Sunday, March 9, 2008

If It's too loud, you're too old

That was a lapel button that Ted Nugent offered to concert goers when he toured Western Europe in the early 80's. Brilliant marketing ploy, I think. The Motor City Madman, the Master of Gonzo Rock (and about a half-dozen other self-created nicknames) pretty much turned the amps up to eleven and told us to do the math. If you were troubled at the sight of your own blood flowing like a river from your nose or out your ears by decibel levels closer to what a 767 generates at take-off, you were too old and outside the tribe. I suspect had the tour happened in the winter and there had been enough organization, many of us would have been set adrift on ice floes in the Main or Donau rivers.

We Boomers think we invented rock and roll and elevated it from a form of music to lifestyle. I don't think the first part is true (I've looked at artifacts like the Brill Building and the stables of songwriters and musicians that worked in almost factory-like conditions writing songs for photogenic/telegenic 'pin-up' young women and men to offer as white pop music (natural selection would have kept people like Frankie Avalon or Fabian from ever escaping the old neighborhood) but the second part is all us.

Once folks like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and others (you figured I was gonna mention The Kinks,right? You were correct.) started writing their own songs and having hits, the flood gates opened and music 'by kids and for kids' built to tidal wave strength (that 'the kids' making this music were on average 10 to 12 years older than the 'kids' buying it wasn't mentioned very often) and washed away almost all of the 'pop' tune smiths in the music industry. It may have actually peaked the unveiling on New Year's Day 1966 of a billboard atop a structure in Times Square, NYC, which was the cover art for the Stones' December's Children (and everybody elses') LP that said, simply, "The Rolling Stones. The band your parents love to hate."

It didn't take us long to expand that sentiment to 'rock and roll, the music your parents love to hate.' From there it wasn't even a leap to endorsing behavior that a generation earlier would have resulted in jail terms. Our parents' generation fought a world war against fascism (and we're angry about the lies the current administration supposedly told us about Iraq? Take a look at a history book and spot all the fascists of World War II and see who is on who's side. Hint: Dylan to the contrary, The Lord did Not intervene. Basketball free throws, yes; blessing our arms, not so much.) Our parents' generation gave us Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine, the Space program and the Civil Rights movement.

We in turn, invented sexual freedom that became chaos, cars that went fast and burned fossil fuels like there was an unlimited supply, buying on margin, the politics of pollution, the Gospel of Greed and something worse than any STD, we actually perfected a means of killing ourselves with sex, AIDS. Yeah, this rock and roll lifestyle is/was quite the Great Leap Forward.

And now look at us, 2008 and many of us have adult children and, in some instances, they have children and we are grandparents. I don't feel like that guy, but the calendar says I am. And when I have to have my son or daughter explain to me how to work my cell phone, or what a message on my computer screen means or what the light on the car dashboard is saying, I'm in awe of a world I've created that I no longer comprehend. It turns out I'm not alone. In this morning's NY Times, U R 2 Old, it's obvious we are about to surrender this world to our children, the 'digirati' the article calls them (children of the digital age), who will brush us aside with no more thought than we had when we did it to our folks.

What was it Peter Townsend wrote and Roger Daltrey sang about in My Generation?
-bill kenny

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