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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Let's Go to the Hop

As I watched one of my all-time favorite movies last night (American Graffiti), I found myself bopping to the soundtrack. Yes, I was bopping to songs like "Let's Go to the Hop," "All Summer Long" and "I Only Have Eyes for You." These songs sum up the rock 'n' roll of the day before the British Invasion and still rock. These songs hold up so well despite the fact that most of its lyrics are about teenager/young adult life. So I wonder: why does the Crests' "16 Candles" hold up after all these years when I think a song like Fall Out Boy's "A Little Less 'Sixteen Candles,' A Little More 'Touch Me'" will not?

A line like "'Cause you're just the girl all the boys want to dance with/And I'm just the boy who's had too many chances" does not sound very far removed from the kinds of lyrics you've heard in any part of rock 'n' roll's past. I think several other factors are parts of the big tipping point, but I'm not 100% sure what's the deal.

When I hear a song like "I Only Have Eyes for You," I hear a calm, spacious doo-wop classic. In the vocals department, I hear top-notch singing in a large studio with some slight reverb. When I hear a song like "Sugar, We're Goin' Down," I hear a processed piece of cheese with some semi-catchy melodies. In the vocals department, I hear cleaned-up, computerized singing. Which song can I relate to more? The humans sounding like humans or the humans sounding like robots? You catch my drift. This is just the beginning.

With the doo-wop groups, and even the straight-up rock bands of the '50s and early-'60s, these guys were classy guys. Essentially, they were gentlemen that moved onstage while playing music that made you move and there was no goofiness involved. Now, I love rock 'n' roll that is anything but polished, but when you have these goofy clowns prancing around, how can this be seen as good in the long term?

Maybe I'm too full of myself thinking that these bands are thinking for the future. Was I thinking about how my high school band's material would work now? Absolutely not, but I don't feel embarrassed by our songs or our presentation. I'm not about to play those old songs or even dig out our old practice tapes, but I don't regret living in the moment.

I think there are several good reasons why songs from the '50s and '60s still hold up. Of course they were sold to teens and made their elders crazy in the day, but I still get a good feeling with these songs. Hearing a song that's about such a flimsy action like going to a sock-hop dance doesn't bother me. I still get something out of a song that's about crying over losing someone, only having eyes for someone else and so on. Now I don't mean that all pop music has sucked since this era, (there have been plenty of great songs from the '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s), but I highly doubt that pop music from the '50s and '60s will cease commanding a large audience in years to come.

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