Okay, this is one of those things that make me an elitist snob. Even so, perhaps you’ll understand my befuddlement and slight consternation.
So there was a young lady who seemed nice enough, a little peculiar maybe. But I was cheered to see she was wearing a Bob Marley tee shirt, since I am always glad to see a young person whose taste in music goes back further than Iggy Azalea and Justin Bieber. So I paid her a compliment on her taste in music. She responded by launching into an anti-marijuana monologue. This was a little perplexing, since the last thing I expect to hear from a Bob Marley fan is an anti-pot diatribe. To put it in a slightly different way, the last person I expect to give an anti-pot monologue is a Bob Marley fan. I just said the same thing twice, but I’m trying to let my point sink in. Let’s try it this way: Hearing an anti-pot diatribe from a Bob Marley fan is like listening to a sermon from an Orthodox rabbi and being taken aback when he starts raving about the Shoney’s breakfast bar and says, “Man, that bacon was so great I completely forgot my manners and started grabbing the bacon off the bar with my bare hands and shoveling it in. I mean, I was inhaling that fuckin’ stuff. Man, that shit was great. But let me get back to the story of Jacob’s coat of many colors and what it tells us about human selfishness.” Okay, that would have been slightly more startling to hear. Even so, I don’t expect to hear a twenty-three year-old in a Bob Marley shirt tell me she hates pot, she’s never tried pot, and she never intends to try pot.
Hey, I don’t force people into categories. Live and let live, I say. But even I can be a little surprised when people exhibit behavior that doesn’t fit into their obvious social class.
Then, after she tells me of her abhorrence for pot, she throws me a little curve. She tells me that only one person in the world could ever get her to try pot. Only one person in the world.
Want to guess who that person was? You get one guess. No, it wasn’t Jesus. No, not Buddha. She wasn’t that cool. That’s right, it was Bob Marley.
Well, I did what I often do. I made a little joke. “I guess you won’t be smoking pot anytime soon,” I said. Then, when that didn’t sink in, I said, “He’s been dead a long time. And he doesn’t seem to be coming back.”
She didn’t laugh. I don’t think she realized I was tiring to be slightly humorous.
And so I tried another tack. I asked a question: “What’s your favorite Bob Marley song?” I said.
I was sure she was going to say “No Woman No Cry.” I don’t know why, she just seemed like a “No Woman No Cry” kind of person. Now, I’m not even sure “No Woman No Cry” is my favorite Bob Marley song. It might be “Redemption Song.” It’s a tossup between those two. The point is that either song would be a fine choice, perfectly acceptable.
Want to know her favorite Bob Marley song? Want to take a guess? It was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was her favorite Bob Marley song.
For starters, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was recorded about a decade after Bob Marley’s death. I’m getting picky here, but “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is not a reggae song. It might be Jamaican, or at least have a Jamaican flavor, but it isn’t reggae. Also, it’s pretty much an a capella song with some whistling thrown in. Bob Marley was known for playing with a band. They were known as the Wailers incidentally. Now, I don’t expect the average Joe and Jill Vanilla to know that, but I do kind of assume anyone who loves Bob Marley enough to put his face on their chest might know that. I know, only hipsters and music nerds care about these minor niggling details, but even so, can you understand my befuddlement and slight annoyance?
I’m not trying to be a dick, I swear. I’m not saying all this just to prove my knowledge of music. Okay, maybe I am, a little bit. What’s wrong with that? I’ve spent a few years toking up and paying attention to songs. You know, the things that people do when they care about music. What’s wrong with that? Should I be ashamed because I know the lyrics to some of the Bob Dylan songs that aren’t so great, like “Handy Dandy”? Sure, it ain’t “Queen Jane Approximately,” or “Queen Anne, Roughly on 33rd St.,” or whatever, but it’s got a bouncy beat if you’ve been drinking a few vodka martinis to go with that doobie you’ve been smoking. The point is, look, I don’t know what the point is. My reminiscence has got me starting remembering all the deep insights I had while smoking some sort of cheap green leaves and listening to music that might have been more mediocre than I wanted to admit at the time, and now I’ve gone and wandered all over the place. Now let me get back on track.
Okay, I’m back on track. People wearing shirts for bands they know nothing about. I once spent a lot of time staring at a shirt worn by a kid at work. Why was I staring at his shirt? Because the faces on this shirt were intense and strangely familiar. It didn’t take me long to realize why they were so familiar. The shirt consisted of the faces of a bunch of famous serial killers. There they were, Richard Ramirez and Son of Sam. Did this kid know that? No, he didn’t. All he knew was that someone gave him this shirt, which he wore nearly every day. Now you don’t have to be a minister to think there’s something vaguely unethical about flaunting the faces of horrendous murderers with appalling causality. As it happens, it was a punk shirt, the shirt of a hardcore thrash band that had no qualms about exploiting the images of insane murderers. Well, if you’re wearing a shirt like that, you ought to be prepared to defend yourself if somebody objects to it. You should be prepared to display your unflappability with some statement like, “Madame or sir, while I understand your offense at the cheerful cultural objectification of bloodthirsty scumbags who clearly don’t deserve to be commemorated by anyone other than the Prince of Darkness at some Black Mass held in the bowels of the lowest circles of Hell, my shirt is actually a witty disquisition on the nature of celebrity in our times. I’d love to explain it all to you, but I’m off to Oxford to deliver a speech on the importance of semiotics in our modern lives. Goodbye, or as they say in France, adieu mon amis.” But he just said, “I don’t what the fuck it is.”
Before you call me a bourgeois pig, let me assure that I am aware that some people buy whatever’s available at the thrift shop and can’t afford anything else. Look, I am aware of this. I’ve been there myself. I am perfectly willing to make an exception for this. If you say, Look, ma, I can’t afford nothing, then I will say, Very well then, carry on. I’m not gonna give you any shit over it. But if you can afford three hundred dollars worth of video games a month, then why are you spending fifteen to thirty dollars on a shirt for band you never even heard of? Spend that money on a band you actually like!
The worst offenders in this category, which I call Schedule 3 Shirt Offenses, are those wearing Misfits shirts. I’m pretty sure the Misfits would be forgotten by everyone but punk rock trivia obsessives if not for their choice of a skeletal logo. As I write this a million people are wearing shirts with the Misfits logo of a grinning skullface with absolutely zero knowledge of the name of a single Misfits song, much less the knowledge that the Misfits ripped their logo off an old Republic serial called The Crimson Ghost. Running a close second are all those people with Ramones shirts. These people can usually be forgiven because at least they know that the Ramones did a song called “Hey Ho Let’s Go.” Unlike the Misfits, the Ramones recorded a few songs that people can recognize. Quite a few people can at least name one Ramones song. Usually it’s “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” Sometimes it’s “Rock and Roll High School.” I’m just pleased the Ramones are still around, in some form or another.
There should be background checks for anyone wishing to buy a tee shirt. All you have to do is correctly name one song by the musician you intend to represent. Name one Bob Marley song. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? (Buzzer sound) Wrong! I’m sorry, ma’am, I can’t allow you to buy that shirt. Come back when you’re twenty-five. Name me one Rolling Stones song from Sticky Fingers. No, “Love Me Do” is not from Sticky Fingers. Tell you what though, I’ll let you have this Bruno Mars shirt for free.
Until next time, keep wearing that Tupac shirt, even if you have only a slight knowledge of who Tupac was. But you’ll please excuse me if I scream a little bit.