Call For Comments: Music of your Youth

From Wayne: Other than family there have been two constants in my life since I was a wee lad: Comics and Music. Both are still a daily part of my life.  I was drawn to the radio from a very early age. I was a child in the 60s and a teen in the 70s. The rise of the music industry and Rock and Roll as a lifestyle are defining factors of these two decades, at least in terms of Pop Culture. The music I was exposed to then has become a defining factor in who I am. Not only do I still listen to my favorite music from that time I remain hungry to discover new music as well. I get really fannish over new bands. After all this time the discovery of something new that really speaks to me makes me a teen again.

Music was infused into most of the Pop Culture I consumed as a child. The Ed Sullivan Show was a Sunday night ritual in my house so even though I don’t have a specific memory of it I probably saw the famous Beatles appearance, as well as most of the 60s Rock icons he featured. The music industry, among others, had discovered teenagers as a marketable demographic in the 50s. By the 60s that was being extended to even younger children. The Monkees were created for television to cash in of the Beatles fad. Saturday morning cartoons were filled with Pop Rock acts. The Beatles and The Jackson 5 had animated shows. Various cartoon characters had bands and every episodfeatured a short, pre-MTV video montage with music. As we pointed out in a previous episode, in 1969, the year of Woodstock, the #1 song in America was “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies. Comics, cartoons, and rock have been connected and infused into my DNA ever since.

Which has led me to ask if this sort of obsession with music and its broader ramifications is common or if it is a generational thing? Mav has said this is not a real big thing for him (and he’ll elaborate farther down in the post). Have new technologies and the ways in which the infrastructure of the music industry has changed altered the way we interact with music fandom? In what ways does the music we listen to as young people affect our worldview? In the 60s there was a lot of talk about the Generation Gap, but can that exist in the same way when everything we ever knew is still available in some form online (ETEWAF). A friend and I were in high school twenty years apart but “Bohemian Rhapsody” was part of both experiences.

From Mav: To be fair, it’s not so much that I don’t care about music. I love music, but I’m not quite as invested in it as Wayne is. That may be one of the reasons that I find this to be such an interesting topic for this week’s show. I’ve long held the opinion (which I got from some stand-up comedian, though I can no longer remember who) that whatever music you’re listening to when you’re 14 becomes the soundtrack of your life.  And I’m not the only one. It turns out other people noticed this, and there’s actually real live research to back this up even. It’s almost like I’m not just talking out of my ass all the time. Who knew? Anyway, you may pick up other bands as you go, but there will never be anything else that is as memorable or important. That’s why we all think “music was so much better back in my day! The kids today don’t know what real music is! They don’t know what it’s like to listen to [insert band that you love but your parents thought was garbage here]!”

I mean, naturally, of course it’s “different for me” because my music “really was the best” and all the kids after me totally were listening to garbage.  Because I was lucky enough to turn 14 in 1988 when Public Enemy’s It Take’s a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back came out. “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” has been playing somewhere in my brain at all times ever since… it only takes a break when my brain decides to temporarily play “Don’t Believe the Hype” or  “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic.” Honestly, as far as problems in life go, this isn’t a bad one to have. Like if you turned 14 in 1997 when Spice Girls were on the top of the charts, I almost feel bad for you.

And I don’t want to hear anyone say PE sucks. I will fight you!

From Wayne: We’re trying to set up our guests for this episode, hoping to have representatives from several generations to explore this topic. It might just be me waxing rhapsodic about Queen. We’ll see.

In the meantime, what were you listening to when you were young? When you were a preteen? When you were a teen? Can you see how that has warped your perceptions of the world? How important is it to you? What is your personal soundtrack? Like any pop culture obsession, why does this matter so damn much to some of us?


11 Comments and 1 Webmention for “Call For Comments: Music of your Youth”

  1. If you have to wax rhapsodic about Queen, then you have to. 🙂

    I remember when Wayne’s World came out and someone said, “Have you heard that new Queen song – Bohemian Rhapsody?” I rolled my eyes.

