I was recently traveling early one morning through South Carolina on I-85 and feeling pretty good. I had the fresh faced aura of a good night’s sleep, I was listening to the Classic Motown station on Sirus satellite radio, I was on the way to see my favorite customer, traffic wasn’t all that nasty and the outside temperature had not yet risen to blast furnace levels. All in all, I was pretty happy.
Suddenly a song came on the radio that filed me with memories and put a smile on my face. “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose was not only one of my bygone favorite songs, more importantly; it was the favorite song of a girl in my high school on whom I had a massive crush. Which explains why I liked the song in the first place.
Despite not being able to remember her name, and trying for twenty or so miles to do so, I finally relished the fact that I was so happily reminded of my past by the simple act of a song playing on the radio.
I’ve always liked the R&B genre and like many of my contemporaries, I grew up chasing albums from artists as diverse as The Temptations, The Four Tops, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull and Chicago. But something has changed in the music I loved as a kid to what I hear today.
In the 1970’s it seems all the R&B I ever heard was by today’s standards the “Classic Motown” sound. For that matter, today it is called “Classic” Motown- then it was just one word. Now, whatever vestige of Motown that may remain all seems to be Rap. And some of my beloved groups like the Who and Jethro Tull don’t even exist any more (some of the founding musicians do perform as individual acts but not as the group who is the namesake). All their “new” music is re-masters of recordings twenty or more years old. Moreover, music classified today as “Rock and Roll” is more along the lines of some modern thing on iTunes and not Quadrophenia or Thick As A Brick. Hearing what I associate with R&B or Rock and Roll is more of a trip down memory lane than an exploration of new music.
Of course, change is to be expected. I mean, really, we’ve moved past the Plymouth Belvedere with push button transmission in automobile design so why would it not therefore follow that musical styles cannot also change? Were that so, we’d all be listening to Pat Boone without ever experiencing the richness and diversity that is music today.
In thinking about this even more, it also occurred to me that it is possible, quite likely in fact, that perhaps I have remained mired in the past. That maybe I have yet to discover the modern day version of what comprises the genres I’ve loved for so long. Maybe the problem is not music; maybe I’m my own problem. Perhaps I should look beyond the “classic” this or the “vintage” that and see what new discoveries can be made.
Throughout all of this, in one form or another, and to one degree of quality or another, there has been high performance audio. That part of the equation has essentially not changed. In fact, the only change that has occurred in that regard is in better sonic quality. It might even be legitimately argued that I actually hear a different Quadrophenia today because of a better playback system than when I first bought the album in 1973. I have three different versions of that work and the one I go back to over and over again is the original, so maybe there’s my answer.
I still have yet to remember “what’s her name,” music still seems different stylistically today than it did twenty or more years ago, I still listen to the “classic” stations on satellite radio, and honestly, I don’t see that changing. With the exception of Jazz, I suppose I live musically in times past. Oh, I do venture into new things, like Country, for instance, and I’ve grown to appreciate Classical, two genres I never expected to enjoy. By and large, however, I still enjoy the music of my past.
I like the memories that many of those decades old songs evoke. I like the fact that in an ever-changing world, that one small segment of music is a constant. Maybe I’m transported from the confines of the sweet spot in my listening room to a distant time in my musical past. Who knows?
Only the quality level of playback is the one change in all of this. What I hear today from those long ago produced works is quite different than from the days of my little Marantz integrated. And as far as that goes, I completely welcome the change. Who knows, maybe some new memories are on the horizon?