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One Person's Ear Candy is Another Person's "Crap"
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
I've been depressed lately, which is not too unusual, but I've also been feeling lonely for my parents.
I wish I could tell them I get it. I understand now why my dad liked big band music, and opera, and Broadway musicals and Latin Jazz (he was probably one of the world's biggest Tito Puente fans EVER). I understand why my mom loved Cole Porter. I get it now. Because while I was grooving to what I heard on the radio when I was very young, they were probably grumbling about the crap I was listening to. I didn't get their music, they didn't get mine. I'd hear a song on the radio and asked them if they liked it and the answer was invariably, “no.” I couldn't understand why they didn't like the hip, lounge-lizardy drawls of Elliot Lurie as he sang about a girl named Brandy who served whiskey and wine and loved a man who loved the sea more than he did her. I was only five at the time, but I loved it.
For some strange reason, 1972 stands out to me as one of the best years in music. Roll call: “American Pie” by Don McClean; “Bang a Gong” by T-Rex, “Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass; “Changes” by David Bowie; “Do It Again” by Steely Dan; “Everybody Plays the Fool” by the Main Ingredient, and oh, thank you Wikipedia. I'm scrolling down the list and I'm nodding. It's getting so when I hear some of these songs, I choke up. I'm not particularly good as an adult, but I think I did childhood especially well. It's funny, but I look back at that time as being great. I never thought about the possibility of my brother ending up in Vietnam. I didn't even know there was a war going on! I didn't know if my parents worried about their jobs, or making the house payment.
For me, turning on the radio was wonderful, because it seemed like every song was awesome. And Top 40 AM radio (because that's what it was back then) was amazing. You'd hear soft rock, R&B, hard rock, pop, novelty (anyone remember “Popcorn” by Hot Butter? How about “The Streak” by Ray Stevens?) You'd even hear instrumentals! “Joy” by Apollo 100 got a modern treatment with drums and bass. Back then, AM radio was completely democratic. Even pets got in on the scene. Around that same time, RCA re-released The Singing Dogs' 1955 version of “Jingle Bells” and I HAD to have it. I remember my mother trying to track it down, but to no avail. I finally got my hands on a copy of it as an adult.
Another memory I have of early 1970s music is riding around in our 1968 Chrysler Newport listening to the theme from “Shaft” while trying to track down a Gnip Gnop game for my brother. That was the hot item one Christmas, and I can remember the way the street lights looked as we cruised around town.
I read an article years ago about how music you listened to as a young child and as a teenager is the music that resonates with you the most. I can't remember why. I tried to look for a similar article, but ended up with a Cracked article about how we are going to end up just like our parents. I realize Cracked isn't the most scholarly of publications, but they manage to get interesting facts across in a humorous way. Apparently, as we age, we can't handle dopamine, which I guess controls the “wow” factor whenever we listen to music. It will take more and more to “wow” us, so the song that is number one for the entire summer that all the young kids are going on about, people like me will say, “how can you listen to that crap?”
I'll admit to liking Ke$ha's music for the guilty pleasure it seems to be. Mindless tunes about drinking and partying, even though I do neither. Lady Gaga is okay, but I already experienced the coming of an outrageous blonde with good dance tunes. And at the time, I thought she was a slut. But I came around. Thanks Madonna, for “Into the Groove.” Sometimes I wish I could mute both Ke$ha's and Gaga's voices, because I like the music just fine. Give me a good beat and shut the hell up.
Occasionally I'll discover “new” music via a commercial or scene in a movie, but the radio stopped being exciting a long time ago. I'll scan the stations looking for one playing oldies. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a local station has dumped (for the most part) its all talk format, switching to oldies, but at least they are playing stuff from the sixties. And what they play from the seventies is a welcome surprise. I heard the theme from “Welcome Back Kotter” the other night, which I hadn't heard on the radio in almost forever.
And as I flip through the current music stations, and wrinkle my nose in disgust, it hits me. Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga and Ke$ha and several other musicians who aren't familiar to me are going to be the music today's teenagers and little kids will be shedding tears over in the year 2043, when they are middle aged, or damn close to it.
What will be funny to see are people who are 20 years or so younger than I am griping about the crappy music on the radio. My parents complained, I'm complaining, and there's more generations to come who will dismiss the current tunes for what lives on in their hearts—and brains. “How can you listen to that crap?” Because one generation's crap is another generation's ear candy. And mom and dad, I get it now. I do. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, whoa oh...