Feeling Old

Another birthday is fast approaching. Barely more than a week now until I hit 42. In some ways that makes me very happy. After all, this is a birthday I might not have enjoyed without the liver transplant.

But, in some ways I'm feeling a lot older. I've been working with Sonoran Paranormal for a few months now and the majority of people in the group are significantly younger. That tends to make me feel my age culturally if not physically.

Recently, I began working on a project with some of them. It's a talk radio show done at BlogTalkRadio. Since Michael is a musician they asked if he'd do some ambient type stuff for the show opener. He obliged and came up with something sort of reminiscent of the old sci-fi and horror stuff of the 50's and 60's. Very creepy and interesting.

So, I began the work of mixing that down into an opening for the show and after several hours of playing around came up with something that was, I thought, pretty good. It was atmospheric and serious and set a nice tone for the show, at the very end I added a clip from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Karn Evil 9: "Come inside the show's about to start. Guaranteed to blow your head apart".

I put the finished product out to the people working on the project only to find that they'd already decided to hold a "contest" for someone to write a "jingle" for the show. Then I got the feedback on the work I'd done for them. One of the first was, "I liked it but then there was this crazy 70's music at the end." OK, figured that might be a problem and wasn't sure about it anyway, so I dropped it out and gave them the new cut.

But then, they decided that it wasn't the change in mood they objected too it was just the "old" music. They began wanting to mix in all this current music and versions of Ghostbusters theme among other stuff.

I realized then that I was old. I was completely out of touch with these people and their tastes. I found most of what they were wanting to use banal, insipid, and completely without musical merit. It was drivel at its worst.

I'm not one of those people who can fake being "hip" and "current" and pretend that I actually think the anti-music that people enjoy today has any value as art. If I'm listening to rock music then I'm listening to the great rock bands: Wishbone Ash, Yes, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Band, The Allman Brothers, etc.

At the gym we go to our 20 something manager plays music through the speakers. What he plays is exactly the type of stuff my cohorts in the paranormal group seem to like. Normally, I make sure to take my MP3 player but the other day couldn't find my earbuds so had to forego it and listen to his choices.

I couldn't believe my ears with most of the stuff. During the entire hour we worked out I never heard one real instrument played on a song. Everything was done with electronic "clips". Every single song played used exactly the same drum beat. Not even a riff but just a double beat on bass, no toms, no snares, nothing. There was not a single real guitar just guitar sounds mixed through keyboards and other stuff no riffs, no actual playing. Even the voices were highly enhanced by computers. All I could think was that there was no such thing anymore as real rock.

Even the supposed "rock" acts today can't actually play. I was watching an old MadTV episode yesterday and they had Green Day on as a guest. As I watched them I thought, these guys really don't know how to play these instruments. There was no sense of artistry. Everything sounded the same, no virtuoso licks, nothing. Their drummer played like a high school kid, nothing interesting in it at all. Yet, today, they're considered one of the best rock acts.

But, I suppose that's the way things are now. One of the few bands after the mid-70's that I think ever wrote an interesting lyric was Nirvana. In their song "Teen Spirit" they make a pretty astute observation not only about their own industry but about their own fans:
Here we are now
Entertain us
We're so stupid
And I'm famous
Ain't that the truth. It's all about entertainment now. It's about the money to be made not the music to be written. We don't want to think, we don't want to get involved, we don't want to explore our own desires or feelings, we just want to be entertained and the closer you can get "music" to the other preferred forms of entertainment like TV or Porn then the better it sells.

After all, when you really look at real rock the word "sex" in "Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll" seems to be in there by mistake. The great rock songs weren't about sex, didn't even mention it usually. They were about life, philosophy, changing the world, commenting on the world, or just enjoying what we had.

Today, on the other hand, it's about sex. When Marvin Gaye sang "Let's Get It On" it was wonderfully sexy but also wonderfully romantic.
I've been really tryin', baby
Tryin' to hold back this feelin' for so long
And if you feel like I feel, baby
Then come on, oh, come on
Whoo, let's get it on
Now, as a counterpoint to Marvin we have "Lil Wayne" and "Lollipop":
I get her on top she drop it like it hot
And when im on the bottom she hit the very bottom
Then we in the bed givin gettin head ( givin gettin hed givin gettin head )
Call me so I can make it juicy for ya
Call me so I can do it juicy for ya
See, today it's about entertainment. We went from romance to a porn clip in the span of 30 years. Marvin had a full band behind him including brass. "Lil Wayne" just steals other people's music and plays it on electronic equipment. No, it's not art, it's not the "urban condition". It's a bunch of lazy people with no musical ability making money off of other people who don't have the sense to know they're not even listening to music anymore.

So, on the eve of my 42nd birthday, I feel very old, but at the same time I feel very fortunate to be among those people who can still appreciate good music be it rock, soul, or classical. And to celebrate that fact me, Michael and our friends Sandy and Jeff are going to see Crosby, Stills, and Nash in concert Monday night. Take that Lil Wayne, Evanescence and any of you other posers!