Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Time of Your Life

When I was about 13, an older friend – he was about 17 - turned me on to a lot of great music: Cream, Jimi Hendrix and a whole lot of other stuff. Then we lost touch for a while - actually we stopped speaking. The next time I ran into him, he must have been in his mid-twenties. He told me he had sold all of his old records, and that now he liked Neil Diamond.

Since this was in the late 1970s, we’re not talking about Neil Diamond, the young turk out of Brooklyn who wrote “Cherry Cherry” and “I’m a Believer”. I mean the one who forgot where he came from, and began wearing wide collars and big hair - the one who considered himself an Artist. I’m sure my old friend is listening to those records a lot these days.

Meanwhile, I just picked up “Are You Experienced?” on CD because my son kept asking me about Jimi Hendrix, who is doing a better job of uniting the generations through his music than any artist of my parents era. My point isn’t that I have better taste than my friend (though I do). And it isn’t quite that rock and roll has stood the test of time (though it has).

I guess my friend felt that he had to put aside childish things. I went through a similar crisis at age 15 regarding clothing (contemporary observers might conclude that the crisis has not yet passed…). I had noticed that the older boys – the seventeen year olds - were starting to wear “grown up” clothing. So, when I turned sixteen, I thought I should wear shoes instead of sneakers, and slacks instead of jeans. Well, that lasted about two days. Thank god I’ve never been very decisive.

Speaking of clothing, when I was around twenty five, another friend tried to get me to go with him to see Shirley Bassey. (This was 1982. I’m not that old.) I guess he figured that we were adults now, and so we should do something that required dressing up and stuff. I really owed it to him, too, since I’d dragged him to see everyone from the Ramones and Talking Heads to Warren Zevon. I must admit that part of the problem was that I didn’t even own a suit, let alone want to wear one. I don’t think my friend ended up going, and he has me to thank for that. Now, I have nothing against Ms. Bassey. All I had to go on was “Goldfinger”, so I wasn’t betting on enjoying the show.

This same friend once complained that he liked the song “It’s You, Babe” by Styx, because “at least you can hear the words”. One of my great regrets was not thinking of replying that some words aren’t worth hearing. Come to think of it, I’m not talking to this guy, either.

So, finally, my point is that you shouldn’t listen to - or not listen to - a certain type of music simply because of your age (or any other demographic for that matter.) If you’re afraid that people will laugh at you, I say let ‘em. They probably do anyway, and if they live with you, they’ve probably earned the right. My Monkees albums won’t make my all time greatest list, but if I feel like hearing them – and I do sometimes - they’re going on. (The problem arises when all you play are those same old Monkees albums, or when you buy the new one every time one comes out.)

I think some people deprived themselves of good music because they thought they were too old for it. I can’t say for sure how that first guy feels now. I do hope he’s enjoying the music he’s listening to, whatever it is. But I also hope it’s because he really wants to listen to it in the first place.

By now the second guy has probably opted for the type of pop music that "mature" people ought to be listening to. And he probably likes it, too. But I’ll bet he doesn’t love it.

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