A friend and I were recently discussing what comprises a generation. Defining a generation is rarely as easy as having a year that ends in a zero pop up on the calendar. For example: I graduated from high school in 1980. You got an automatic visual, didn't you? 80's conjures up a certain image. But think about that. I graduated in May of 1980. I was in high school for 5 months in the 80's. I went to high school in the 70's. That conjures up an entirely different image. One didn't end and the other begin at midnight on New Years Eve, though. I belong a little bit to both and fully to neither.
So that can't be it.
But what DOES define a generation?
I have a rule of thumb. I made it up myself, so it is based on nothing but my own experiences and intuitions, but this is it: People who are five years younger than me to five years older than me are my peer group. People who are ten years younger than me to ten years older than me are my generation. Try that on and see how it fits for you. I told my friend this and she found the fit to be good. We then set about discussing why that was. There were a few factors that we settled upon - political climate, clothing and hair styles, but most importantly - we felt - was pop culture.
We shared the same music, TV shows, movies, crushes - we have automatic common ground.
I mentioned to Tom that I was thinking of throwing a challenge out - I need some new music to listen to - but here's the thing - I started listening to popular music around 1972 and stopped around 1992. That is a twenty year span - the very span that I had arbitrarily decided defines a generation. Coincidence? Probably not. I wondered if that was typical of other people's musical history - to start at ten, peak at twenty and be done by thirty. If anyone were to truly manage to turn me on to new music there would have to be some little thread of recognition - it would have to connect easily to something with which I'm already familiar. There would have to be SOMETHING that sounded like SOMETHING that existed between 1972 and 1992.
And this leads me to my next point.
It's a confession, but I trust you guys. You won't laugh at me. You won't let me hear it if you do, anyway.
Now, it's no secret that I love hair bands.
I thought I loved them in a tongue in cheek, nostalgic sort of way.
But I don't.
I really love them.
This is what moves me.
When I listen to 80's rock on Slacker, and Motley Crue comes on, my energy increases by a million (that is a rough estimate). I never owned a Motley Crue album or CD! I may have owned a cassette or two - I honestly don't remember - I still have all of my albums and CDs, but the cassettes are long gone. That's not the point. The point is - I wasn't really a fan in their heyday. I was aware, certainly, but it didn't MOVE me like it does now.
I stayed on the elliptical three minutes past it announcing that I'd reached my daily goal this morning because a KISS song came on. (You can ask which one, but I'll either lie or I won't answer. I trust you, but not THAT much.)
I'm not proud of this, but it's true.
I am de-evolving.
At a festival this weekend, there was a band playing that Tom and I agreed sounded really good. When we got close enough to see them we were surprised and a little taken aback by their young age - it was a big, solid sound. As we walked on a little further - we could no longer see them, but could still hear them. There may have been a little bit of a dance in my step, prompting Tom to say, "I think I know why you like this band so much."
"Because they're good?"
"Because the singer has a Vince Neil quality to his voice."
"I'll be damned."
What do you think defines a generation?
And more importantly - do you know any good tunes I should be listening to? Apparently I appreciate things that are best enjoyed through a thick haze of Aquanet.
I was in an earlier generation! Elvis, Little Richard, Chubby Checker, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly....I could go on and on..
I've been telling you for ages that you should be listening to Linkin Park. Big sound, excellent musicians, really very talented but with a hard edge. Lots of guitar and complex percussion. Hybrid Theory is a good album to start with. A more recent album, A Thousand Suns, is also good. They do a bit of rap-ish lyrics in some songs but try to keep an open mind and keep listening.
When I worked at BP gas in 2004, a woman named Bobby, I estimated 15-20 years my senior, caught me singing along to a tune on the oldies station. She said, "Isn't this song before your time?" I told her, "You know, quite a few years ago they invented recording which gives one the ability to listen to music no matter what year they were born." She stopped me before I could continue and said, "All right wise guy, I get it."
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