking has set off epic drinking sessions with like-minded buddies – but generally (with the notable exception of the multi-platinum covers album Stardust) sent the ladies to bed. Is it because so many of us fellas spent childhoods keenly absorbing John Ford shoot ‘em outs, and continue to flock to shows like Deadwood and Justified? Or do we just love a story that ends up redemption-less, with someone burned & bloody on a lonely highway? Either way, I’ve known enough females who’d happily sing this kiss off to country’s bad boys: ‘I’ve been listenin’ long enough, my heart has turned to stone’*
I’ve whiled away many enjoyable hours listening to Coltrane,Coleman & Ayler free styling away – but none in the company of women. As my friend Chris says: ‘if the sax is a-shronkin’, don’t bother knockin’. Once, I introduced a new girlfriend to one of my all-time favourite albums – Keith Jarret’s entirely improvised and not remotely atonal double live Koln Concert. Half way through side 2 she asked if she could put something ‘less depressing’ on. C&C Music Factory’s ‘Everybody Dance Now’ was soon booming out. It’s a club classic I’ve come to appreciate, but at the time it felt like the soundtrack to a widening gulf that had opened up between us.
Velvet Underground’s femme fatale has proven fatal to many of my femmes. Is it the doomy Teutonic vibe? The not quite there pitching? The harmonium? Nico’s icy blonde, drop dead beauty is what hooked many of us in, but plenty of my male friends have stayed on for the often challenging vocal drones & impenetrable lyrics. Conversely, it’s been rare in my experience to find a female companion who’ll last one side of The Marble Index. I have a mate whose wife will physically leave the house if he puts Nico on the turntable – and he’s been married 10 years. And has two children.
There’s a subset of post punkers (Television, PIL, Wire, GangOf Four) whose audience seem to consist entirely of alienated, socially inept youths – or black t-shirted middle aged blokes reliving that glorious past. I don’t know why. Put on The Sex Pistols and you’ll have all gender types pogoing in a violent frenzy. Fast forward a few years and switch to any of the above acts? Crickets.
Maybe it’s the Morris dancing weirdness hanging over it all, but drop the needle on Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Bert Jansch or Richard Thompson and watch the ladies dive for cover. Maybe it’s the preponderance of murder ballads, mothers dying in childbirth and unspeakable acts that does it, but seminal 70’s folk rock does seem to provoke similarly anti-social reactions from ladies I know. One said rather coldly, after sitting through a particularly long live performance of Thompson’s ‘Meet Me On The Ledge’ ‘why doesn’t he just jump off it already, the sad bastard?’
There you have it. Music to drive them away. Of course, theremust be countless happy couples out there swooning to‘Anthrax’ or ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’. And even for me, there’s a happy postscript. I recently introduced my partner to the joys of Sandy Denny era Fairport. It was love at first listen. Now when we’re both singing along to ‘Autopsy’ in the kitchen it feels, well, quite lovely.
*’Poisoned Lovers’/ Steve Earle
Television live dates:
October 26: Melbourne, ATP
October 28: Fremantle, Fly By Night
October 30: Sydney, Enmore Theatre
November 1: Hobart, MoNA