Monday, January 07, 2008

On Popular Culture, Music, and Age

Fellow northern California resident Uncle E recently wrote this in his blog:

So, here’s the thing.

I’ll be turning 40 in February, and it got me to thinking; at what age does one, SHOULD ONE, stop listening to ‘new’ music?

Is my passion to discover new bands going to wither away like my eyesight or is my interest going to continue to expand like my once 32 inch waistline did?

When I was 20 there was nothing more pathetic than seeing a ‘middle aged guy’ (read: 30 years old) blaring AC/DC in his Volkswagon Jetta out of his Blaupunkt speakers . Or seeing some ageing hipster with a grey ponytail wearing a “Neds Atomic Dustbin” tee shirt under his brown, corduroy sports coat. When you’re an arrogant little punk in your teens or early 20’s, you think that music, really good kick-ass subversive rock & roll music, should be reserved for the ears of youth.

My question is: is that true?

My answer to Uncle E is, naw, really good kick-ass subversive rock & roll music should not be reserved only for the ears of youth. That said . . .

I'd like to claim that I'm really up on new groups on the horizon. But, the fact is that my grasp of popular culture, especially music, seemed to quickly wither when I let my subscription to Rolling Stone die about eight years ago. (And, of course, Rolling Stone was already being derided in some quarters as "the magazine for middle-aged rockers.") I sometimes joke that I think of Counting Crows and the Foo Fighters as new groups. Sheesh, truth be told, maybe it's a stretch to claim that I'm joking.

In my case, is middle age bringing the affliction of mellowness? Hm. I have to admit, more acoustic stuff gets played on my iPod nowadays, stuff like Alison Krause, Tommy Emmanuel, Nickle Creek, John Gorka, Richard Shindell, Leo Kottke, Nanci Griffith, and John Prine.

But then, I'm not spending much time searching out new, er, mellow artists either. I still love good music, but with the passing of years, rediscovering stuff from my past seems more fun than uncovering all those up-and-coming artists.

Thanks to blogs, though, I'm not completely closed off to new artists. With input from some of my "regular" blogs, I still manage to get a new album on my music player from time to time.

I simply don't feel the need to keep up on the latest and greatest anymore. That doesn't just go for music, but for popular culture in general. I really don't care how many times Britney has been in rehab; I'm more concerned with how many times the neighbor down the road has been in rehab.

As for the "mellowing" thing, well, I may have given in to it somewhat, but I ain't surrendering. I still listen to stuff like Steve Morse and Dream Theater, especially at the gym. Loud, too. Those guys may be many years past the senior prom, but they know how to rock.

Hey, I'm fifty-one, but the rowdy soul within ain't dead.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to find a heating pad for my shoulder.


Redlefty said...

Dang, so at 31 I'm already middle-aged?

Your music interests and exposure are far more varied than mine, even though you're...cough... a lot older. I bow before you.

Roland said...

To be honest, at 40, I feel like an old man with music.

I've never been up on the new music of any day, really. I think I was the youngest guy at the Supertramp concert, and then felt out of place, not knowing the music, at Crowded House, the next week.

I've always relied on someone else to bring me to the new music and get me started.

Now, if I hear of a song or band, I pop it into Pandora for a listen. Odds are that it leads to something else, though. Or I close the session in horror! Cuz I'm old.

uNCLE e said...

Hal, John Prine is an absolute favorite of mine, and Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles are still in heavy rotation on my ipod.
I guess the older I get the more tolerant I am at giving new music a listen, I'm able to appreciate it more.
That being said, I have some homework for ya! Search out the following albums on itunes and take a tour of each. I think you'll you'll like 'em. If you do, I can get you some copies.
You know, let you BORROW my ARCHIVE copies--nudge nudge wink wink, know what I mean...







That should get you started!

Roland said...

I have a Kings of Leon Pandora channel. I like 'em.

Hal Johnson said...

Well E, you've given me some investigating to do. Of the albums on your list, the only one I have is "Fisherman's Blues," by the Waterboys. I had a vinyl album of the Flying Burrito Brothers (Gram Parsons HAD to be different and die at 26 instead of 27), but I left it at someone's house after a party and never saw it again. (Ah yes, the eighties were fun--I think.) As for the rest of your list, Nick Lowe is the only one I've even HEARD of, so this should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I happen to think we're entitled to listen to whatever we want as long as we want!! (did that sound defiant enough???)

Just wait until your son gets a little older. You'll have a LOT more opportunity then to see what's out there. As long as my teens were riding in the car with me, I listened to their music and found I really liked alot of it.... even rap!

I normally blog at 360 (you can link to mine there from Pam's), but happened to find this through Algernon's blog. Couldn't resist leaving a comment....

Mike said...

uncle e, thanks for the Leonard Cohen mention. It's rare to find a Cohen cohort!