Kidless in Old Hangtown and the current state of Rock and Roll

The wife and I dropped off the kids last weekend at the grandparents for Easter break. We uprooted them from that area last year so it was a good opportunity for them to connect with their friends and spend a little time away from us, mean old taskmasters that we are.

On Saturday we planned to get together with Kylie’s friend Dylan and his parents, Hal (the caretaker of two wonderful blogs—“Dispatches from the Away Dad Nation” and “Partly Fiction”) and Rhonda, who just happen to be very good friends of ours.

We ended up at a lake where we gorged ourselves on BBQ ribs, potato salad, chips and ice cold beer. As Hal and I were chatting, the conversation, as it so often does, turned to music. I told Hal that I had asked his son (who is 10) what music he liked and he told me “classic rock”. AC/DC, Beatles, Stones, being cited among a few others. Hal made the point that that was akin to us listening to Frank Sinatra (or Tommy Dorsey, or Benny Goodman, or…) when we were teenagers. We may be able to appreciate Old Blue Eyes now, but back then? No freakin’ way! Differentiating yourself from your parents through your musical choices was just part of growing up. I wanted nothing to do with The Statler Brothers, or my mom’s “Stars On 45”. I also didn’t want my folks listening to music I listened to; it would have been simply repellant.

The new generation, apparently, doesn’t feel this way. They have embraced music from the 60’s through the 90’s the same way we embraced our music back when it was “new”. I don’t know exactly why this is, but I have a few ideas. The easy answer would be that music today is crap when compared to the past. Seems logical, but I think it’s pretty unlikely, and very unfair to modern bands. Contrary to common opinion there are some very, very good bands out there putting out some marvelous albums. The other theory is that artists today are just recycling that “classic rock sound” that everything new is old and a pale imitation of what went before. Here’s the thing about that, though: music aficionados have been saying that every decade to the younger generations since Elvis put on his blue suede shoes and rocked the jailhouse. Rock and Roll is recycling. Rock and Roll is putting everything in a blender and coming up with something that tastes different but at the same time a little bit familiar.

The 3rd and one of the most palatable theories as far as I’m concerned, is television. T.V. is a problem. Specifically, American Idol is the problem. MTV hasn’t been a force or had any influence for new music since the mid 80’s, and American Idol has taken its place. A.I. represents everything that’s wrong in music today. It glorifies karaoke and tries to legitimize it as ART, which it most definitely is not. It’s an interesting drama, but musically horrific and damaging to a degree. However there have always been things like A.I. on the tube that have watered down rock’s impact with the youth. The Partridge Family, The Monkees, Donnie and Marie’s variety hour, etc etc etc., so T.V. can’t be the sole reason for this.

The fourth theory would have to be the internet. Music is now disposable and kids devour and forget music like they would devour a can of Pringles. Singles and ring tones are king, albums are history, not important, and have been relegated to something quaint and nostalgic. Sitting down and listening to an entire album, something that was integral to my generation is totally foreign to this generation. MTV, video games, texting and television has whittled down their attention spans to such a degree that one hour of doing nothing but listening is unthinkable.

The fifth and final reason why “the kids” are embracing our tuneage lately would have to be the arrogance of the music industry itself. You can’t call it greed, exactly, ‘cause they’ve always been greedy. The industry as it used to be is dying, is D.E.A.D., thanks in part to file sharing and the internet, and they have done nothing but sue single moms, allow censorship to enter into the equation, and screw over young, naive bands with terribly unfair and malicious recording contracts. They did everything in their power to f*#k themselves royally and I have no compassion for them.

I am really astonished when I hear that the #1 record on Billboard’s pop chart got there by selling a paltry 60,000 albums. Compare that to the 70’s where bands couldn’t get in the top 20 without shifting at least half a million units. The record industry will tell you that artists’ appeal in general is “becoming more selective”, but we all know better. They are six feet under and shan’t return.

I don’t mind that my kids covet my record collection; I just feel a little sad that they won’t be able to experience the sublime pleasures of discovering music on their own.