Answers & Advice: Shout It Out Loud

All great "first songs" should make you want to learn more kick-ass jams as soon as you can.

Hey, John: What was the best album that came out this year?

—Anonymous

Roderick: I recently learned I was being featured on a website called "Fuck Yeah Aging Hipsters." I visited the site with some trepidation, since there's nothing more grotesque than an old hipster who refuses to age with dignity. What if they mocked my white boat shoes and cardigan sweaters and accused me of being washed-up and tired?

I remember in my 20s reserving special disdain for guys in their 40s who dyed their hair and tried too hard to remain in the scene. Oh, God, that's not me, is it? I'm not one of those dudes who stands around with bad breath and a slightly "wrong" take on youth fashion talking about his new "project," am I? SHOOT ME NOW, THERE'S NOTHING WORSE!

Thankfully, "Fuck Yeah Aging Hipsters" appears not to mock old hipsters as much as celebrate them, but those brief, anxious moments were like a hipster near-death experience for me. I have to get right with Jesus! Who cares what the best album that came out this year is? Life is too short!

We've had vampires make a resurgence, and now it seems reimagining of fairy tales is all the rage. What will be the zeitgeist in 2012 that will have everyone clamoring to do their take on it?

—Kristine

I have it on good authority from high-placed friends in Hollywood that 2012 is going to be all about the "Celebrity Cast in a Cannonball Run–Style Car Race Across America" movie. Currently in development is Beanbag and the County Mountie starring Ewan McGregor as "Beanbag," a rascally Florida boy-band impresario who drives his white Lexus to Bozeman, Montana, to escape his creditors, and Ian McKellen as the sheriff who lost his house in the mortgage crisis. With appearances by Don Cheadle, Jesse James, Roger Moore, Bow Wow, Charo, and Martha Stewart.

Also in development: Speeding Tickets!, starring Lindsay Lohan as a spunky mom who takes a million-dollar bet she can't drive an alcoholic billionaire (George Clooney) across the country in 48 hours. Turns out she's got a trunk full of methylamine and is a renegade CIA assassin. Featuring Don Rickles, Xzibit, Brad Pitt, Stanley Tucci, Aimee Mann, Donald Trump, and Eminem.

Slated for a spring release is Outta Here!, with Nicolas Cage as a retired stuntman who pulls one last job to pay for his boyfriend's sex-reassignment surgery. The stunt? Jump every single "closed for repairs" bridge between San Diego and Portland, Maine. Also starring John McEnroe, Cher, Katie Holmes, Olivia Newton-John, Vin Diesel, and a CGI Hervé Villechaize. 2012 is going to be another great year at the movies!

Dear John: Now that you have a baby, are you going to start making music for babies and toddlers like every other "rocker"? How is it different crafting music for swaddled babes versus skinny-jeaned babes?

—Dr. SSSSS

What are you talking about? Indie rockers are the biggest crybabies known to man! The only difference between indie rockers and actual infants in terms of their musical taste is that children tend to be more open-minded about time-signature changes, while indie rockers are much more responsive to lyrics that make routine disappointment and sadness seem like noble suffering.

In terms of my past songwriting, it's a toss-up which group I appeal to more. As for the future, I'm saying the same thing every single pop musician of the past 20 years whose next LP is long overdue has said: "This next one's going to be a real rocker."

What's the best song for beginning guitarists to play?

—The Pope of Cats

It used to be "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple, absolutely the unanimously agreed-upon first song to learn for beginning guitar players from 1972 onward. There was a time you couldn't walk into a music store in America without hearing five different teenagers hacking away at it simultaneously, a sound akin to someone drowning Henry Mancini in liquid asphalt. It's much easier to play than "Stairway to Heaven," and sounds tougher to boot, but it became synonymous with "I suck at guitar" so fast that it even reflected poorly on the original recording.

There was never any clear reason for its universal appeal except that from '72 to '85, pretty much everyone learning to play guitar was also pretty stoned on Tijuana ditch-weed, but in the past dozen years the world of music has fractured and balkanized so much that no single song is so ubiquitous.

In my personal opinion, the best song to learn as a beginning guitarist is "Bad Moon Rising" by CCR, not only because it was the first song I learned on guitar, but also because it teaches you two things: the basic feeling of what it's like to play kick-ass jams, and the core truth that most kick-ass jams are totally simple. All great "first songs" should make you want to learn more kick-ass jams as soon as you can.

John Roderick is the singer and songwriter responsible for Seattle's The Long Winters. He tweets @johnroderick.

 
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