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Monday, June 25, 2007

Where Were You in '88?

Going through last week's Chartburn on Jeff's page, I came across a relatively memorable clip from the one and only David Lee Roth. "Just Like Paradise" was in regular MTV rotation back in 1988 and being the daily watcher of the channel at the time, I saw it plenty of times. Looking at the video now, I'll admit it's over-the-top and goofy. And, it's a light and fluffy song. And yes, it screams everything that was hair metal-related in the Eighties. But you know what? This didn't warp my perspective on what good music is in the long run. Realizing this makes me take a few steps back with modern music.

I'm not covering my tracks here: I've been very critical of what the mainstream views as emo. If I were to call what has been peddled to the Warped Tour audience, it's hair metalcore. To be frank, I just don't get a lot of mileage out of this music. And I've often wondered what kind of impression this stuff has had on young people. Well, I've come across a few things in the last few weeks that put a better perspective on this matter.

In the liner notes for Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation reissue, there are press clippings lauding the album. One of them is the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop poll. Landing at #2 right behind Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Sonic Youth's opus came out at a time when I was more into what was on daytime MTV. I didn't stay up late on Sunday nights watching 120 Minutes. I didn't read The Village Voice. Hell, I didn't even read Rolling Stone. Music not in regular rotation on commercial radio and MTV was not on my radar. That view wouldn't change until a few years later.

Over the weekend, I read Lester Bangs final interview, conducted by then-high schooler Jim DeRogatis. A number of topics were discussed and truth to be told, a lot of this stuff doesn't sound a day old. Though the interview was conducted a few weeks before Bangs' death in 1982, a number of quotes ring true in 2007. I found myself coming back to a notion I've had for the last few years.

I see an underlying theme here: there will be no lack of disdain towards what younger people listen to by older generations. But just because a younger generation listens to something like hair metal, disco, or mall punk does not mean that mountains will crumble and rivers will rise. Far from it. We all have our gateways into dense music and more often than not, it's with music of the light and fluffy variety. Is a 25-year-old off base because he/she likes "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees? To the tastebuds of a cranky 47-year-old that had to put up with disco everyday for four years straight back in the Seventies, sure. But that doesn't mean this same 25-year-old cannot come around to Captain Beefheart, Leonard Cohen and the New York Dolls.

What I'm saying is: what you listened to in your formative years does not automatically prevent you from getting music on a deeper level later on. If you're that curious about music, more of it will come into your field of view. So, just because somebody watched hair metal videos or saw Can't Stop the Music in a theater does not mean he or she will never be able to have an informed, well-rounded opinion on music in general. I should keep this in mind whenever I go shopping and pass by teenagers dressed up in Hot Topic gear and have Hawthorne Heights on their iPods.

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