Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daddy, this music is not making me feel happy.

"Daddy, this music is not making me feel happy." That's what my four year old daughter said to me as I played my new prized-possession, a limited edition reproduction test pressing of Big Star's Third, an album I've listened to regularly in one form or another since the age of fifteen. It's a pretty sensible statement. Really, what other reaction could a normal four year old have?
You're a wasted face
You're a sad-eyed lie
You're a holocaust
I doubt my daughter was specifically responding to the lyrics of "Holocaust," but rather to the overall tone of exquisite melancholy that pervades the album. Nobody ever accused Big Star's Third of being "the feel good album of the summer." Alex and Jody couldn't even find a label willing to release it when the original test pressing was cut in 1975.

But why should we enjoy (or even listen to) music that doesn't make us happy? Or is it possible that incredibly sad music can--on some level--make us happy under the right circumstances? I don't have any easy answers to those questions, other than to say that as we move past the age of four, some of us learn to embrace music that covers the full spectrum of human emotion (love, happiness and ecstatic joy, yes, but also anger, fear and even depression). Maybe you get to a certain age and you're happy just to still be able to feel anything at all, and sometimes you need art (musical or otherwise) to provoke an emotional response to remind you that you're alive, that you're a human being.
You're eyes are almost dead
Can't get out of bed
And you can't sleep
Maybe you have to have been there once or twice to find any comfort in lyrics like that.

I didn't try to explain any of this to my daughter. She'll have to find out for herself.


Anonymous said...

What's the quality of this pressing?

Pete Bilderback said...

Outstanding. I don't want to say too much about it because I am loathe to push eBay prices up even further.

Anonymous said...

Excellent -- thanks, Pete. And I already spent a small-ish fortune on eBay for a sealed one and I'm waiting for it to arrive.

Peter Hennig said...

Sweet! Would love to have this one. My wait on Saturday didn't pay off. I see on the Omnivore website three of the test pressings have been found so far, so two still out there. Good luck Anon!

WhatTS said...

I have the same discussion about music and mood with my wife. For me it's more about the mood you are in and listening to music compatible with that, rather than having the music change you. And Sister Lovers, I think the greatest album around, is for when you are down already.... Which is bit of why I'm mystified by folks who can take 'Thank You Friends' at face value as a celebratory tune...