Cool Band

The Fifth Floor Band Dad advises that TBDBITL — that is, the Ohio State University Marching Band — will be performing at the Purdue game today, and his daughter will be “dotting the i” on Script Ohio, just as she did last year at the Michigan game.

Watching The Best Damn Band In The Land is always a treat, but this year the band has been breaking new ground with their marching routines, which create cowboys, dinosaurs, and other moving figures that correspond to the musical themes of their halftime shows.  The terrific show where the band depicted Michael Jackson “moon-walking” — complete with white glove — gives you a good sense of how TBDBITL is, once again, absolutely living up to that name.

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Disco Bowling At The 2011 Salvino

Last night the firm held its bowling tournament, the 2011 version of the Carmen Salvino Akron-Canton Invitational, at Sawmill Lanes in northwest Columbus.  From that one experience, it appears that Friday night kegling is alive and well in Columbus, Ohio.

This is not bowling as Grampa Neal would recognize it.  The only common touchstones are a ball hurled toward pins and the propensity of bowlers to consume frosty adult beverages.  But now the balls are brightly colored, flashing lights line the lanes, a mirrored disco ball is located overhead about every 10 lanes, and spotlight images of stars and moons roam across the darkened alleys.  Loud music pumps out of the sound system, and music videos play constantly on large screens erected over the pin area.  When Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is played, don’t be surprised to see every bowler in the place bust a move or two.

Last night, the music video selections were a pretty eclectic mix.  In addition to Billie Jean we heard Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton, and AC DC, as well as a song by a woman who wore a bikini top that sprayed whipped cream and a song by a somewhat vulgar, heavily mascaraed woman who made it clear that she liked “the bass down low.”  I also managed to confirm my cluelessness by asking someone the name of the woman singing the song that was playing and learning that it was teen idol Justin Bieber.

Unfortunately, my annual attempt at bowling last night was a pathetic failure.  I do think my cultural horizons were broadened, however.

Drug-Addled

The latest story about the circumstances of Michael Jackson’s death is sad, but also symptomatic of how modern medical practices often seem to be extraordinarily reliant on prescribing drugs as the cure for every ill. The amount of medication Jackson apparently received is astonishing.

Can’t sleep? We’ll give you a drug, and if that doesn’t work we’ll give you another, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll try another. We’ve become accustomed to a world where there is a claimed wonder drug for every physical and mental problem. With the emphasis by patients and doctors alike on immediate, drug-induced relief from non-life-threatening conditions like insomnia, is it any wonder that there are instances of wretched excess?

American artists, British bands

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

There are eight Americans and two Brits in the top ten of Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest artists of all time

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

(not a definitive list, but useful for illustrating my point). What’s strange is that all the Americans entries are individuals, while the British entries are for bands. Going down the list, it’s pretty much the same, with a few exceptions. Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison for the Americans, the Clash and the Who for the British.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra

Elvis

Elvis

It’s not a fluke. Anyone who’s listened to pop music from the past fifty years has probably noticed that America’s best contributions come in the forms of individuals, while British ones come in the form of bands. None of the “best American bands” we’ve discussed so far are as influential, in my opinion, as Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. Many of America’s best bands have been dominated by a single member – Nirvana by Kurt Cobain, the Beach Boys by Brian Wilson, the Doors by Jim Morrison – while Britain’s best bands traditionally derive their brilliance from collaboration (or compromise) – the Beatles from Lennon and McCartney, the Rolling Stones from Jagger and Richards, etc.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

The “American artists, British bands” rule applies too consistently to be dismissed as coincidence. Why is it this way?

Maybe it has something to do with America’s culture of individualism. The republican ideal of a man free to work to improve his own life has, perhaps, helped create the image of the American singer-songwriter

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

who blazes his own path through music. This explanation strikes me as too idealistic, however.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

It could have something to do with America’s celebrity culture. Americans love creating personas for public figures. Maybe individual artists, with songs reflecting their own personality and values, resonate more with the American people. With more popularity, they are more likely to have successful careers that allow them more creativity. In fact, nearly all the great American musicians have personas like this. Sinatra was classy, Elvis wild but respectful, Springsteen working-class, Madonna sexual, etc. We even give them nicknames like “the Boss” and “the King.”

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Prince

Prince

Another likely explanation is that, for whatever reason, America started a tradition of successful singer-songwriters that musicians imitated throughout the years. The great musicians whose pictures are in this post might have been following the model set by Chuck Berry and Little Richard, jazz greats like Miles Davis, or country legends like Woody Guthrie. In Britain, aspiring musicians would be more likely to follow the example of their country’s legends, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z

In the past thirty years rap has dominated American popular music. More than any other genre, rap is all about individualism. I wonder if this is continuing the same tradition. After all, rappers do tend to have well-known personas (usually involving a huge ego).

Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake