I used to be a music snob. I openly admit it because I realised, just this year, that I no longer was and that I had been. I can even pin-point when it started. I was at uni, and I had started to meet people who were into the same music as me, but it was cool. Hipster became a thing, and collecting records and liking old music was what the cool guys did. People openly talked about it. This might be to do with growing up in a smaller city, I don’t know — but I never really knew anyone until I was older that liked collecting records and old music.
Those kinds of people who would never admit to liking anything not deemed cool enough, didn’t give the game away when there was something they didn’t know — I was one of them.
I’d always been heavily into music — I had my own computer in my room from about 14, and with the help of Bearshare and Limetree, I was able to download all the music I liked. I was very lucky that I grew up with the likes of Zeppelin, The Doors, Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, and through older friends, The Cure, The Smiths, Curve, all sorts of alternative greatness. I always remember, though, feeling very humble at the time and openly asking questions about artists and bands I didn’t know, or asking advice on things and not making a point of telling people about the music I liked. I just liked it.
As I grew older, I got into heavy rock and started hanging around with 80s-hair-metal throwbacks in ripped jeans, leather jackets and bandanas. I thought they were the bees knees. Even then, though, I remember saying to a friend, “Who are Motley Crue?”, to which she looked at me, appalled. I didn’t mind so much, I was just happy to discover someone new. From rock, I (bizarrely) went into funky house, bar grooves, electro, rap and pop. I took no shame in this, I well and truly got my groove on to some of the cheesiest and fastest music around.
So what happened? I think it was around the time I started getting into Rockabilly. I’d always loved the 50s, since I was young enough to notice how awesome the fashion was and pined to be a cast member in Grease (around 6–7 or so I think?), but performing burlesque and having a friend also into the music enabled me to discover a whole new genre.
I started putting on rockabilly live music nights in Leeds. I was told through MySpace by some rockabilly-die-hards that my night was shit and wasn’t pure rockabilly because I put a band on who used an electric double bass, and a blues band who jammed the whole set. I didn’t think I cared, but looking back I think I took it very personally. There’s a massive live local music scene in Leeds and I was working in a bar that played host to a lot of cool local bands — I was entering their domain, and trying to fit in bad.
What I should have realised is that loving not just the music but the culture behind the music (being a lover of social history it’s always something I loved to research) and not knowing everything was OK — I shouldn’t have had to waste breath on trying to “prove” I was cool. But, you live and learn.
I remember being outraged that a dance cover of Tiny Dancer had come out, and someone saying to me that it was because I wanted to keep the “cool” music in the “cool” group — when really I should have been happy that a larger group of people would come to hear how great the original was. He was right.
Whether you know every one of the Stones albums or whether someone’s just stuck on a record and it’s clicked with you the first time you’ve ever heard it and you go off to discover more, it’s all a valid experience. Someone said to me once ‘you know, just because you’ve heard I don’t like Mondays you can’t say you love the Boomtown Rats’. Actually, I can, if I want. Someone also said to me that their estimation of me went down when I only knew one song that Modest Mouse had done. Ever since I stopped being such a music snob and started being open about what I did and didn’t know — I’ve faced criticism at my music choices and knowledge, but I’ve been opened up to so much more music.
If the music makes you feel good, and you interpret it in your own way, that’s all that matters. As I’ve become more confident in my own music collection and knowledge gaps, I’ve realised that those people who bang on and on about how little you know and try and test what you do know to check if you’re a fraudster are, for the most part, fraudsters themselves. That’s not the point of music and it’s elitist to act that way.
If you don’t like something, then fine, say you don’t like it, but don’t just not like it because it’s pop or because so-and-so likes it so by association it must be bad. And while I’m on the subject, telling someone they’re too young to like a certain band or style of music is equally bad. By the same account, we shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the music of Mozart because we weren’t born in the 18th century.
Watch out for my posts on new music found and old re-discovered music I’ve been listening to, prepare for some nostalgic classics and feel free to share your newly discovered music with me— after all — let’s not pretend that the majority of the music we discover isn’t through recommendation anyway. Much as we’d like to think we go off and find it all by ourselves and liked it before it was cool. ;-)