|Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) »|
This might make you feel old
Do you remember when you were a kid in the 80s or 90s and listening to Oldies on the radio? Today those stations play Classic Rock (the very term makes me cringe), but I clearly remember a time before that when you could tune in to stations that played rock hits from the 50s and 60s -- stuff like “Hound Dog” or “Rockin’ Robin,” and to me this was the music of a distant past.
Now here’s the disturbing thing: as old as that music was to me in my childhood, that’s how old my music seems to kids today. Just do the math: Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” was released in 1956, so in 1984 it was 28 years old. In 1984 U2’s The Unforgettable Fire was released, making it 28 years old today.
Did you get that? The Unforgettable Fire (or, if you’d rather, Madonna’s Like a Virgin) is as old to today’s youth as “Hound Dog” was to me.
Or consider this: Nirvana’s Nevermind, released in 1991, is now nearly as old as Abbey Road was when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve been listening to music with my summer school students and listening to repeated claims that my music is “old.” I resent that accusation first of all because it isn’t entirely true (they assume anything they haven’t heard before is old, even if it came out last year); second because they listen to music by Tupac, who died before many of them were even born; and third because today’s music just doesn’t sound that different from the music of twenty years ago.
Rock and Roll used to be about rebellion. When Elvis was shaking it for the teenagers of the 1950s the grown-ups were shocked and outraged. Then, when his fans grew up, it was their turn to be shocked and outraged by hair metal and Madonna’s sexuality. Each generation has worked to challenge the popular culture’s assumptions about what is acceptable in popular music, and each generation of parents has dutifully complained about that garbage kids listen to today.
But I’m afraid we’ve reached the limit of how shocking or radical popular music can (or is willing to) be. I have students who still think it’s rebellious to listen to Marilyn Manson and Eminem, and I take great joy in pointing out to them that those artists rose to fame when I was in high school.
When Adam Yauch passed away recently, Erika and I paid our respects by listening to some of our favorite Beastie Boys tracks. Daniel either told us he didn’t like that music or asked us to change it, and we lamented that kids today don’t appreciate good hip-hop. It was a fun joke, but there’s a real question underlying it: What music will the next generation be able to claim as their own? Is there any truly rebellious music left for them?
Hey, thanks for making me feel old. ‘ppreciate it.