Another Guy Talking About Pop Music

Between listening to a lot of Galuppi, the California Ramblers, the Original Memphis Five and Telemann lately, along with the usual diet of Vivaldi, Clarence Williams, anything with Don Murray, anything written by a composer trained in Naples during the eighteenth century and Fletcher Henderson’s “day-after” worthy late twenties sides, it’s obvious that this is just another blog about pop music.

It’s tempting to hash out which of these artists is “classical” and which ones are “jazz,” who was an innovator and who was an also-ran, the “old” from the older.  Yet they all composed and performed for the enjoyment of as wide an audience as possible in their respective heres and nows.  No niche markets, no specialists or intellectuals; just butts in seats or on dance floors.

There’s always something catchy to hum when listening to the OM5, Il Buranello or the Ramblers, and it’s easy to end up tapping your foot.  The Neapolitans were praised for their simple lyricism as well as the vocal hoops they forced singers through.  Italian coloratura may be a breeze next to Wagner‘s monumental (occasionally overstuffed) dramas, and  modern virtuosos may laugh off Vivaldian pyrotechnics or Phil Napoleon and Adrian Rollini‘s improvisations. Nonetheless these boys and girls could obviously play, and they wanted audiences to know it.  That awareness of their audience also accounts for these musicians’ herculean outputs: when people like something, they want as much of it as possible.

Archaic pop stars such as Galuppi and the Ramblers, busy sidemen like Don Murray or Ed Allen, and successful, deliciously named melodiste such as Piccinni, Paisiello, Cimarosa or Jommelli weren’t groundbreakers, nor were they the mediocrities that contemporary pedants make them out to be.  They made good music, not necessarily “great art,” “history,” “musicology” or “cultural capital” like their (now) more famous contemporaries. Unfortunately good music doesn’t earn a place in the Reader’s Digest model of artistic greatness.

I like good music, even if didn’t inspire any schools or change the very way we understand the art of organized sound. So I write about the pop of yestercentury.  This blog is all about popular music (it’s just between eighty and three-hundred years late).

Fess Williams and Freddie Moore at William P. Gottlieb’s Office in Jamaica, Queens, ca. 1948, courtesy of Library of Congress

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2 thoughts on “Another Guy Talking About Pop Music

  1. jazzlives says:

    The cross-cultural possibilities of your new band, “Galuppi and the Ramblers,” are delightful. Didn’t they record for Edison, too?

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