Friday, September 28, 2007
Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today
. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, while I was interviewing late '70s and early '80s Steamboat country rock staple Bandanna, I had a conversation that I've had at least 35 times.
In this case, it came out of the band's set list, which was built mostly on classic rock, bluegrass and country. The joke was, "there's no way a 22-year-old would know most of those songs." But the subsequent realization was that I did know most of them - and so did most of the band members' children.
That's where the old conversation, which seems to happen to me every time I buy a record, came in: why do young folks today like their parents' music so much?
The simple answer is that the music - with the exceptions of Bread and the Eagles, which my parents love - is good. And a lot of it is great.
For anyone my age that's thinking, "I have never had this conversation. In fact, I don't think anyone has ever started randomly talking to me about Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours,'" well, my numbers are a little up from working in a used record store, where at least four of the employees played that album at least once a week.
There may be no sense in getting all nostalgic for an era that preceded me by 15 or 20 years, but I have come up with a few reasons why this music sticks to me. The easiest is that my mother only ever listened to the oldies station - so I might not want to know half of The Embers' catalogue, but I do.
She'd probably say the next most obvious reason is that the songwriting was better. But I don't believe for a second that Chicago was in the business of penning soul-searching lyrics.
I think it has more to do with the pop culture climate at the time. While Chicago might have been singing empty little things like "Saturday in the Park/ Feelin' like the Fourth of July," the band was drawing on everything from arena rock to soul to make the tunes catch.
There are as many good songwriters now as there were then - people didn't just up and stop having original thoughts - and there is as much innovation in any genre now as then, even in genres that some might consider derivative of the old stuff.
While a lot of that innovation isn't as palatable as, say, Cat Stevens' soundtracking for "Harold and Maude," it's out there. And thanks to the Internet, it's easy to find.
The last arts section I worked for did a lot of CD reviewing, on a rating system of zero to five stars. In three years we gave away one five-star rating, which had the qualification of "classic," to a new record: "Star Destroyer" by Alex Delivery, released earlier this year.
We caught a good amount of flak for that, the prevailing argument being that there's no reason to have a fifth star if you're only going to give it to records that have had 30 years to appreciate.
Our staff maintained that if a new record ever truly slapped us in the face with its importance, it could march around the office with its five stars, call us mean names and break our glasses, if it wanted. There's a reason that only happened once.
Few works of art warrant the title "instant classic." That kind of thing takes time, worn-out needles and scratched vinyl.