Joe Cool

by J.D. Rhoades


I’m not as cool as I used to be.

I was reminded of this the other night as I was watching one of my favorite shows these days. It’s called “Live From Daryl’s House.” Each half hour episode is hosted by Daryl Hall. Yeah, that Daryl Hall, formerly of Hall and Oates. Hall invites a different artist every week to his actual house in rural New York for dinner and music with his band of excellent sidemen. The guests range from veterans like Smokey Robinson and Booker T. Jones to up and coming acts like Plain White T’s (the duo who brought you “Hey There Delilah”) and Sharon Jones (of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings). The show started as a webcast, and you can still catch it online, but it’s also now on the music network Palladia. Everyone seems to be having a good time just kicking back and playing some good music, and I really enjoy it.

But you know, there was a time when I would have turned up my nose at the idea of watching anything hosted by someone as “Top 40” as Daryl Hall. In the 70’s, Hall and Oates weren’t cool enough for me. They didn’t rock nearly hard enough for a kid who was into Zeppelin, AC/DC and Aerosmith. By the 80’s, I was wearing my ripped jeans and my Clash T-shirts and cranking up the Elvis Costello and Lou Reed. I confess, I even looked down my nose at some of the bands I’d previously loved, who I now regarded as dinosaurs (at least in public–I’d still put on the great big black Koss headphones with the foam earpieces and drop the needle on my worn copy of “Physical Graffiti” from time to time, but only when I didn’t think anyone else was around).

In short, like a lot of young men in their late teens and early twenties, I was too cool for some kinds of music. Which is to say, I was an insufferable snob, a hipster before that was the word for it. I’m not saying I actually coined the catchphrase, “oh, yeah, they’re my favorite band. They’re kind of obscure though, you probably never heard of them.” But I did say stuff like that. I’m not saying I’m proud of it.

But in the past few years, I guess I’ve mellowed. Okay, I still think “Rich Girl” is annoying, but I can listen to a song like “Sara Smile” or “She’s Gone” and recognize them for the wonderfully emotive bits of blue-eyed soul that they are. And I play my AC/DC records right out in the open again (to the accompaniment of much eye-rolling from the wife and kids. They’re still cool, you know).

Sad to say, once I started writing mysteries, I slowly drifted back into the same old trap. I was a noir and hardboiled guy, pure and simple. I loved Ken Bruen, Jason Starr, Duane Swierczynski, Allan Guthrie. The closest I ever got to mainstream was Elmore Leonard. When I read “the classics” it was likely to be something like Jim Thompson or James M. Cain. Bestsellers? Traditional mysteries? Or even cozies? Child, please. I was way too cool for that.

Thank God, it took me less time to get over myself this go-round, and I have the knockout writing of writers like William Kent Krueger (who, as I wrote back in 2007, “saved me from noir snobbery”), Margaret Maron, and Laura Lippman, to name just a few, to thank for it. I can read a Christa Faust, then turn around and read a Dorothy L. Sayers and love ’em both.

No, I’m not as cool as I used to be. Thank God.

So ‘fess up. Were you ever too cool to enjoy something you find yourself digging now?


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