Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another empty gesture

I've mentioned more than once that I am child of Rock and Roll. I had no older brothers or sisters, so my first music was my parents' but when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" came out of the car radio, and Dad reached for the off switch, I was hooked for life and probably beyond. I note this because as much as I can quote rock music the way others offer passages from the Bible, I've never had any illusions as to what else it is or what else it can (and cannot) do.

Many years ago, National Lampoon's Radio Dinner skewered George Harrison and The Concert for the People of Bangladesh with a running gag about how the 'kid on the album cover' was now a student enrolled at Harvard. Their point, through the smoke and coughing, was, I think, sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and while we do want to go to heaven, just as sincerely, we do not want to die.

I'm not sure how many of us paid attention to Nat Lamp. Live Aid was an achingly beautiful idea driven by the sincere and completely obnoxious, "Do They Know It's Christmas Time?" I cringe watching that video clip and wonder to this day, 'who are these people? And what the heck happened to their hair?' But I remember watching all of it live in our apartment in Offenbach am Main with friends, as we spent hours moving from one apartment to the next having a wonderful time, thinking we were doing something for all those starving in Africa about whom we knew absolutely nothing and--HURRY UP Paul McCartney is on!

We weren't helping anyone, most especially among us that champion poser Phil Collins, a regular guy really (take my word for it), who boarded a Concorde after performing at Wembley and flying to the USA so he could play on stage outdoors in Philadelphia. Talk about contradiction- we were oblivious to it! And can you blame us? We were saving the world. Speaking of the orb, can we agree to skip over the "USA for Africa" response, "We Are the World"? Long before I had any idea as to who Kanye West was (hint: almost rhymes with El Paso), I feared he'd show up even there.

There was the telethon for New Orleans after Katrina (come to think of it, Kanye was out of the box then as well wasn't he? And Beyonce was years away from puttin' a ring on it. As for Taylor Swift, two words: pre school) and even low-profile benefit records like Miami Steve's musical boycott of Sun City (and again, Bruce is YELLING?!), the list goes on and all of them are just awful music, really. You hoped I wouldn't even mention the benefit record from our friends in Canada, the Northern Lights. Hope is a good thing, innit?

I thought that whole 'let's sing something, anything, and get people to buy it because it's noble and we'll all feel better' trend was over. It seemed to have skipped the current generation-I mean what are they going to do, a benefit ringtone concert? Turns out, have no fear! Older, a little longer in the tooth, punchier in the paunch and lighter along the hairline, my generation is back.

This time we've got Earth in the Balance and we're here to reverse global warming. I don't even want to calculate how much energy was consumed and how big a carbon footprint was produced to drive the recording sessions that's a remake of Midnight Oil's Beds R Burnin'. I know, a sing along? And why not? You want the lyrics, too? You do realize after you turn off the lights to save energy you won't be able to read them. On the other hand, while you'll sound awful, undoubtedly, you'll look exactly like Ray Charles. As viewed from space. Uh-huh.
-bill kenny

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