So I'm Back To The Velvet Underground: Communication
Music is a form of communication that is sometimes direct and sometimes ineffable as heck. For instance, this particular song has been for the last few months something I listen to when I want to feel like myself again, after not feeling like myself. (Which is a distressing feeling as I am sure you understand.)
And it always works. So imagine my surprise to find out that Stevie Nicks actually wrote this song to remind HERSELF about herself, in the aftermath of mega-fame with Fleetwood Mac. "So I'm back to the Velvet Underground" -- her favorite used clothing store -- "back to the floor that I love" -- she used to keep her mattress directly on the floor -- "to a room with some lace and paper flowers" -- the way she decorated -- "back to the gypsy that I was."
And I pinky-swear that I only knew that background just now, today, long after I decided this was the song to listen to when I felt shaken-up and wanted to feel like Amy Wilson.
Isn't that kind of incredible? There is something encoded in this song beyond what the words actually say and beyond what the music actually sounds like. And that's what makes music something we can use to express to others what we can't figure out how to express.
The song: Fleetwood Mac, "Gypsy"; 1982
I just want to make a quick sidebar here about Stevie Nicks, the person, because I happen to admire and respect her a lot. And so do many of the women of my acquaintance -- there is something about her that seems to speak to us.
Which makes me wonder why Stevie Nicks is the butt of quite so many jokes as she is. I understand that I wasn't alive when she was in her full prominence, so maybe there is something I am missing. But in my perception, her main crimes seem to be that she dresses kinda flamboyantly, she uses grandiose allusions to nature and magic in her lyrics, and she seems to lack a certain amount of self-awareness.
To which I say, so what? That's rock n' roll, baby. Or at least the kind of rock n' roll that I want to hear.
But I'll go ahead and say the word I am thinking, which is sexism. Sexism is the force that reveres David Bowie for wearing skintight leggings and reviles Stevie Nicks for wearing lace sleeves. Sexism is the force that assumes that an artist like Katy Perry can't possibly be the architect of her own aesthetic, and of her own success. (See also: "At the Movies with Amy Wilson: Katy Perry Part of Me 3D") Sexism is the force that makes a list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time and puts two women on it, and neither higher than 75th place. (Bonnie Raitt - 89; Joni Mitchell - 75. Which offends me deeply. DEEPLY!)
(And actually this force is a certain prominent rock magazine but I will not defile this blog by naming it here.)
Sexism in music, and music criticism, is a real thorn in my boot. It's something that I hope to address on an ongoing basis, with a light touch naturally, and mostly by Being The Change That I Wish To See -- which in my case involves posting here the music that I like, and that touches me, and not worrying that it is too "silly" or "girly".
Because why is it even still possible to use "too girly" as an insult? I ask you.
(Previous Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
Previous Stevie Nicks: "Leather and Lace")