By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
I was introduced to Rick Beato by alert reader ProudWappie, who linked to episode 107 (!!) of his series “What makes this song great?”. Beato is quite the YouTuber; these episodes regularly garner a million views, which is encouraging about the state of the nation, since they’re very wonky. From the Introduction to an interview with Beato in Jazz Guitar Today:
What Makes This Song Great? Rick takes huge hits and dissects them with the original or rendered tracks pointing out the various qualities and features of the song – just incredible insights!
That’s a little dry. What I really like about the series — aside from the crazed look in Beato’s eyes when something musical he really, really likes is about to happen — is that he really does analyze the songs; he breaks them down track by track and shows how the tracks integrate; he shows the chord progressions on the actual instrument while playing along; and he explains why the artists make the aesthetic decisions they make. Or at least that aesthetic decisions were made. Now, I’m not going to be learning to play an instrument anytime soon — although as a child, I played on the linoleum — but if you have a child or a niece or nephew who wants to learn, you could do worse than steer them to Beato.
Beato was lucky in his family, which was musical:
I’ve always been interested in understanding different genres of music. It comes from having a big family and every one of my siblings liked a different thing. And each of my parents liked a different type of music. So in my house, everybody had their cassette players or record players or whatever. Nine people in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom. And they would all be listening to different music. My brother Lou liked the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton. Loved southern rock, loved things like that. My brother Mike liked Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra and things that were way early for him. He should have liked Led Zeppelin and things like that, but he wasn’t interested in that. My sisters loved the Beatles and the Stones and things like that. And then, of course, I was in– then I have a younger brother had his– he was very big in to ’80s metal and a lot of– and ’70s rock, as I was. So I was surrounded by people that liked different genres of music. My dad loved jazz. My mom loved opera and classical music, so there we go. So I was fascinated by it all.
Here is the story of one record, given to Beato by his father. I recommend listening to the whole thing, because you might learn something:
“For Christmas my Dad bought me a record by a guitarist named Joe Pass….. My Dad’s like ‘If you ever learn to play like this, you’ve accomplished something with your life.'” And so the record sits, unopened, still wrapped in its cellophane, until one day….
Beato’s story, and what it said about the Beato and his father, reminded me of this more famous monologue by Bruce Springsteen. Since Springsteen is not to my taste — after my long-ish psychedelic phase (the Dead, Pink Floyd) I became taken with short, grittily textured, raw, focused songs (the Wailers, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, X), and that’s just not this era’s Springsteen — I’ll first post the tune, but so you don’t have to listen to it, I’ll post the text of the monologue. (To be fair, this live album is the only Springsteen album I really like.)
And here is the transcript of Springsteen’s monologue (via Cathal Garvey):
This is ah… When I was growing up, me and my dad used to go at it all the time over almost anything. But, ah, I used to have really long hair, way down past my shoulders. I was 17 or 18, oh man, he used to hate it. And we got to where we’d fight so much that I’d, that I’d spent a lot of time out of the house; and in the summertime it wasn’t so bad, ‘cause it was warm, and my friends were out, but in the winter, I remember standing downtown where it’d get so cold and, when the wind would blow, I had this phone booth I used to stand in. And I used to call my girl, like, for hours at a time, just talking to her all night long. And finally I’d get my nerve up to go home. I’d stand there in the driveway and he’d be waiting for me in the kitchen and I’d tuck my hair down on my collar and I’d walk in and he’d call me back to sit down with him. And the first thing he’d always ask me was what did I think I was doing with myself. And the worst part of it was that I could never explain to him.
I remember I got in a motorcycle accident once and I was laid up in bed and he had a barber come in and cut my hair and, man, I can remember telling him that I hated him and that I would never ever forget it. And he used to tell me: “Man, I can’t wait till the army gets you. When the army gets you they’re gonna make a man out of you. They’re gonna cut all that hair off and they’ll make a man out of you.”.
And this was, I guess, ’68 when there was a lot of guys from the neighbourhood going to Vietnam. I remember the drummer in my first band coming over to my house with his marine uniform on, saying that he was going and that he didn’t know where it was. And a lot of guys went, and a lot of guys didn’t come back. And the lot that came back weren’t the same anymore. I remember the day I got my draft notice. I hid it from my folks and three days before my physical me and my friends went out and we stayed up all night and we got on the bus to go that morning and man we were all so scared… And I went, and I failed. I came home [audience cheers], it’s nothing to applaud about… I remember coming home after I’d been gone for three days and walking in the kitchen and my mother and father were sitting there and my dad said: “Where you been?” and I said, uh, “I went to take my physical.” He said “What happened?” I said “They didn’t take me.” And he said: “That’s good.”
Both stories are about — for want of a better word, I’ll emit this horrid piece of MBA-speak — rebalancing relations between father and son. I find it especially touching that Springsteen’s father could not bear to see his son go to war, and so changed his mind about the war.
Readers, do you have similar stories?
 I was brought up on Gilbert and Sullivan, among other things. Here is a song about class:
“Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes!” The piano lessons, however, did not take. We were not, as a family, musical. But I did have the run of my father’s library, and several libraries after that, too.
 A phonograph record, an analog sound storage medium manufactured from vinyl.