“‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and The Onset of ‘Dumb’ Music in Our History”

The older you get, the more you realize, it’s not that people were wrong about you, it’s more that they just didn’t care in the first place. People will gladly, unscrupulously withhold and keep tacit any wisdom they might be carrying if they feel that your attainment of said wisdom might yield for them a social disadvantage, or a diminution of their own specialness. So at the culmination of sense and cooperation, there lies dumbness, or violence: one of the two.

Now, the extent to which “dumb” music differs from “intelligent” music is certainly negotiable, and the extent to which “dumb” music differs from “good” music is almost too precarious to even measure. [1] Anyway, once you stop thinking of overall human virtue in modern society as even a remote possibility, you start degrading the extent to which in your mind music should actually embody a MORAL value, or, in other words, encompass a human achievement of SOPHISTICATION. The question is then begged, of course, as to where such sophistication would even fit in, in the dog-eat-dog world.
So given some ascription of effectiveness to music that is “dumb,” music like “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” music like Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” music like Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” and indeed perhaps even “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” [2] we start correlating our ideas of “right ways of living” with what is simply the evasion of emotional pain, and the penchant for being soothed and/or hypnotized by pop music. These burgeoning pillars of nihilism are to be contrasted then with what the naive philosophers might say, which is that creating a perfect society of humans is the righteous, or even the possible, way.
It is music itself which is perfect, the tonic/subdominant/dominant, and maybe submediant minor, interface of rock and roll, as invented by black slaves, which is the closest we Americans, which is the closest we Canadians, which is the closest we British, know, to Earthly perfection. It would have been insulting to put a heartier, more developed message into the chorus of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and to add more sophistication to the themes of sex and sunshine in the other two songs would have been just to hamper the artistic statement, which is that this said artist is a human being with needs, and doesn’t really care about, or have time for, grafting a worldly paradigm, or culture. Our logical minds suggest the possibility of control within our personal lives, and dumb music reminds us that such a thing wouldn’t even be enjoyable, given the fictitious situation of its existence.
[1] As explained Kim Deal in an interview: “‘Nirvana do the best dumb songs ever! They’re dumb in a good way, like the Ramones.’” This excerpt is taken from Everett True’s Nirvana: The Biography of Da Capo Press.
[2] Also as explained in Everett True’s book, Krist Novoselic upon first hearing Kurt Cobain’s guitar part to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” responded with, and I quoth, “That is so ridiculous,” and the band has been known to tease Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” during “Teen Spirit” introductions in concerts.

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