11 July 2008

My Generation: Part 2, Verse 3, Chapter 4, Jackson 5, Nikki 6

Do you get the impression that 20 years from now, when we look back on the summer of ’89, the only thing we are going to be able to reminisce about is how much we reminisced about the summer of ’69?”

So asked Todd Snider in this Youtube video introducing a song off of his 1994 album “Songs from a Daily Planet” called “My Generation, Part 2”

The song is a tongue and cheek defense of the “Me” Generation, written to counter the claims of ageing hippies lamenting that “You’re generation hasn’t done shit..(and Live Aid doesn’t count)” In the chorus, he sings wryly “Here’s to living off dad as long as you can and blending in with the crowd/Yeah, My generation should be proud…

I am not sure that I agree that my generation “hasn’t done shit” (Though I must admit that, as I write this, nothing comes to mind). I will admit, however, that the music of my 80’s youth is utterly forgettable. Twenty years on, I only have fond memories maybe 10 songs from the 80’s and have less than a handful in my CD and digital music collections. A quick survey of the songs on my Ipod finds that of 907 songs (pathetic I know, shut up), less than 25 of them (about 2.7%) were hits in the ‘80’s By contrast, my Ipod is littered with all kinds of music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Part of the reason for this is because my dad still has his box of original 45’s from his teenage years in the 50’s (Don’t know what a 45 is? Google it). Every now and then when I was a kid, he would take them out and blast Elvis’s “Hound Dog”, Ricky Nelson’s “Hello, Mary Lou” or Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” through the house. I don’t care how old that music is, it’s impossible not to dance around like a happy go lucky fool when that stuff is playing full blast.

Also, I had a music teacher in middle school who introduced us all to 60’s and 70’s rock and pop. He wasn’t one of those “cool” teachers who wore jeans and said “man” a lot in order to “get down on our level.” He was the complete opposite. He dressed in a suit and tie every day, wore horn rimmed glasses and shiny leather soled shoes, and carried a briefcase. But within that Reaganesque conservative exterior was a rocker yearning to breath free.

He showed us the Chuck Berry concert film “Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll” on movie day. We spent an entire week dissecting Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. He handed out the lyrics to Don McClean’s “American Pie” and took us through a lecture on the history of rock and roll, verse by verse. We spent an entire class period discussing Simon and Garfunkels “I am a Rock” More than anything else, he is the reason I love rock and roll.

But, on a generational level, in the 1980’s there was a sense, at least amongst white suburban teenagers, that as hard as our music rocked, it paled in comparison with that which had come before. For every Gun’s and Rose’s, who legitimately rocked for at least one earth shattering album, or Motley Crue, who did a lot of Smoking in the Boys Room with Girls, Girls, Girls there are 10 or 15 Warrant’s or Wingers, White Lions, Whitesnake’s or W.A.S.P. (what’s with all the W’s by the way?) who are utterly forgettable.

At school dances, the most popular slow song was Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” , released in1977, when we were three years old. During the schools battle of the bands the loudest applause were reserved for “Stairway to Heaven” from 1971 or “Sunshine of You’re Love” from 1968. You always knew that the long haired kid who sat on the playground playing guitar was a “serious artist” when he burst into Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” from 1975.

Its not that I dislike ‘80’s music. When it “Pour Some Sugar on Me” comes on the radio,I will turn in up, and for a moment reminisce about mullet’s, and summer days alternating between my friend’s pool and Legend of Zelda. But the feeling is fleeting, and I quickly pull up the Beatles or the Stones, or Tom Petty, or Ryan Adams on my Ipod, and free my soul, getting lost in that rock and roll and drifting away.

I can compare listening to the music of my youth to watching the TV shows of my youth. The advent of the DVD box set has made it possible to relive cherished TV memories, some of which are best left alone.

I was shocked when, after shelling out $40.00 bucks for the complete first season of the A-Team, I realized just how ridiculous the show was. I will only say this. If I ever find myself on the run from the Military Police for a crime I didn’t commit, I would not buy a van with a distinctive red stripe on the side, ride around, and blow up bad guys in every town I came to. I just doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. But that’s just me.

Whether it be the A-Team or LA Guns, my inner voice asks “Why did I used to like this?”

There has been a resurgence of interest in ‘80’s music that is in part due to nostalgic Gen X’ers, it is also driven by the current crop of teenagers. Just like it was cool for us to like classic rock, it is cool for them (at least some of them) to like ‘80’s rock (at least some of it).

In a way it makes sense. For them, as for me, it was the music of their older brothers or sisters, the music of the cool high school kids they looked up to in grammar school, the kids wanted to be like. Maybe, a part of casting off the chains of the former generation is to revere it, even as you cast it aside. Maybe I am just an idiot who is writing this because he can’t sleep. Who knows?

One this is for sure though, at least in terms of music, my generation hasn’t done shit, (and Live Aid doesn’t count).