I got a lot of flak on Friday when I posted on Facebook via my phone that I was going insane at the nail salon, as they were playing Neil Diamond songs back-to-back. I was panicked because I couldn’t find my headphones, but eventually did, plugged them in and drowned out the insanity with some Mumford & Sons.
Turns out, a lot of people really love Neil Diamond, judging from the comments. (It never got ugly, these friends just started peppering me with lyrics as a form of torture.) So here is the backstory for why I am NOT a fan.
It started when I was very young – 6 years old or so? I would get off the school bus at my babysitter’s, who had a son in my class. I clearly remember two things about my babysitter: she had an impressive collection of nail-wire “art” in her living room (you know, like big ships at sea or animals, made from wire criss-crossing on a black background) and she had an undying love for Neil Diamond. She was SO EXCITED when she picked up a new 45 and she would play the song over, and over, and over again. I particularly remember when she got “Reverend Blue Jeans” (as I thought he was singing, anyway, the song was “Forever in Blue Jeans”, no matter how many times I heard it. Which was a lot.
Fast forward 15 years. I’m out of college, and working at Carson Pirie Scott’s Menswear department – dress shirts and ties. The music that played overhead was Muzak, and it was pretty much the same dreck every day. And it never failed that there would be an hour of Neil Diamond music, done to Muzak, and for whatever reason, it just made me crazy. Because it’s earwormy to begin with, and then you mash it down and take out the words and synthesize it and now you’ve created a shadow monster, something that is ten-times worse than it’s source, like artificially-flavored chocolate chips. Better to have none at all than that lingering chemical taste in your mouth, I say.
I do make an exception for the hilarious Will Ferrell send-up of Behind the Music on SNL. That’s a case of improving on the original, imho.
And here’s a great example of the art I was trying to describe. I’m pretty sure she had a big ol’ ship over the sofa.
I know there are plenty of superfans who love Neil Diamond. But I was raised on the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, folk music and protest songs. Balladeers like Neil weren’t welcome at our house, and his music is like fingers on the chalkboard of my soul. But I also know that not every Neil Diamond enthusiast embraces wire ship art, either. So let’s celebrate what we can agree on – and I’m betting it’s a universal dislike of those faux chocolate chips!