Steve Winwood and self-realizations

Oh shit I accidentally bought a Steve Winwood album. I hate it when that happens.

As it is, this isn’t exactly a Steve Winwood album, rather it’s an album in which Steve Winwood is prominently featured. The group is called Go, they were a supergroup comprised of Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve of Santana, and Stomu Yamashta, a Japanese percussionist and keyboard player.  But a lot of other interesting people are on this one, check out their Wiki if you’re interested. I’m not going to go on naming them because I would just be cribbing from that page anyway. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of experimental jazz fusion acts.


Yes, this is jazz fusion, at least that’s the common categorization I’ve seen for this one. I don’t really know if I agree. Parts of it are really out there. It dabbles in a lot of genres from prog and space rock to symphonic compositions and, yes, jazz fusion.

Jazz fusion is probably the last remaining genre I said I never would like that I still don’t really like. I’ve held a contempt for the genre for as long as I knew that’s what I could call Blood, Sweat and Tears. I’ve hated them ever since I was a kid.

Fucking “Spinning Wheel,” ugh.

When I was a kid and first getting into music, I only liked pop music – but I guess that’s not strange. You don’t see many kids at krautrock shows. But most of my favorite acts were hair metal. Thank my mom for that one, she’s a die-hard Def Leppard fan and it rubbed off on me. But even then I had a firm distaste for a few genres. I hated disco, but I think most of us did in the 80s, still knee deep in the disco backlash. A lot of people will tell you that was rooted in homophobia, but let this homo tell you, by 1980, most disco you heard on the radio sucked. Sure, we all listen to Giorgio Moroder and Chic now and think they’re dope, but check out the song “Native New Yorker” sometime. That was nearly a top 20 hit single. Dear lord.

Regardless, I was still disco-averse well into the 90s. If hair metal me wasn’t going to groove to Gloria Gaynor, grunge me sure as fuck wasn’t. By 1994, I would say that I was firmly into grunge and punk and nothing else. Pop could fuck off, prog could fuck off, dance music could certainly fuck off.

Yeah, but then I played Wipeout XL.


The soundtrack to Wipeout XL opened my mind to an entire genre that I barely knew existed at that time. I knew of The Prodigy from copious replays of the “Firestarter” video on MTV, but this was a year before The Chemical Brothers broke big with Dig Your Own Hole and before I first heard Fatboy Slim’s “Going Out Of My Head.” I was entirely naive to what electronic music was.

That changed pretty quick, and soon I was trying my best to find CDs by Fluke, FSOL, Orb, Orbital and damn near every other act from that scene (and soundtrack) that you could think of. It couldn’t have come at a better time too, right when Creed and Limp Bizkit were taking what was left of the alt-rock scene and beating it to death with their dick-rock.

College came and went and I pretty much avoided most of the “college rock” scene, so much so that I couldn’t really name most of the bands that were big on the college indie scene in the late 90s. I knew most of my friends like Dave Matthews Band and I thought they sucked. And that a lot of my “hipster” (that was the first time I heard that word) friends were into acts like John Spencer Blues Explosion, PJ Harvey and Les Savy Fav, all of which did nothing for me.

By the turn of the millennium, with pop music nearly omnipresent (and horrible), alt-rock sucking up a storm, and college rock boring the shit out of me, I was almost entirely a basshead at that point – eating up anything that Warp Records and their like-minded labels would bring to the US. That and Pink Floyd. Got into a really big Pink Floyd kick around that time for some reason. A friend told me that if I liked Pink Floyd then I should really check out Yes.

But I said prog sucks.


Fast forward 17 years and I now own the complete discography of Yes as well as nearly a dozen Hawkwind albums. Got me some King Crimson, ELP, and some early Genesis as well. I don’t even know how that happened. Modern electronic music’s move to “EDM” soured me almost completely on the genre. I probably couldn’t name more than one top DJ at the moment. It’s getting better now I think. When I dip my feet into that pool I don’t get the urge to vomit anymore. But its a scene that is still ripe with derivative bullshit. I think it’s going to be at least five more years before it becomes remotely palatable again (by then hopefully all the meatheads who go to the raves and festivals will have grown up or O.D.’d).

Got into disco too. Don’t even know how the hell that happened either, but I suspect it had something to do with Giorgio Moroder. To be honest I still think most of it is garbage. But the good stuff is just tops for me now. I can listen to that shit all day.

I even came back around on pop music. Same with disco, most of it sucks, but when it’s great holy hell there’s nothing better. “Uptown Funk” rocked me more than most songs could ever hope to.

What I’m getting at here is that as I get closer and closer to 40, I find myself consistently amazed by what music I’m willing to embrace and love. I remember hearing my friends’ parents, who all listened to easy listening garbage at the time, talk about seeing Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin back in the 70s. That would blow my mind. How could your tastes change so much, I thought.

But what I suspect really happened isn’t that their tastes changed, but that they just grew up, got married, had kids and decided they didn’t have the time to be interested in music anymore. Instead they just resolved themselves to listen to whatever was on the radio and leave it at that. I get that. Life happens and they chose their priorities.

But what I don’t get are a lot of my friends today. The people I went to high school with who were the hippest of hip when it came to new music. The ones who would cast snide comments when I said I liked Beck because they were too into Boss Hogg or some other band I have the vaguest recollection of (but I’m sure are great don’t email me about it).

Last time I went to America, these friends who were on the cutting edge of cool seemingly stopped caring about new music right after graduation. I’d ask what they were into and they’d rattle off names like Surfjan Stevens or some New Pornographers-related Canadian act. Not dinosaur rock for sure (and, yo, that new Surfjan Stevens sounds good) but far from the Pitchfork darlings. I guess they turned into the dads you knew when you were kids who were still holding onto their Led Zeppelin 8-tracks and bemoaned the current state of rock music. It’s funny how we slide into our generational stereotypes without even realizing it.

Sometimes though I think maybe they have the right idea, or at least a sane one. As I see all my friends’ musical tastes stalling out or even constricting, I just keep branching out. I’m exploring vintage synthpop from the West and Japan. I’m seeking out Tangerine Dream-adjacent acts like Klaus Schulze. I’m buying Carly Rae Jespen, Zhu, Banks, The Bleachers, and The 1975. I’m randomly buying cassettes of Japanese newage music. I have my old standbys, Pink Floyd, Orbital, Yes, Yellow Magic Orchestra who I listen to at least once every few weeks, but I’m shocked to discover what bands I’ve “forgotten” about. I saw Pearl Jam live over 10 times. I haven’t listened to an album of theirs since their last one came out in 2013 and I was moderately disappointed by it. Tonight I was in a YouTube hole with my boyfriend and I stumbled upon The Distillers. I haven’t listened to them in probably five years. I forgot how amazing they were and I didn’t even know that Brodie put out a solo record a few years back. Now I want to hear that too. When you want to hear everything you end up leaving good stuff aside I suppose. Now I want to try to do that less, I need to mix up my iPod more.


I guess I’d rather be buried in too much music than stuck in a decade prior though. That’s death. Your musical tastes get stuck in a generation and the next thing you know your way of thinking gets stuck there too. Always gotta evolve, always gotta look further back and forward at the same time. Ever expanding. The second I stop giving new music and different genres a chance is the day I sell my record collection and start listening to pop radio.

But for real this Steve Winwood thing kinda sucks.


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