Download audio (MP3)
We Built This City
It was bad music then, and its bad music now. But Fred Etheridge has a new attitude about it.
By Fred Etheridge
I've been walking through our house humming "We Built This City" by the Starship. You can't know what a huge jump this is for me.
I played drums for over 20 years. Keith Moon of "The Who" was my idol because of the wild abandon with which he played. He attacked the drums, and I tried to as well. I liked my rock with strong guitar riffs, solid bass lines and powerful drumming.
My college roommates and I would scoff at some of the songs we heard on the radio. We each had our own musical taste, but were united against what we found to be weak, shallow pop. One song we held out as especially bad: Starship's "We Built This City." The song claims to have built a city "on rock n' roll," but it isn't rock n' roll. It's just a synthesizer-based confection, with minimal guitars, backed by robo-drums. Pathetic, we thought. No heart, no soul.
One of my roommates from the Bay Area particularly hated the song. How, he wondered, could Jefferson Airplane, a real San Francisco band with the iconic "Surrealistic Pillow" to its name, have morphed into making jukebox candy that belonged next to The Captain & Tennille? Just disgusting.
Fast forward to today. Starship's "We Built This City" now plays in my house on a daily basis. The culprit? My four-year-old. She loves The Muppets' latest movie. And what song's on that soundtrack? You guessed it, "We Built This City." The thing is - and it pains me to admit it - I now find myself liking the song - just a little bit - because she likes it so much. At times I even find myself humming it. These moments almost feel like sacrilege, but I figure this must be cosmic retribution for my earlier bashing of Starship.
It may also show how children soften our edges, tempering the fervor of our youth; of how kids show us another way of looking at things.
So while in my Keith Moon days I could never have imagined voluntarily listening to this song, now I put it on every night with the Muppets soundtrack as my children go to sleep.
With a Perspective, I'm Fred Etheridge.
Fred Etheridge works with water rights for East Bay MUD.