A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles who had recently retired after a lifetime of working in the music industry. Before my visit I had spotted her in a documentary film about an iconic recording session in the 1980s with some of the top names in the business. When we met for coffee, I complemented her on how she hadn't changed since then. After comparing notes on old friends, the decline of society and our current situations we agreed that rock music was still a vital element in our lives and how the music managed to transcend generations. And more importantly, it had the quality to keep us young.
A recent article in the Huffington Post illustrated how musical tastes become fixed by the time one reaches the end of their twenties. Which for a lot of the older public means that bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones are the musical markers from their youth. There is now even a whole genre of music and a weekly radio show called 'dad rock' to deliver to these fans the music they want to hear. With a label like that, Generation X, Y and Z are sometimes turned off as it implies easy listening, parental values and people stuck in the past, but in fact, the music appears on their iDevice playlists nonetheless.
So if ones music tastes are fixed in their twenties, does that mean every time you hear a song from that stage in your life those memory cells are activated? Do our thoughts turn to more simple times and our DNA tingles with a youthful charge? Is the mental flexibility and openness of our youth reawakened, while the idealistic values of those times are remembered?
And for today's generation -- do they find the music interesting, antique or somehow relevant the same way a generation ago, jazz music held a certain magic but is now quasi-classic?
In contemporary music there is a lot of awareness of songs from the dad generation in the sampling of snippets of songs from the 70s and 80s. Artists like Puff Daddy (or whatever incarnation he goes by now) won a Grammy award with a song borrowing from that 80's band the Police, with I'll Be Missing You. Even Pharrell Wiliams number one song Blurred Lines had to recently pay millions in royalties for appropriating from a Marvin Gaye song from the 70's. And one of my favorites homages to old time rock and roll is Kid Rock's summer anthem All Summer Long where he uses two songs from the '70s, starting with Werewolves in London and morphing into Sweet Home Alabama.
In my novel Coast Highway, a Romeo and Juliet story set in the 1970s Silicon Valley (released this fall), I reference sixty-two different bands and songs, which I have turned into Spotify and YouTube playlists. Trolling through all the versions of songs, concert footage and MTV videos from those times was a nostalgic trip for me down memory lane that put a smile on my face. Some of the videos were so campy you would think they were a Saturday Night Live comedy act, when in fact it was the style of the times. And this summer a lot of fashion houses are pushing hippie couture complete with bell-bottom jeans. The past is reinvented again and again.
An unbelievable number of older acts are touring these days with the dubious label dinosaur rock attached to particularly grey haired performers. Last year Fleetwood Mac was on the road again and my son had bought me a ticket to one of their shows as a birthday present. The old rockers played close to three hours non-stop and generated such a high energy level that even my son was impressed. It was surprising, considering he is more used to semi-underground bands from the States. The audience was an even mix of 'dad rockers' and people from their teens upwards. The band had become iconic and as living legends became a 'must see' act.
The British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once said:
'The pursuit of happiness, which American citizens are obliged to undertake, tends to involve them in trying to perpetuate the moods, tastes and aptitudes of youth.'
If Malcolm was correct, then not only the dad rockers looking to remain forever young but the younger generation curious about the magical elixir rock and roll offers should give the music and more in-depth listen. Perhaps it will give them a double dose of youthful energy with an unexpected depth. So if good old rock and roll is alive and well in our music channels and individual playlists, then why try to categorize it as dad rock, which is generally seen as a critical designation implying premature senility with a well-developed dose of tinnitus. So lets skip the labels, get rocking and knock a few years off our lives.