Friday, March 18, 2005

Were the Bonzos Simply the Best Band Ever?

Well, the fellow here doesn't say, and if he did say, it's self-evident that he'd be grossly mistaken, if not morally deficient. But he does raise some interesting questions about teen cultural obsessions, with which several of those here are surely familiar. They are great fun to acquire, and surely help us discriminate the social wheat from the chaff, and at a point in life when such determinations need to be made, lest we spend all of life dividing our peers into jocks, hoods, freaks, brains, losers, and so on. We need a test with which to eliminate the vast majority of our acquaintance (unless we are losers, in which case the sole test is willingness to speak to us), while forging intimate and heretofore unsuspected alliances across the established castes. I speak of the hipness test. It has the advantage that it is simple: Are you into x, and if so how much? (The "how much" subqualification serves to quantify the extent of the person's purported hipness. It also eliminates poseurs by requiring special knowledge of x arcana -- not to be confused with Texarkana -- familiar only to true initiates.) The test has the disadvantage of its simplicity as well; it does not serve us at all well in a complex adult world in which our greatest friends may not have even minimal famiarity with, e.g., early Soft Machine; may not much care; and, terribile dictu, may not when exposed think x terribly interesting. Meanwhile fellow apostles of x may have gone on to become bank directors, skid row residents, condominium salesmen, interior decorators, or advocates of spiritualism. Worse,they may even have discarded the x obsession, and thought nothing about it in the intervening decades. They may even have come to like y, which, as we all know, is enjoyed only by frauds, dogmatic conformists, and persons genetically deficient in taste. But we socialize with them anyway, and think no further about the matter -- unless we are drunk and arguing about which records to play. And I think most of us (those here, anyway) retain a very few of our hipness tests (probably between one and two percent of the original total), and continue to apply them; but we cannot any longer summarily discard those who fail to pass them (while oft unknowingly ignorant that we are taking their measure), nor take any positive results as an indication of character (and often the reverse inference might be appropriate.) To what end, then? Perhaps against the possibility of reincarnation, so we'll be able to hit the ground running with regard to hipness -- assuming we don't return to a pre-LP world, and as a sloth. A more adequate explanation is that most thinking, especially social thinking, is mired in habit, for good or ill. And Bonzo is an intrinsically superior mode of habit than, for instance, the Beatles (or even the Rutles.) Q.E.D.