By Selena Puente
Dr. William Doyle keeps our Fundamentals of Economics class full of life, and anyone who has taken a class with him knows that his expertise stretches well beyond economic and financial knowledge into the depths of poetry, music and vinyl. He always saunters into class, cowboy boots tapping slowly as he descends into any one of the numerous and cavernous Gorman lecture halls.
After spending an hour with him in his office, discussing everything from Cormac McCarthy to Jimi Hendrix in the ginger light of his desk lamp, Doyle made it clear to me that the secret to loving anything, especially music, is to love it like a child does: with a continual cheerfulness.
“I have a really weird thing, and it doesn’t just apply to music,” Doyle said. “You know the way kids are? I want things again and again. When I first watched [the television series] “The Lonesome Dove,” I swear I didn’t watch anything else for three months, and I probably racked Blockbuster’s price up with the late fees because I wouldn’t bring it back. I just kept watching it. I could watch “Downton Abbey” and “Breaking Bad” over and over again. It’s not just entertainment. It’s high art.” Below is the rest of the interview, but it is just a snippet of the lowdown on Doyle:
SP: You are known for your vinyl collection. What does vinyl do that changes the experience of listening to music?
BD: I’ve invested a huge amount of money in my turntable. I listen to 75 to 80 percent of my music on vinyl. I don’t listen to any music downloads. Sometimes I listen to stuff on YouTube that’s not available anywhere else. But there’s a whole ritual involved in vinyl, and the sound isn’t better, it’s different. For instance, Bob’s Dylan’s “Basement Tapes” on CD is too clean, that should have a little surface noise. When I was a teenager, cars didn’t have a CD player. All cars had an AM radio. Listening to old stuff like The Beach Boys or Bob Dylan should sound like it’s coming from an AM radio.
SP: I completely agree. It’s so sad how we have to compress music so much that we lose a certain quality. In terms of modern music though, do you have a favorite band, or artist that you’re very into right now? Maybe even just recently?
BD: I have artists from the 1970s and 1990s that I like, but after the 2010 [sic] I just don’t know. I do like alt-country. I grew up in a really rural area. I am bingeing on Galaxie 500 lately. I have to listen to the studio version and the Copenhagen (live) version of “Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste” at least once every night at this point. Three months ago I wasn’t listening to them at all. I just pulled that album out one day. I remember I was listening to Velvet Underground’s third album thinking, “Well, Galaxie 500 used to go very well with Velvet Underground.” I’d been listening to Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” for like six months. I just go through certain phases where I have to listen to one thing everyday until I get burnt out on it.
(For listener background: Galaxie 500 was an shoegaze/dream pop band that formed in 1987. Most people know them because of their song “Tugboat.” It was featured in the 2012 adaptation of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” They released three albums in their four years as a band. Fun-factoid: They were only able to get their start because they were Harvard classmates with Conan O’Brien, who lent them a drum kit to play on.)
SP: So you’re a shoegaze fan? Is that your favorite genre? Or just what you’re into now?
BD: I do enjoy shoegaze above all. It only enjoyed a short heyday, but when it was popular, it was really really popular. Anything [really] with a lot of distorted guitars, a lot of feedback in minor keys. Metal is always in major keys, it comes across as very aggressive. Shoegaze is in minor keys, and the word that everyone uses is “blissed-out.” Music should sound as much like a 747 taking off as is humanly possible.
SP: Is there any music that you like now simply because you listened to it when you were younger? Or just have a really pleasant memory about it? Maybe when you were just acting stupid with friends?
BD: In terms of sheer stupidity, listening to something as a teenager, would have to be Iggy and the Stooges’ “Rawpower.” I also used to have a friend who was such a Hendrix fan that he didn’t have any other records but Hendrix albums, until he bought Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps.” We’d listen to “Voodoo Child” and he’d always say, “Play it at the proper volume, meaning, turn it up as high as it will go.” Back in those days, there were Beatles people and [Rolling] Stones people. All of my friends were Stones people, I never went to party where the Beatles were playing. But Led Zeppelin brought everyone together.
SP: Are there any venues you go to here in Dallas to listen to music? Do you play any musical instruments?
BD: I’m just too old. Live music is too loud in Deep Ellum. It’s not the good kind of loud, it’s ear-splitting loud. I was never musical. I can’t sing. My dad was the same way. Whenever we were in church he would just belt out, and we’d all stare at him thinking, “Do you not know that you’re a note and half off?”
For more on Doyle, try to catch him on the Mall, since he has busy office hours, and once he leaves work he is off to spin some vinyl and enjoy life Doyle-style. He is a man well-versed in the world and music, pun intended. He also has a way of making anyone feel welcome when he speaks to them, and maybe that stems from a comment he made during the interview about Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”:
“It’s like his wife says in the very beginning of the book, if you’re gonna stay alive you need to find someone to love. That’s why he’s so devoted to his son, because there is nothing else in this world. You need some kind of radical hope.”