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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sentimental gentle wind/Blowing through my life again

A thread on '70s soft rock found on the Sound Opinions Message Board inspires today's post. I don't hide behind my love for the music of America, Jim Croce, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Carole King and so on. This was the first kind of recorded music I ever heard when I was only a few years old. I've never shied away from the music and I still like it. But in the last few years, I realized that this music was hated in its day by hipsters, punks and the like. Now, this style of rock music is a non-ironic hipster favorite. Anyone else seeing the irony here?

Just like hipsters/indie rock folks dressing up like they were in Journey's "Separate Ways" video, what was once considered un-hip is considered hip in the modern sense. Of course this is ironic, but to me, this is a continuation of the cyclical nature of fashion trends and music tastes. In the case of '70s styled pop rock found in modern bands like Midlake and the Format, you're hearing a full generation difference. I can relate.

About a year or so ago, I spent a Sunday night with Chris, Tom and Tony on the Good Show. As a part of Guilty Pleasure Theater, Chris played a rich, laid-back song with organ, piano and multiple vocal harmonies. I loved what I was hearing but I had no idea whose song this was. Chris was surprised that I had never heard it -- it was Bob Welch's "Sentimental Lady." I had never heard of Welch's solo stuff or his work with Fleetwood Mac, but still I found the song incredible. But I had to think about where I was coming from and where Chris was coming from. I didn't have to suffer listening to this song over and over in its day. I didn't have to suffer being around people that I didn't want to be around who loved the song. I was coming to this with fresh ears. I get the feeling that this is where a lot of these modern bands are coming from too.

Before Michael Jackson released Thriller, one of the biggest all-time selling albums was Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Hits like "Go Your Own Way," "Dreams," "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun" were inescapable radio hits in the late-'70s. You still hear these songs on the radio, but they aren't played as much as they were in their day. So for us that were born around the time that this stuff was all over the radio, we wouldn't understand the cynical back-biting between the preppies, jocks, stoners, punks and nerds. We were just trying to talk and roll over.

Now that we've been through the whole rig-ama-roll of high school and college dealing with the preppies, jocks, losers and so on, we're seeing older music in different contexts. Our opinions of the music that was popular in our high school and college days are probably going to stay the same for the rest of our lives. So when a younger generation comes along and takes a liking to something that we despised, we wonder what the deal is.

Somehow I think it's possible that there will be a day when Hootie and the Blowfish, Creed and Sarah McLachlan will be considered kosher with hipsters. A part of me gulps at the thought but another part doesn't care. With the exception of Kid Rock, Britney Spears and Creed, I never fully hated that kind of stuff, but I was certainly annoyed when boneheaded jocks would peel out of a parking lot blasting it. These were people I couldn't relate to, so the music that they took to was the stuff to repel from.

I think there is a big plus in younger generations finding older music: they are always going to see it in a different light. A fifteen-year-old hearing "Go Your Own Way" for the first time today will be hearing the song and the song alone. There are no puff pieces on the Internet talking about Fleetwood Mac's latest tour, the latest gossip on the band, how well their record is selling and so on. So, this trail of younger bands gravitating towards the soft rock sounds first found in the '70s makes sense. This is all a part of how music survives.

5 comments:

Rj said...

I really feel bad that the "classic" music of our generation is going to include Smash Mouth.

Eric Grubbs said...

No kidding. Add Sugar Ray's version of audio poison called "Fly" to this list. Yikes!

captain groovy said...

Hey i was one of those guys who hated that suff.However i always thought Fleetwood Mac was kind of cool.But to this day while i'm willing to admit that the rest of the artists you mentioned wrote some good songs i have actually to this day never actually listened to one of their albums knowingly.See Lester Bangs article "James Taylor Marked For Death" for my take.
Midlake sounds best when they are ripping off Fleetwood Mac not Radiohead.
Stevie Nicks would have been hip if she'd been born 10 years later.Or a goth.
Christine Mcvie defines mid 1970's radio.I know i was there.
Bob Welch is cool.See my blog for a 2 cd Fleetwood Mac post of the Bob Welch years.Hypnotized is worthy of Peter Green era.Sentimental Lady was a Mac song that became a solo hit for him.It's on the mix
I hated Creed & all that crap too.Crap is Crap.Guess i'm still a hipster.

Treblephone said...

Even when I was buying the Pistols/Clash/Jam [etc.], I still had a 45 of "Go Your Own Way". :)
A great pop song is a great pop song, no matter what. {Modern example: "Hey Ya". That would be a hit, no matter WHEN it came out.

As you said, the problem a generation has with its own contemporary music---for those not into it, that is----is that it is SO ubiquitous at the time. Imagine five radio stations that sound like KZPS, and you'll have a pretty good idea what 70s rock radio was like. I can't get nostalgic about a lot of the 70s stuff.....it never really ever went away!!!!!

I think the 70s are a special case in that regard due to the baby boomers being so prevalent....that generation that came of age in the 70s, by its sheer numbers alone, has guaranteed a steady listening audience for that era of music, where other generations' music has slowly fallen by the wayside, airplay-wise.

[For instance, KLUV, who has slowly phased out a good portion of their 50s rockers---but, partially, it's a function of time as well----that generation is starting to die off, literally.]

[Sorry for the rambling....it must be the Indian food! :)]

Sean Howe said...

Only a few weeks ago, someone sent me the link to this video for "Sentimental Lady":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFlHAqitsko

It really might change your life.