I feel resolutely convinced I am not alone when remembering how my Father and I never agreed on a definable ideal of listenable music. He was constantly yelling at me to turn down my audio system, which at the time, was anchored by a nice little 40 WPC integrated. I can still hear his voice over the thunder of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull or whatever I was playing at the time. All that really mattered to me in those early days is that everything I played needed to be excessively LOUD. My Dad’s generation was far more genteel, better suited to possibly classical, however more realistically endeared to artists of his day such as Glenn Miller and Bing Crosby. Nice. Calm. Soft. Melodic. That was his ticket. Me? Loud, baby, and hard charging. I was sixteen and like long hair and bell bottomed pants, it was a sign of the times. It was “Rock-n-Roll.”
Argue though we did, he generally gave me considerable leeway and never told me I couldn’t listen to any particular artist. His persistent complaint was when he could hear my music in the den at the other end of the house, and particularly when it disturbed whatever he and my Mom were watching on television. We would disagree, and without compromise, about the virtues of Mantovani and the evil perils of, well, everything I chose to play on my audio system – because he universally hated everything I adored.
It would seem, however, times have changed. Although I am surprised to admit, in some ways, at least musically, I have become my Father.
I was recently visiting with some friends and their young teenaged son was listening to something on a handheld player with a set of earbuds. I asked him what he was playing and when he removed the earbud wire, the room was filled with something I had certainly never heard before. It took only about five seconds for me to fully realize I hated it, and I began wondering how this kid could ever listen to such noise. Of course, it also immediately dawned on me that, when I was sixteen, my Dad used that exact, precise phrase to describe my music – noise. At the time, I was absolutely convinced Dad didn’t have nary a clue about my definition of good music, just as I am quite positive the young guy at my friend’s house felt the same about me.
For fun, and in whose results I was not surprised, I did an Internet search for the more popular Billboard songs currently in the USA. Most of the artists in the top twenty five were unknown to me. I had heard of two or three of them but I did not know any of their music. So I decided to try a few songs just to see what kind of music the youth of today enjoy. I may as well change my name to Mike (my Dad’s name) because I disliked them all. What happened to those magnificent bands with whom I grew up? What about the fabulous rock, yes, even the heavy metal rock I have known for so many years? How and when did things become so diametrically opposed to the music my sixteen year old self almost literally worshipped? Most perplexing of all, when did I develop the same outlook about the music of today’s youth my Father had about MY music?
I found myself laughingly curious towards some of the band’s names. What precisely is the meaning behind Childish Gambino? Of course, in all fairness, should the names of some of yesteryear’s bands like Oingo Boingo and Mott The Hoople really be viewed any differently – regardless of how much their music might be appreciated by those who grew up with them?
As generations move from one to the next, so do changes in lifestyles, perceptions in what came before and the need for individuality. As new generations grow older, there will naturally be the desire to create something fresh, something that did not exist before. Just as my generation of the 60’s and 70’s had our own style of music, a style far and away removed from our parents, so too will today’s youth. Their music is as much a sign of their times as was Led Zeppelin a sign of mine. Of course, Led Zeppelin, some forty or more years later, is still quite popular today. History has not yet decided the staying power of Childish Gambino.
Things are looking up for me, however. I am making a determined attempt to change. Because I consider music such a significant part of my life, and a hobby consuming a defining percentage of my free time, I realize I should probably make an effort to engage a more modern standard of musical enjoyment. Broaden my horizons. Embrace current times and become less entrenched in the past. How successful I will be in this attempt remains unknown. I was recently introduced to a group called Snarky Puppy and whereupon hearing them, was very pleasantly surprised. I even liked quite a few of their songs. Have I made any of their music a permanent part of my musical library? Not as yet, but who knows, maybe soon. Maybe my horizons are not yet totally clouded over. Perhaps my Dad’s musical viewpoints have not yet taken me over completely. Maybe there is just a little bit of that sixteen year old Paul still left.