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.