A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I wrote a rhapsodic review of Madonna.
I thought back then that she was a perfect encapsulation of American consumerism, and though that’s kind of an icky concept, I thought she was special because her music was so good. She captures (or at least back then, captured) the American “zeitgeist” (sorry to use such a geek crit-term, but it’s a good one) with pure pop for all people. Anyone who didn’t like her music were just plain high-culture snobs or didn’t have an ounce of humor and/or rhythm in their bones.
I don’t pay much attention to Madonna these days, but I thought of her just now, while slaving away at my desk. My iPod stumbled across a track from one of the many “Japan Nite” sampler CDs I saved from more than a decade of jaunts to the South by Southwest music inudtrsy conference in Austin, TX.
I paused after a few seconds because I recognized the melody, which was in a driving bluegrass style with a deftly-played banjo out front, and a creaky fiddle sawing out the hook. But I couldn’t place the song… until two women’s chirpy voices chimed in with the lyrics.
It was Madonna’s early hit, “Material Girl,” which was a statement of purpose for her at the time (the video had her dressed as Marilyn Monroe, doing the “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” routine with a buncha tuxedoed men).
This version was by Petty Booka, a modern folk/pop/bubblegum duo from Tokyo who wear cowboy hats, play ukuleles and cover everything from punk to Patsy Cline.
The track made me smile, and realize that great pop songs can stand the test of time — and context.
My trusty iPod shuffled on, and the next track turned out to be Doug Sahm — a true Texas musical god and one of my all-time favorite performers, rest his soul — from his terrific album of blues and soul covers, “The Last Real Texas Blues Band.”
More Austin SXSW memories, sweet ones.
Back to reality, back to Earth, and back to work.