Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Classic Rock, Really Classic?

Listening to The Byrds song 'Turn Turn Turn' brings me back to the days of Jewish high-school, when on religious days the school would blast this song through the auditorium speakers. Not only for its convenient allusions to the bible, but also for its “vintage cred” as my school wasn't a regular Jewish school; it was a liberal reformed jewish school. Cue Regina George’s mum – “I'm not a regular Jewish school; I'm a cool Jewish school!!”
How Jewish high school can be at all cool or appealing I fail to understand, but props for trying... religious institution. (Also have I mentioned Jewish enough in this article? Okay once more. Jewish.)

Okay Jewish-ness and mean girls references beside (I'm sick of mean girls just as much as the next person, but am I seriously the only person who constantly has this quote on rotation in my mind in relation to ANYTHING? It's like the best quote. It is so totally tangible; you can relate it to anything.)

Anyway, I remember the first time my evangelical Jewish studies teacher played the song in class and she turned to me and said “Alexa would like this one”.  It’s important to note that by this point in my high school career I had been duped the “chick that likes old shit” by both my teachers and peers which I honestly didn’t mind too much. Later on in the record of ‘Turn Turn Turn’ around the part of the song where they say something about living and dying, a student swivelled around on his strategically placed chair to me and said “How can you like this old shit?”

“How can you like this old shit?”

That’s it. That was the point in my life where it was clear to me that there was a divide between me and the rest of the kids in my class. I was the one in the class that could stand old music which, as my classmate so eloquently put it, was apparently “shit”. I guess what irked me the most was that this person had had such a closed mind that he could call something he had heard only about 45 seconds of shit, and would thus think I would have any right or concept of what good music is/was. What also frustrated me is that because I openly liked classic rock that put me in the jar of having to like all kinds of classic rock, which frankly isn’t true. I listen to a wide variety of music and just because I happen to have a few (okay maybe a bit more than a few) Creedance clear-water revival albums on my iPod doesn’t automatically mean I love every single album that was released within the decades of 1960 and 1970; because I don’t.

Anyway, much time has passed since that incident. And the poor soul that had said that disgustingly ignorant comment to me now spends his time in his parents’ house smoking pot and playing video games every other weekend. However, this has brought up a whole new issue for me. What does my generation have against “old” music?

I remember listening to an interview with Pamela Des Barres where she commented on how sad it was that the rock ‘n’ roll music she used to “rock out” to is now labelled “Classic” and is given its own separate genre. I can understand where she is coming from, it is sad to see that by music progressing and aging, we as a result feel as though we need to recognize this aging. But it is important to recognise the development rock music has a genre has progressed since the 70s, and it would simply be unfair to new rock bands trying to find their own musical legs without separating them.

 Despite my own opinion on the rock music scene these days, I do understand both where Pamela is coming from but also the way music culture works now. I suppose it isn’t a really great boost to the ego to realise the music you connected to so much in your youth is now duped “classic” meaning that she is becoming a “classic” i.e old, traditional, outdated and irrelevant.  I suppose this is a sad truth no one would like to ever come to terms to. (I don’t however; mean to say Pamela is any of those things)

The word classic is associated with words such as old, traditional and typical. So therefore it is completely understandable why my classmate had taken such distaste to a song that was written over 30 years before his birth. Western youth culture has this fundamental need to reject the past in order to create a more diverse and interesting art; this is the culture in which original rock “n’ roll music developed out of.  So therefore it is only natural that my classmate rejected the song, because it is his inherit rite to have the attitude that he did. To him, the music that is being produced now is new, fresh and innovative. If new music is being produced all the time, why should he have to listen to music that to him is completely irrelevant? 

Because of this distinction between old and new music, there has been a divide created between fans of the old and fans of the new. As well as this distinction, there have also been fans that have been able to recognise that good music is simply good music; and have as a result been able to embrace both genres of music by not alienating one over the other.

A really fascinating article I read a few weeks ago discusses that, for the first time, record sales of old records have preceded that of new records. This means that more people are buying older records over newer records than ever before. The article speculates that this is because the youth of today are “finally realising what us oldsters already know: new music is rubbish and it’s only the old stuff that’s worth listening to”. 
In my opinion, I doubt this is the reason. Sure there is overwhelming evidence that large majority of youth have a real enthusiasm for older bands (exhibit A: Me) But that does not mean that we prefer older music over newer music. In fact, in my opinion the reason why older record sales have risen is probably because newer music is so much more accessible online that people don’t feel like they need to pay for it.
 Especially during recession times, people are more likely to spend money on products they trust are reliable and what is more reliable than a classic Led Zeppelin record? 

In this day and age, with the music business being as fickle as it is. Is it really any guess that people would much rather be spending money on a band that has had such powerful cultural resonance over a band with a few hits that may OR may not fade into obscurity within the coming years? 

xxx Alexa


  1. hi hi! you are so sweet + your blog is so cool! also, don't take "sweet" to be an insult, i hate when people call me that, i don't mean it to condescend your genuine curiosity and interest in other people (that's how i always feel people mean it when they call me "sweet") but, no, your question about what people in NY are like isn't stupid at all, i'm still trying to figure that one out myself! honestly, as a students, it's tricky because a lot of artists are still so starry-eyed and confident in their talents, but i think once you sort of break away from the school setting and meet actual artists living and working in NY, it's majorly disillusioning. but necessary! because it's good to get disillusioned because if you still want something after you've been disillusioned by it, it proves that you actually want it. i love that you call NY an "amazing opportunity" because it is, but it's tricky in the sense that it's so fast-paced and intense, it's hard to actually take the time to appreciate the grandeur of it all. but, yeah, there are a lot of "wankers" too. idk it's so cool to hear you romanticize the States because i feel like most people hate on America, especially young idealistic Americans, but i've always really appreciated living here because i've always been so interested in art and film and music and American culture makes all of these things really easy to obtain with just a little know-how. but i also romanticize the UK a ton because of their music and all my family in europe just seems so content, although they're from Greece and they probably ought to be a little more concerned. But Americans have really disgusting work ethic, it's all very ADD and sort of depressing but also romantic? like juggling so many things is stressful but then i look back and say wow, i did all that! sorry this is so long! you should absolutely come visit NY if you ever have the opportunity, i would totally hang out with you and show you around!!!! xoxo

  2. I wish I had more people like you in high school. My school was still conservative but many did not appreciate classic music. Most seem to want to find the latest band. Also growing up in a city that had lots of underground shows helped expand my range of music. Most gave their CD's away at show. I really had grown in my taste of music. I think classic is a term best used to show an appreciation in general. I hope maybe one day the music I love will be loved as much in the future.

  3. glad to have found your blog, this is an interesting piece! i actually feel the opposite way - it amuses/annoys me that the kind of music my class mates thought i was weird to listen to 7 years ago as an obnoxious grumpy misanthropic teenager - the smiths, echo & the bunnymen, joy division etc etc - is now all over their high street t-shirt collections! super-petty, but annoys me no end to see these non-fans appropriating misery music, haha xx