Name That Tune

essay by Marie Mundaca

Sting wafted through the crowded subway elevator (yes, I live so far uptown our subways have elevators). It was a song I hadn't heard before, but once you've heard one Sting song you've heard them all, haven't you? I mean, the notes are different but the progressions are the same. I'm sure I'm not putting this in the right terminology, but you know what I mean.

Or do you? It's recently come to my attention that I don't know enough about music. Now, I thought that knowing that the Ohio Express and the 1910 Fruit Gum Company were the same band was more than enough (that's the Ohio Express, not the Ohio Players. One did "Yummy Yummy Yummy," the other did "Love Rollercoaster." You see the difference.). But, as it turns out, not having any recordings of Tuva throat singers or Zappa bootlegs has gotten me thrown out of an exclusive club: girlfriend of the most recent boyfriend. I must tell you, this is someone who wouldn't know The Pixies from L7, doesn't know that Abs Breen is not in Belly, who couldn't sing "Heart-Shaped Box" if his life depended on it, who doesn't know that one of the GoGos wrote the theme song for the tv show Clueless, let alone such pearly dewdrops as what band did "Where's Captain Kirk?" (Athletico Spizz 80--ok, no one cares about that one), that Trent Reznor was in a movie with Michael J. Fox, or who does the annoying "Fishheads" song (Barnes & Barnes). Or how about this one: The Cocteau Twins covered a Tim Buckley song that they heard on The Monkees ("Song to the Siren," now being used to push perfume). Now, would I break up with someone because they never heard William Shatner's rendition of "Rocket Man"? What about not being able to identify songs from 75% of the bands on that silly Virgin list? Why, I didn't even empty the proverbial can of whup-ass on him when he told me that Radiohead sounded like U2.

I would have thought that being able to name which Simpsons episode featured Beethoven's 6th would count for something (it was "Itchy and Scratchy and Marge,"), or that Coldcut sampled from "Peter and the Wolf." So what if I know more about Spinal Tap than King Crimson--is "Moonchild" really a better song than "Big Bottom"? Don't answer that.

But, silly stupid me, I can barely tell the difference between Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, have been known to confuse Music for Airports with Music for Films-- and it's true, my classical music education pretty much only goes as far back as "Mr. Sandman" (not the Metallica song; that's "Enter Sandman"), except what I learned from Fantasia and Cosi Fan Tutti (the animated film, not Cosey Fantutti from Throbbing Gristle). But, I can take consolation in the fact that an impromptu poll among microtonal guitarists showed that 98% of them wouldn't kick me out of bed.

Copyright (c) 2000 Marie Mundaca