Last night, though tired and sleepy from a long day of working, I decided to stay up a little later when I saw my PBS affiliate airing an encore presentation of When Dallas Rocked, a recently-made documentary. Focusing on the 70s and early 80s of blues and rock musicians, as well as the radio personalities and journalists, everything seemed like a nice overview. That is, until I got to a section towards the end. When I heard what was being said, I rolled my eyes and proclaimed, "Bullshit!" (I did a similar thing as I watched the end of Downloaded, a documentary on the rise, fall, and impact of Napster.)
I take a lot of umbrage with people who make generalized statements like, "Nobody buys records anymore" and "There aren't any record stores anymore." Couple that with a comment about how barely anyone goes to local shows now and there are barely any venues to play.
Why I take umbrage is because this is not entirely true. People buy less records today, but people still buy downloads, vinyl and CDs. Chain stores like Tower Records and the Virgin Megastore did close, but locally-owned stores like Good Records and Mad World Records are doing better business than ever these days. And there is no shortage of places to play in the Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth area, from a garage to a theater. (I know since I've covered shows in all kinds of places and I've played in all kinds of places.)
I've slowly accepted that people think something completely disappears when it doesn't generate revenue in the millions anymore. It's why people claim things like disco is making a comeback, or metal or punk or emo. But I cannot tell someone that sort of partial truth/partial lie, given my uptight, purist, semantic-stickler view of things. As a historian that tries to be as impeccable with his word with documentation, blanket statements like these don't usually come out of me. (If they do, I surely regret making them.)
A few months ago, a journalist I admire (and he usually has his facts straight), said something very off-base in a podcast interview. Claiming off the cuff that "nobody" bought Jimmy Eat World's Clarity when it originally came out, I felt like sending him an angry note. As someone who bought Clarity the day it came out and someone who knows plenty of people who did the same (and saw the band on that tour, with hundreds of other people in the venues), I begged to differ. But what was said was said.
Just because something isn't sold en masse doesn't mean it stopped existing and being relevant. It may be irrelevant to you, but chances are good is relevant to someone younger than you. The younger person will have his or her own way of getting into something. And just because it's different than the way you did doesn't make the experience less valid.
I've been very careful with wording with the conclusions of both of my books. When I was writing Post, I held out hope that younger people would see through the rock star posing of popular emo bands that didn't want to be called emo bands. A younger generation did, and they're currently making great and influential music. With When We Were the Kids, I wrote a passing mention of where the scene went after all of its pioneers moved away for college. One of the characters remarks, "Ask somebody else" in terms of what happened in the following years. Because these kinds of matters thrive.
As I continue to work on documenting things that matter to me and many other people, I choose to stick by these ideas. I can't let lazy generalizations comparing the present to the past fall into black and white simplification. Because they do exist, I choose to keep working on what I do.