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Column: Rock muzak worse than Christmas music

It’s that time of year when you hear people who otherwise seem to be of moderate holiday cheer, teeing off on the diet of Christmas music they are obliged to endure as they toil in restaurants or retail.

It’s that time of year when you hear people who otherwise seem to be of moderate holiday cheer, teeing off on the diet of Christmas music they are obliged to endure as they toil in restaurants or retail.

As one server recently put it: “If I hear that Marshmallow World thing one more time, I’m going to climb up there and rip out the speakers.”

I can sympathize, but not because I consider it the worst audio soundtrack for mandatory listening. Since I work at home and scrupulously avoid malls and commercial radio, it really doesn’t affect me all that much.

No, I’m fine with the worst yuletide treacle you can muster. Donnie and Marie Osmond backed by the Chipmunks, followed by John Tesh. Throw in some Burl Ives and even that Cristy Lane junk they keep flogging on TV with an old Betamax videotape. If William Shatner releases a Christmas album, I could even tolerate that. Any of it is OK by me because at least it possesses one thoroughly redeeming feature: Eventually, it goes away.

The same, alas, cannot be said about the walking undead of forced dodecaphony. The dental drill of audio atmospherics. The sarin gas of soundtracks.

Yeah, classic rock, I’m talking about you.

I don’t know who it was that decreed that music reached its apogee in the 1970s, nor how they then managed to convince millions of floor managers and restaurateurs that it would provide a suitable background to their commerce until the Earth’s sun turns into a red dwarf.

Even the outdoors isn’t immune, since ski resorts are the worst culprits.

Apparently not one is so intrinsically beautiful or peaceful on its own that it can’t be improved by blasting Steve Miller and Lynyrd Skynyrd on an infinite loop. God forbid we should ever forget that some people call him a space cowboy, or that hirsute southern rockers frozen in audio amber are actually “free as a bird.”

Stones, Seger, Boston, Journey. Warrant, Wild Cherry, Cher, Aerosmith, Blondie and Blondes both Platinum and Concrete.

These are the earworms of our lives, burrowing into our collective cerebellum, not only through house sound systems, but also via Pavlovian association in television ads for any product trying wanly to appeal to a middle-aged boomer.

This, of course, is my problem. Contrary to what some 20-something Toronto adman might believe, people my age who have had this crap rammed down their throats for four decades are getting just a little bit weary. True, we made our own beds, since this is the identical stuff we pressed to our ear when top-40 radio was the totality of the musical universe for kids whose parents — wisely, in retrospect — wouldn’t let them buy record players.

One of the catchiest (only in the epidemiological sense of the word) is the current ad in heavy rotation, “Whoa whoa whoa, it’s magic.”

It’s not magic, my friend, it’s surgery without anesthetic. But that one-hit wonder by a group called Pilot, made up of ex-Bay City Rollers, was released in 1974, the year I graduated from high school.

Trust me, kids, it was a bad song then and it’s a bad song now. And by the way, Junior, you know Dad’s Led Zeppelin vinyl that you think is the bomb? How about I strap you down and run it through your Skull Candies 9,000 times in a row. Maybe it won’t sound so fresh any more.

So, hopeless as it is, I have begun a one-man campaign to change the world. Every time I find myself captive to classic rock, I seek out the manager and politely inform her that it’s annoying, and I won’t be back until they play something from this century. Or any period, except the one from 1967 to 1982.

Meanwhile, one million listenings on, I finally understand Hotel California. “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.”

The Eagles were obviously talking about their own music.


Kevin Booker is a Calgary Herald columnist.

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