Our “turn on, tune in, drop out” generation has evolved into more of a “turn over and grab the Geritol” generation. There was a time when we were told to not trust anyone over 30 and we’ve gone beyond that marker ourselves by two times at least, and we’re no more “trustworthy” than previous generations. But what we do have that is timeless and singular to how our generation is defined is rock & roll. There’s not an urban area in this country where some radio station is not playing nostalgic Boomer music.
I asked my Boomer girlfriend recently if she recalls any radio stations that played music from the 90’s or the first decade (aught 00 to aught 10), when her kids came of age. Nothing. My own kids are 30 (or nearing that “untrusting” age) and by comparison when I was in my 30’s (1980’s) there were Boomer music notalgia stations around even though the rock & roll decades (with the Elvis years) had just ended by the late 70’s. So what makes rock & roll so memorable?
Well, thinking back to when I was a youngster I listened to my folks express their fave music from their era, which was pretty much the big band/swing/jazz years of the late 30’s and 40’s… along with the popular vocalists of the day; Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Andrews Sisters, and the list goes on. The war years (WW2) also spawned a certain kind of music (fighting spirit, lonely for home, lonely for girlfriend, anti-fascist humor, etc) albeit with largely the same performers. One identifying feature of the music from that era is that you could understand the words and actually sing along.
When our folks won the war and had us, and the country experienced increased affluence, they wanted to give us the things they never had (like TV, Barbie, Silly Putty, and later, American Bandstand)… and spoiled the bejeebers out of us. This gave us the spare time (cause we didn’t have to get up early and feed the chickens and milk the cows) to start our own counter-revolution which began with our music.
Ok, well, that explains why “they” liked their music and we liked our music, but what is common with all this? Memories… and numbers. Music represents the thoughts, mood, feel, social lifestyle, of the generation that spawns it. What keeps music of a generation alive beyond the years in which that music was introduced is generally the result of memories. What keeps that music popular is the number of people who were affected by it and thus have memories. Our folks had a far different song they might remember listening to while experiencing their fist kiss than a song we might remember at that same occassion of our own lives. What makes our song be replayed on the radio over and over is that there are so many of us who remember it.. and enjoy the memories it brings. So it becomes profitable for a radio station to play the oldies.
But what about the children of us Boomers… sometimes referred to as the mini-baby boom (when all us Boomers started having kids at near the same time) and their music identifiers? As happens often in the progression of generations, some generations simply do not have the numbers by which certain social identification can be made. These are the so-called in-between years… years in between wars… technological development… etc. My kids were raised in the 80’s and 90’s (in-between years) but I am willing to wager they have a greater appreciation for oldies rock & roll than us Boomers ever had for Frank, Bing, or Dean. If for nothing else, we had rock & roll playing on the car radio constantly when we schlepped our kids around town while doing errands… and many times singing along. It’s no wonder our kids have an appreciation for oldies rock. But they also lack the music which identifies their own generation because their numbers were just not there to affect social change that can make music memorable to a generation.
Yeah… casual sex is fading into the sunset, and the drugs of choice are not pot and LSD anymore but rather Lipitor and Prozac. Yet rock & roll lives on.. at least until the last baby boomer takes that final psychedelic trip.