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Bottlenecks and Common Threads

July 30, 2008

I’ve come to the conclusion that an awful lot of the music I like tends to be bottlenecked through specific artists.  Think of an hourglass shape.

Bottleneck #1: The Beatles.  I have a deep and abiding love for all things Fab.  And as such, I love the music that influenced them (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Arthur Anderson, Carl Perkins, Brian Wilson) and an awful lot of music influenced by them. 

Bottleneck #2: Gram Parsons.  Gram took all of what was great about country music and blended it with soul, rock, and jangle-pop.  He was the driving force behind the Byrds’ great “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album and the Flying Burrito Brothers.  For his two solo albums he recruited a lovely young singer named Emmylou Harris – easily his equal – who still carries on the legacy of "Cosmic American Music" for him.  The Stones were never better than when they were watching Gram’s every move.  And all the country music I like refers back to Gram in some way.

Bottleneck #3: and this is the one that surprised me – Nick Lowe.  Sure, in 1982 I picked up the Rockpile album "Seconds of Pleasure," and fell in love with it.  It reminded me of all the great 50s and 60s music I loved without sounding like a tribute or a parody.  At the time I thought I was a Dave Edmunds guy (and I still love his guitar playing and his voice) but that’s because I was a guitar guy and Lowe is a bass guy.  But it turns out that Nick Lowe represents a lot of what I love in music.

  • He’s a great producer.  I love his "bash it out now, fancy it up later" approach.  Lowe is widely credited with creating or at least best embodying the Punk Rock-DIY ethos. 
  • He effortlessly blends rock, folk, country, soul, rockabilly, girl-groups, Beach Boys harmony, and blues.  Music isn’t categorized that way for him.
  • He wrote "What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding?"  Nuff said.
  • He produced Elvis Costello’s best records.
  • He’s funny.  Really funny.  From the dark humor of Marie Provost to the hilarious blues of "A Knife and A Fork," to the charm of "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll," he is clearly a precursor to the humorous rock of the Barenaked Ladies, They Might Be Giants, and even Ween.
  • He hired Bill Kirchen to play in his band, and he collaborated on Kirchen’s newest CD. 

So where are my theological bottlenecks and common threads?

  1. The Wesleys, no question.  A movement founded by guys who were awesome theologians and songwriters is alright by me.
  2. Schleiermacher.  Read Brian Gerrish’s A Prince of the Church for an idea of why I love Schleiermacher.
  3. The Niebuhrs.  I graduated from Eden, so DUH!
  4. John Cobb.  I lean more toward Cobb than Schubert Ogden (the favorite around Eden’s campus).  While Schubert is more willing to go all the way with process theology, Cobb’s work is more churchy, and more practical for an ecclesial setting IMO.
  5. Leonard Sweet.  I think he gets a lot of stuff about leadership and relational theology right.

What about you?  Who are your bottlenecks and common threads? 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2008 9:16 am

    Will, I love this concept of a bottleneck. For me, Elvis Costello has to be one — since he was the one who led me to Nick Lowe (who led me to John Hiatt and Ron Sexsmith and a host of other artists who really mean a lot to me). Another is Ray
    Davies of the Kinks, who brought together a lot of British music hall, jazz, and Brit Invasion rock and in his turn influenced a whole generation of younger artists like the Jam, the Smiths, Blur, Franz Ferdinand, and…well, the list goes on and on. (And Ron Sexsmith, who’s one of those artists who kinda popped up everywhere until I finally had to take notice of him — he’s fantastic, and also deeply spiritual, without cramming it down your throat). A prize is offered for anyone who can tell me the link that connects Nick Lowe and Ray Davies.

    But I know what you mean about the Wesleys. Every time I’m in the middle of singing a hymn and look down at the hymnal and realize it’s a Wesley hymn, it makes me delirious with joy, somehow.

  2. July 31, 2008 10:20 am

    Let’s see:

    Nick Lowe is a member of Rockpile along with Billy Bremner, who produced and played guitar with the Pretenders whose bandleader Chrissie Hynde has a child with Ray Davies. I believe that the Pretenders’ demo tape was given to Lowe.

    What do I win?


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