The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 August 2004

Those oldies but goodies

Pointing toward my review of the highly-revisionist Kill Your Idols, Francis W. Porretto sees some difficulty with going home again:

I've been sweeping up all sorts of "classic" rock and roll lately, from, ah, a variety of sources. Seldom has the experience of hearing it again today matched the thrill I got from hearing it thirty years ago.

For me, the formative year was 1961, the beginning of an unprecedented (for my family, anyway) eight-year stay in one place, the year in which I was granted access to my very own radio. This morning, I popped a compilation of 1961 tunes into the car to see if I'd gotten bored with them yet.

And from the opening riff of Del Shannon's "Runaway," I knew I hadn't; even now, forty-three years after the fact, the thrill is there. And it held up, through "Quarter to Three," through "There's a Moon Out Tonight" (a 1958 track reissued that year), all the way to the Marcels' gleeful expropriation of Rodgers and Hart's "Blue Moon."

So what's the difference between FWP and me? He's slightly older, but not enough to mark any sort of generational rift. I interpret his "thirty years ago" statement to be general, and not a specific reference to 1974, a generally crappy year for pop music other than R&B.

Maybe it's the idea of albums versus singles. I subscribe to the mostly-unpopular (but now easily verifiable in the age of downloadable music) notion that albums tend to be, in critic Dave Marsh's phrase, "singles separated by varying amounts of filler," and many, perhaps most, of the acts of this period ran out of things to say long before the end of Side Two. But FWP isn't saying whether his boredom comes from individual songs or from an elpee's worth of toons.

And to be upfront about it, I never much cared about the ages of the performers on my little plastic waffles; it is at least somewhat true, as FWP says, that "it was music made by the very young, to appeal to the very young" — R&B, at least when I was that age, was primarily oriented toward adults no matter who the buyers turned out to be — but the credibility of any particular act, to me at least, never seemed to be dependent upon its chronological age.

So is my nostalgia more advanced than FWP's? I don't think so. I still delight in hearing songs from this period I'd never heard before, songs for which there's no specific connection in memory. When questions like this arise, I tend to fall back on the wisdom of Sylvester Stewart: "Different strokes for different folks."

And so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo.

Posted at 7:49 AM to Tongue and Groove


I'm younger than either you or Francis -- 35 in three months -- but not only can I still be excited by the music of my youth, I can still be excited by music recorded before I was born. In fact, much older music excites me more than most new music.

I still enjoy looking for new music: The lengthy jam that comprises most of "That's Just What You Said" off the new Wilco, or the entirety of "Hey Ya!" are as good as anything I've ever heard. But give me those opening guitar licks of the title track from Sgt. Pepper, or those toms ushering in "My Sharona," or the wah-wah country stomp of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "House At Pooh Corner," and I'm there. Just like the first time I ever heard them.

Posted by: Phil at 6:19 PM on 16 August 2004

There's a danger, I think, in falling into the trap of "Everything recorded since [select year] is complete and utter crap." While certainly the mainstream has been dammed and routed into channels it never sought, there's plenty of action on the outer banks.

Still, there was a time (let's call it, oh, 1965) when at least 25 of the Top 40 singles, in my semi-humble opinion, were Must Buys. These days, I'm hard-pressed to come up with one or two.

Posted by: CGHill at 3:27 PM on 17 August 2004