I’m a diehard 49ers fan so you’re getting a Super Bowl column. I may write another celebratory, gloating one later if they win. If they lose, I’ll never mention it again.
I’d really like to write a game preview but this is a music column, so let’s focus on that. Unfortunately.
As Ray Ratto pointed out in sports and culture website Defector, after their respective conference championship wins, the Kansas City Chiefs had Taylor Swift on the field, while the Niners had Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir. There’s a minor disparity in popularity between those, but at least Bobby Weir is from San Francisco. Taylor Swift grew up in West Reading, Penn before moving to Nashville and New York. Kansas City hasn’t and will never be on the list.
So let’s face off fairly and compare Bay Area and Kansas City area music artists. And as a handicap, I’ll leave out the Metallicas, Grateful Deads and Jeffersons Airplanes. This should be fun.
Bay Area: Faith No More — “Epic”
Let’s start with San Francisco’s Faith No More. You probably know “Epic,” which was a big hit in 1990, but they’d actually been around since 1979 in different forms. In fact, youths are probably more familiar with their 1985 song “We Care A Lot,” which has been in commercials for… an airline maybe? I don’t really watch commercials most of the time. Wait, that means youths watch them less. Do you people not know commercial songs anymore? Maybe it’s in a YouTube ad.
What was I saying?
Oh, right. Faith No More is a very good post-punk band that eventually went alt-rock a decade or so later. And they’re from here. I’m calling that a point for us. What have you got, Kansas City?
Kansas City: Puddle of Mudd — “She Hates Me”
I’m moderately obsessed with Bay Area music—not Missouri music—so I had to look up who’s from there. And the first name that jumped out at me is Puddle of Mudd.
I think most guys in their late teens and early 20s in 2002 at least secretly liked “She Hates Me,” with bros not making it a secret at all and the rest of us being more than a little ashamed of it. It is extremely 2002. If any youths are wondering what the late ’90s and early 2000s were like, just watch this music video and a late night cable commercial for “Girls Gone Wild,” and that’s basically it. It was a profoundly stupid time. Things are bad now, don’t get me wrong, but at least it’s not a nonstop national bro-down anymore. We’ve evolved a little in some ways.
So thanks for that, Kansas City.
Bay Area: Big Brother and the Holding Company — “Piece of My Heart”
We’ve spent enough time at the turn of the millennium. Let’s go back to a better time: The ’60s. I know I said no big names, but it’s really hard to find a San Francisco band from the ’60s that didn’t get super famous. The Dead, the Plane … Steve Miller Band. Come on.
So how did I pick Big Brother and the Holding Company? Because you may not have heard the band name. That said, the lead singer was Janis Joplin, one of the greatest musicians of all time, a singular talent who the world lost too soon.
Can’t wait to see what K.C. brought to the table.
Kansas City: Burt Bacharach — “What the World Needs Now Is Love”
Burt Bacharach is an all-time songwriter and his collaborations with Dionne Warwick and Hal David are all amazing. Don’t take any of this as personal against the man himself. That said: Kinda running behind the pack there, huh? By the mid-’60s when this song came out, we had people like Janis. This is way more ’50s. I know this was probably more widely popular at the time but, in retrospect, not exactly innovative. Kinda dated.
I do know one area where they probably have us beat, though, so let’s get it over with.
Bay Area: Dave Brubeck — “Take Five”
Born and raised in my East Bay hometown of Concord, Dave Brubeck is an all-time jazz great. Most of the West Coast jazz scene was in L.A., but Brubeck got his start at the Black Hawk nightclub in San Francisco and went on to play with the likes of Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington, whom he considered a good friend. I heard from his son that when Brubeck found out he was going to be on the cover of Time Magazine, he wanted to refuse and tell them to use Duke Ellington instead, but Ellington told him to do it for the sake of jazz as an artform. Good dude, that Brubeck.
Kansas City: Charlie Parker — “Ornithology”
Along with New Orleans and Chicago, Kansas City is one of the jazz capitals of the world. This isn’t a fair fight. I’m a big fan of Brubeck and will defend him endlessly, but it was hard to choose which Kansas City jazz musician I wanted to use as the example. And I’m not even a jazz fan. They’re all so good! I almost went with Count Basie but couldn’t not use Yardbird.
I’m still taking the win, though, since the Kansas City jazz scene fell out of popularity nearly 70 years ago, and the Bay Area still has great bands like… Train? Huh. Are things really that bleak? Well, I guess nobody in the city can afford to be in a band anymore since they have to work at least four jobs to make rent.
In summary: Go Niners.
Follow publisher Daniel J. Willis and send column ideas to him at @bayareadata.press on BlueSky. (He has some invites if you ask nicely).