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Confession: Musicians I Should Like – But Don’t

May 4, 2014

Have you ever noticed that there are things in life that seem to be right up your street but for one reason or another you don’t like or even hate? Musically, I have three:  Bonnie Raitt,  Tom Waits  and – yes, I am going to say it – Bruce Springsteen.

First to Bonnie Raitt. Back when I was a child I once went to the cinema and ate so much fruit and nut mix that I vomited all night long. The result is that it is only recently – a good half a century later –  can I manage a little of such mix without shuddering. (Separately, I love them both).

The problem I have with Ms Raitt is that even though her style is something I generally adore, I once spent arguably the worst New Years Eve of my life (I say arguably because there have been so many horrible ones)  trapped where I did not want to be, watching a television show in which she was the star turn. Not her fault, of course. It is just that every time I hear her or read about her I remember that dread evening.

I also did see her perform once, before the New Year debacle, but this also wasn’t a stunning moment. It was in the 1970s at the Warner Theater in Washington DC. She might have been ok, but I can’t remember because her warm-up act – Leon Redbone– was so amazing he blew her off stage. She even admitted it herself during her performance.

Now to Tom Waits. It’s the voice. It has to be. I just cannot listen to more than a minute of it before turning it off. I havetried, believe me, but it won’t click.

This is strange because normally I would love a poetic singer-songwriter like Waits and do go for a number of people with, shall we say, challenging voices – Kris Kristofferson, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan etc.

There is a big Waits fan in my immediate family who also reckons I should like him. We were DJ-ing a radio show one night and he put Waits on. I found myself describing the experience on air as the “musical equivalent of a prostate exam”. Sorry, but that’s what came to mind.

Ok, so this brings up to Bruce Springsteen. Please don’t bombard me with abuse. I know he is “The Boss”. I know you’ve never seen a live act like him. I know he grabs blue-collar America by the belt and hauls it into the limelight. I don’t care. He doesn’t do it for me.

Now this is not to say that I can’t listen to him. I can and sometimes do. I have had moments of pleasure from his work, notably the relatively recent “Wrecking Ball”. But I have moments of pleasure with lots of bands. With Bruce, I just don’t get the fuss, even though I can see why maybe I should.

I once worked with a Springsteen fan from New Jersey who told me that the reason I did not get him was because I did not know New Jersey. Well, some years later I ended up living in New Jersey (for what was three years but seemed like a decade) and I got it even less.

None of this, of course, means I will not come around eventually. I used to loathe Hip Hop and now I quite like some of it. I hated tomatoes and spinach as child but there are now staples of my every day life. And, as I said, I do sometimes even eat fruit and nut mix. Who knows?

 That’s my confession. Who should you like, but don’t?

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