    I’m with Wayne – I think music is essential – but I do wonder about how the change in technology has changed the experience. Are people today more likely to recognize a song but not be able to name the artist because they heard it on a random playlist? And not know any other songs by that artist because the listener doesn’t bother to get the album?

    I kind of want to make a class do a paper on music now . . .

    1. I was at a concert on Wednesday, surrounded by a wide age range of people. It made me happy to see so many young people singing along with the heavily classic rock oriented soundtrack that played before the show. But I overheard a couple of conversations that put this in perspective. “I don’t know… how many people were in the Rolling Stones? Six or Seven?” The Beatles Come Together played and a couple next to me were sure it was the Stones until they used Shazam to figure out it wasn’t. I’m not even really complaining about this phenomenon. It’s just interesting to me to see this mix of familiarity with the music but not the actual artists. I know not everybody is the hobbyist I am, and you don’t need to know Mick Jagger’s social security # to be a fan.

  2. My music tastes are… eclectic…. that being said… I have songs that I absolutely have no idea who sings them, I just like the songs.

    But if you hit late 80’s early 90’s country music, I can name many of them. Some within a couple of notes. (we used to play a game called “name it” when a song came on the radio).

    I also like MC Hammer, Tone Loc, Salt N Pepa along with Aerosmith, Metallica and Glen Miller (I mean, who doesn’t like Glen Miller)

    My world doesn’t really revolve around music though. I’m not a collector, but different songs will certainly transport me to certain times and places.

    Now, If you’re looking for a collector who’s life revolves around music, I am happy to tag in Jeff Donnelly.

    1. Yes, that would be me. Mine is truly a house of music- from a mammoth library of recordings (including over 10,000 LPs), to books, scores, autography… to the pipe organ in the livingroom. Even my office at the church where I work is now equipped with a stereo, including a turntable. A day without music just isn’t an option. But, this is what happens when your life’s work is music and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.

  3. I’m in my early 40’s and I’ve been yelling at kids to get off my lawn since my late 20’s, so I get the attachment to nostalgia. That said, I also grew up a musician in a family of musicians, and I can’t say that I have any particular attachment to the music of my youth. Honestly, most of it was pretty bad and I find much of it unlistenable today–just as I find most current pop music.

    I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss this phenomenon as ageism or generational elitism–at least not in all cases. There is pretty solid evidence to suggest that pop music has become increasingly commoditized over the last four-to-five decades; A&R and the money behind Big Pop Music is much more concerned with market saturation and branding than quality and originality. Which is to say that they’re not at all concerned with quality or originality.

    Here’s a decent breakdown:

    Rick Beato (who might have the best pop/rock/recording educational channel on YouTube) breaks down another serious problem here:

    In short, popular music over the last 25 years sounds the same because…well, it IS the same. A&R is ensuring that tracks chosen for singles follow the same I IV V vi progression to which our ears are accustomed because it’s familiar, and let’s be honest–as consumers, this country has gotten pretty damn lazy.

    For comparison, the Beatles had 27 #1 hits. Only one of them used the I IV V vi progression.

    So….yeah, popular music is objectively getting worse. Or at least less creative/original.

    Not music in general, though. There’s still plenty of great music being made. I buy new music all the time from bands/artists both old (e.g., Neil Finn) and new (e.g., Will Hoge) who still produce great original music on the reg. While this music has pop appeal and generous hooks, though, it’s not Pop Music in the commercial sense. You won’t hear it on a Nike ad. It’s not going to be featured on an episode of Gray’s Anatomy. It’s not going to show up in the channels currently used to market music to young people because it’s not as easy to digest subconsciously.

    In short, pop music has gotten increasingly more homogenized, and whereas we used to proactively seek out music (turn on the radio/MTV, go to the record store, etc…) and consume it by the album, I think it’s more or less marketed to (i.e. forced on) young people today in the form of singles via multiple formats of other brands/media they consume. The few big record labels still making money want to protect what’s left of their business model for as long as possible, and to that end, this strategy makes sense. It’s like Wonder Bread. It’s like casting Dwayne Johnson in a summer action blockbuster. It’s safe. And you’ve seen it before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *