Days of 45

Terry Teachout has the post-road downs, or something:

Consider, if it doesn’t embarrass you too much to do so, the rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. How much of it holds up today? I was raised on rock and took it with supreme seriousness, but most of the albums with which my high-school playlist was clotted now strike me as jejune at best, horrendous at worst. I don’t know about anybody else, but I haven’t been able to listen to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Jefferson Airplane for decades.

One of the reasons why so much first- and second-generation rock and roll has aged so badly is that most of it was created by young people for consumption by even younger people. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing — if you’re a teenager. But if you’re not, why would you want to listen to it now? And what has happened to its makers now that they’re over the demographic hill? Have they anything new to say to us, or are they simply going through the motions?

I concede that Grace Slick wore out her welcome about the time she claimed that they built this city on rock and roll. However, despite being about two years older than Teachout, I still embrace the songs of my youth — some of them, anyway.

The key here, I think, is Teachout’s reference to his high-school playlist as being jam-packed full of albums. And albums, then and now, more often than not are, in Dave Marsh’s phrase, “singles separated by filler.” There were about two and a half memorable songs on the Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, the .5 depending on how you felt about “Plastic Fantastic Lover.” That leaves eight and a half that nobody plays anymore, and I’m pretty sure no one misses “D.C.B.A-25.” And while I’m on my second copy of Crosby, Stills & Nash, I didn’t come close to wearing out the grooves on “You Don’t Have to Cry,” and Atlantic Records, in its wisdom, once issued a 4:35 single edit of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” that isn’t anywhere near as tedious as the 7:25 album version. (Try finding that single today, though. Bands at this level of self-importance, which is most of them you’re likely to have heard of, resent the hell out of 45 and radio edits.)

It’s entirely possible that some singer or some band I thought was utterly wonderful when I was in high school might do something wonderful today, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for it to happen. I am, however, thankful that they can still, for the most part anyway, breathe.


  1. Roger Green »

    6 January 2013 · 12:48 pm

    I have a greater tolerance for CSN and Surrealistic Pillow but I agree about We Bilked This City…

  2. Jess »

    6 January 2013 · 1:27 pm

    I played in a few bands during my youth. Maybe my experience was different, but it was not as pleasant as it might seem.

    I worked hard, but the work could be fruitless, especially when the goal of too many of the band was for quick cash, even if it meant rehashing the “feel good” songs of others and throwing creativity away. My efforts to create original work fell on deaf ears.

    As far as the creativity: It may be an unending source, but it’s not something that’s tapped in volume at will. There are only a few arrangements you ever feel really good about and they come with the price you do everything you can to avoid anything that resembles an original work in the future.

    I’ve always had a critical opinion of music and few of those that wandered into pop rock were ever considered a favorite. Maybe it’s an arrogance on my part, but the music was never appealing, however I always gave credit to those that made some type of success. I could appreciate their effort.

    Artists that survived decades, manage to still fill reasonably sized halls and can still pull out enough creative thoughts to add to their repertoire have my admiration. I might not like what they have to offer, but they have my respect.

  3. Charles Pergiel »

    6 January 2013 · 6:39 pm

    Long ago I heard someone say that Led Zeppelin music was raw. Huh? What? I thought it was great. I happened to catch a recording recently that really did sound raw. I suspect that 40 years ago I wouldn’t have noticed. (I probably said this before, but that’s what you get for listening to me.)

  4. David Richard »

    6 January 2013 · 8:24 pm

    I was a bit too young for 60’s rock, but I still enjoy listening to my collection of 70’s rock tunes — people like Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, Tangerine Dream, The Carpenters, Chicago, King Crimson, Alan Parsons, ELP, Yes, Genesis.

    Now maybe those are not really rock (although it was filed that way at Peaches record store at NW 63rd and May) when I made my purchases.

    Excuse me, I’m now in the mood to load up a 70’s play list…

  5. McGehee »

    7 January 2013 · 8:31 am

    My appreciation for the stuff I heard long ago was spared by (a) my not owning any of the albums my brother used to play, and (2) my tending not to listen to enough Oldies radio in recent years to get tired of it all over again. And now that I’ve downloaded most of the stuff I do still remember semi-fondly I can play it when I feel like hearing it, and not play it when I don’t.

    Some of that old stuff is really useful for getting some annoying earworm of a TV commercial jingle out of one’s head.

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