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 episode featured 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?