Tuesday, April 06, 2010

That Old Time Rock and Roll

One day while riding to college with my oldest brother, we discussed some aspects of the music we were listening to on his car radio. I laughed derisively when he suggested that once I hit age 30 I would never listen to rock and roll again.

Well, my brother was at least partially wrong. I have continued to listen to rock and roll in the years since I turned 30. But my brother was also partially right. My consumption of rock and roll (and of all pop) music dropped off precipitously somewhere along the road of life.

I have recently been finding clips on the Internet of artists I used to appreciate. I have also started looking into what has become of some of these people. It has come to my attention that during my teen and early adult years I liked a category of music I never even knew existed. At least, I never realized there was such a classification as American progressive rock. I liked music from various other categories as well.

My first thought on finding more recent clips of some artists I used to listen to was, “Geez, these guys are old.” Some of them look like they’ve seen a lot of years of hard living. Indeed, the profiles available for these artists often tell of difficult challenges they have faced, frequently the result of their own self destructive choices. A few, on the other hand, seem to have lived full and happy lives.

Video clip comment streams are often quite polluted, so I usually pay them no heed. But sometimes useful information is offered. I clicked on a link to a 1996 performance by a band I once enjoyed. The lead singer was terrible; certainly a far cry from his earlier days. But a comment explained that the concert had taken place at a low point in the singer’s life. He didn’t start to get cleaned up from his addictions until the following year. The singer was indeed much improved in 1999 and 2002 performances.

A few of the artists from back in the day have passed away. But it is surprising to me how many are still active in the music industry. Some have been involved in a broad range of activities, from writing ad jingles and video game tunes to performing with symphony orchestras and producing works for other artists.

Another thing that I have realized is how young a lot of these artists were when they hit the big time. I never thought about it back then, but most of these people are only about 10-15 years older than me.

What must it be like to hit the spectacular apex of your career by the time you’re 30? Maybe a life of huge arena tours isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe playing studio backups for obscure bands and TV shows isn’t such a bad life. Less fame, more stability.

The kids of my day (me included) listened to music that drove their parents nuts. Today’s kids do the same. One of my teenagers is a fan of metalcore music. My brainiac son (my wife says he’s got the brain of an engineer and the heart of a poet) is drawn to the genre’s highly technical riffs and breakdowns. He has written metalcore songs for his own band. (To be fair, he has also written and performed classical piano pieces.)

Even though some of the metalcore lyrics my son likes have distinctively Christian messages (if they could be understood), I doubt I will ever arrive at a point in life where I will enjoy such music. I find it harsh and agitating. Even beautiful lyrics can be unpleasant when shouted in a death growl. When my son alerted me to the actual words being screamed in one Christian oriented song, I explained that I find it inappropriate to discuss divine matters in such a tone of voice.

My son’s fascination with metalcore music bothers my wife. I kind of take it in stride, figuring that he will work through this phase at his own pace. Trying to prevent him from accessing this style of music wouldn’t be any more successful than were my parents’ attempts to turn me from the music I listened to during my teen years.

I can’t help but wonder, however, what kind of music my grandchildren will listen to that will drive their father nuts. I hope to have a good laugh at that point in time.

In my mind’s eye I can see my currently teenage son as a middle aged father sitting in front of whatever media device they have at that time, searching out clips of artists he liked when he was a teenager. I see his kids standing in the background rolling their eyes at their father’s odd musical choices as the generational cycle repeats itself.

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