The Music Meme: Day 25

Day 25: An acoustic song you love

"Could This Be Magic?" by Van Halen

Well, here's another prompt that could be absolutely paralyzing. Had I grown up listening exclusively to theremins and synthesizers, I suppose choosing an acoustic song could be somewhat easier, but alas, I started life listening to folk music. Though my taste has certainly branched out, it has never abandoned the acoustic side of things for more than a little while. There are artists I love dearly--the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Balancing Act, the David Wax Museum--who operate just about exclusively in the realm of the unplugged, and there are others whose occasional willingness to unplug makes for some delightful changes of pace.

Still, for this prompt, I'm going to focus on a group whose use of acoustic instruments is especially transformative. Why? Because their oeuvre is almost entirely electric. Their best-known songs, by far, depend on electric guitars, basses, and effects pedals, plus the occasional synthesizer, a big dose of attitude, and a heaping helping of bombast. Yes, we're talkinga about Van Halen.

I will not dispute that these guys are ridiculously talented. I don't always care for their style--Alex Van Halen's drumming is a little busy for me, and I'm a guy who likes Keith Moon, for crying out loud--and their juvenile sense of humor (naming albums For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and OU812) is not a plus, but within the realm of hard-rock-cum-glam-metal, they deliver the goods. Screamingly fast and technically brilliant guitar work? Check. Overactive gymnast/cockslinging front man? Check. Band logo suitable for copying onto junior high notebook and/or bathroom wall? Check.

Still, they made many, many bad decisions. Yes, back in the days of MTV videos, I too enjoyed watching "Hot for Teacher," but even then I knew it was for the wrong reasons. Ragging on Elvis Costello? Bad choice. Perhaps the decision to give David Lee Roth the boot might have been justifiable, but the decision to replace him with Sammy Hagar? Not so much. And there's no way I'll ever be okay Eddie divorcing Valerie Bertinelli. Just no.

For all that, however, they had real and appreciable talent as musicians--when you could find it under all the rest of the crap. That's why my favorite of their tunes is one performed with nothing more than acoustic guitars and vocals--including a guest appearance by singer Nicolette Larson. Over the years there was so much bombast that it's hard to ignore, and it's probably the main reason why I don't actually own any Van Halen albums, but for this moment, at least, with only the barest of musical accompaniment, you can get an idea of what these guys had to offer.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 31, 2017 4:45 PM.

The Music Meme: Day 24 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Music Meme: Day 26 is the next entry in this blog.

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