by Ryan Wasoba
Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.
When Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, he poked fun at Mitt Romney's old-guy music tastes and said "My playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin." I immediately thought the following things:
1. The obvious discrepancy: Paul Ryan picked those two acts because of their alphabetical breadth. Yet, wouldn't Zeppelin be categorized under L for Led Zeppelin? Would that not imply that his rock stops in the early/mid L's?
2. Why Zeppelin and not ZZ Top? Again, going with alphabetics, this is the best choice. Other than the short-lived and not very good defunct Chicago bands ZZZZZs (which I believe had a member or two of Sweep The Leg Johnny, but I, in the honor of today's political climate, will not let fact checking rule my life), ZZ Top is the definitive last band in the list. And since most people view the alphabet in linear terms, shouldn't Paul Ryan be embracing ZZ Top to appeal to the far right?
3. Ryan could have chosen an artist earlier in the alphabet than AC/DC, but it was a smart choice. AC/DC certainly rocks harder than ABBA and Aaliyah. If there is one reason for Paul Ryan not to choose ABBA, it is because the band's music has been embraced by the gay community. Many websites have ranked "Dancing Queen" the "gayest song of all time." Nobody puts AC/DC in the category of "gay" music, even though its lead guitarist dresses like a schoolboy, the band played gay bars in its early days, and its name is - coincidentally, its members claim - also a term for bisexuality. 4. Full disclosure: I hate AC/DC. I know the reasons why I should like the band, and I could probably form these into an argument to convince somebody other than myself that AC/DC is the most relevant rock band of all time. Without devolving into an extended complaint, what bothers me the most about the group is how safe and distilled its take on rock is. There's nothing daring about its riffs, lyrics, solos, beats, so on, so forth. It's lowest common denominator rock and roll, which is why AC/DC is the perfect band to namedrop at a political convention.
5. Usually, when a person names two artists in a grandiose statement about his/her musical tastes, the artists are chosen to give the extremes of diversity of one's tastes. This is not the case here; Paul Ryan's strategy is to portray himself as a rocker. In the broad sense, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin have much in common. Both bands' singers tend to stretch into the highest range of his vocal cords, and both bands' lyrics can be overtly sexual. "Giving The Dog A Bone" and "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC are downright filthy, and hearing Robert Plant sing "I'm gonna give you every inch of my love" on Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" is not a pleasant experience.
6. I recently read "Can't We Just Talk About Music? Rock And Gender On The Internet" by Norma Coates, an essay about rock discourse on chat rooms in the late 90s. Coates made a crack about wondering how she could like the Rolling Stones and still respect herself. Were I female, I imagine I would have a similar relationship with AC/DC or Led Zeppelin. Buying a copy of Back In Black or Led Zeppelin IV would be supporting an organization who publically takes a stance that does not respect women. There's a parallel here between these bands and the Republican party, but I can't seem to grasp it. Then again, if it was a legitimate comparison, Paul Ryan's iPod has ways of shutting that whole thing down.