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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Music to My Peers?

Sometimes I forget that I do things a little… differently than some people.

Take music, for instance. I’ve rarely been a fan of most popular music; I haven’t listened to radio regularly for at least a dozen years.

Honestly, is that even a thing now, radio stations? Since Spotify and Pandora and — well, MP3s, frankly — have been around, I haven’t seen the point of listening to some sunglassed jackhole in a dingy studio somewhere dictate what I’m listening to.

(I mean, sure, we put up with that shit before we could carry fourteen thousand songs on a paper clip or yank tunes off the Sub-Etha network on demand. But in the 21st century, it seems a little dictatorial.

I’m just saying — I’d rather listen to what I want, or tell a computer to find me new stuff, based on fancy algorithms and listening profiles and whether or not my endorphins spike during bitchin’ freestyle sitar jams. Maybe that’s just me.)

“I wouldn’t describe the places in which I spent my formative and young adult years as especially “progressive”, musically speaking. I’d characterize them more as ‘Skynyrdesque’.”

Maybe everyone’s done with radio by now. Maybe what’s “popular” in music these days is determined by Twitter mentions and iTunes beat counters and which antiperspirant sprays use which songs in commercial jingles. I don’t know. It was really never my thing.

I do remember being looked at askance — quite definitely askance — by many people in high school and college who wondered what the hell those funny noises were I was listening to.

(Of course, some of that askancity was a product of where I lived at the time. I wouldn’t describe the places in which I spent my formative and young adult years as especially “progressive”, musically speaking. I’d characterize them more as “Skynyrdesque”.

(The exception, wryly enough, being the radio station at the local college where I grew up. I even DJed there for a while in high school, before going off to college myself.

A different college. No radio station. And far more Skynyrdian. That was a bit of an “out of the frying pan, into the garbage disposal” sort of moment, in many ways. But that’s a different story.)

So while they were fans of Rush or Zeppelin, I was listening to Husker Du and the Replacements. They had Journey, I had the Waxing Poetics. I saw their Skynyrd, and raised them a Del-Lords. None of these bands were particularly “out there”; they were just unfamiliar to most people listening to Top 40 or classic rock or “Lightly Offensive Juvenile Humor Guy and Straight Man with Characteristic Shocked Guffaw in the Morning”. Which was basically everyone, in those particular times and places.

Honestly, I liked that. My music was different — as I was informed ad nauseum, often by mouths trailed closely by a mullet — and that was great with me. It was different. And that suggested possibility. Opportunity. “Other”.

Full speed ahead, I say.

These days, I’m living in Boston, which is entirely a different animal. There are thousands of songs and styles and sounds to sample, and fans of each and every kind. It’s a very different place — and a much different time. My current tastes, by no means “popular” with whoever says such things are that, are reasonably mainstream for the setting. I chat about old obscure 80s bands with like-minded friends. I’ve heard some great modern jazz around town. Spotify and Pandora have turned me on to all sorts of nearly-unheard-of music that I listen to every day — even if I can’t always remember the name of the singer. Or where they’re from. Or whether this is the song with that killer tabla riff.

These things seem normal now, natural. Appreciating “weird” music feels no longer like a personal rebellion against near-homogenous pop dreck or faded “oldies” wistfully crooned along with by assholes claiming no real music has been made since before I was born, probably. I just listen to what I listen to, as do most people around here. In this place and this time (and in my age bracket, perhaps), you’re as likely to meet a fan of some Turkish-born breakbeat DJ as one of Justin Bieber. Sometimes, I forget not everywhere is like that.

And sometimes, I’m reminded.

A friend of mine from years past visited the area last week, and I met him on one of his sightseeing jaunts. He’s a fairly traditional guy — not so adventurous, has his usual routines, never moved out of the area where we grew up. And that’s a fine way to live.

But it makes for a lousy conversation about music. It went something like this:

Friend: Man, all these concert places. You guys must have a lot of good shows around here.

Me: Oh, yeah, we do. It’s great.

Friend: Cool. Who have you seen?

Me: Well, we saw Jonathan Coulton a while back.

Friend: Who?

Me: Jonathan Coulton.

Friend: Don’t know him. What’s he sing?

Me: Mostly songs about… uh, monkeys. And zombies.

Friend: Uh-huh.

Me: The octopus one is pretty good.

Friend: Maybe not my thing. Who else?

Me: Oh — we’re seeing Mike Doughty next month.


Me: Formerly of Soul Coughing?


Me: You know, Super Bon Bon. Fully Retractable. Bus to Beelzebub?

Friend: Uh, I don’t think I’ve heard-

Me: “Brm-brm-brm-brm – voulez-vous the bus? Brm-brm-brm-brm…”

Friend: Yeah, no. I would remember that.

Me: Oh! Beats Antique is here in a few weeks.

Friend: Beats A-who?

Me: They’re a gypsy crunk sort of band. Belly dancing, Eastern European stuff.

Friend: Do you ever get, like, the Rolling Stones or Springsteen up here?

Me: Yeah, I think I heard they were here at some point. Hey, what do you think of Camper van Beethoven?

Friend: Is that a car?

Me: No.

Friend: A fancy sandwich?

Me: No.

Friend: Then I have no idea.

Me: Bob Mould?

Friend: Never heard of him.

Me: Superchunk? Cake? The Meat Puppets? X?

Friend: Hey, I know a good one! They must come up here.

Me: Yeah?

Friend: Have you seen… Lynyrd Skynyrd?

I suppose I’ll never truly escape it, the feeling of that old clash between what I like and what “everybody else” (in certain contexts) seems to enjoy.

Luckily, I don’t have to. That’s what noise-cancelling headphones are for.

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