For all intents and purposes, I gave up on popular music after 1986. Up to that point, I was keeping one eye on the record stores and the other on the Billboard charts, something I had done pretty much nonstop since 1965, when I put down seventy-nine cents of my own money (a major investment, since I wasn't yet twelve) for a 45 of the Stones doing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

And then in 1987 I stopped cold. The logical reasons for this are threefold:

  • My divorce became final.
  • I had to spend time and money I used to spend at Sound Warehouse on looking for a new job.
  • I'd bought my first CD player, which shifted the focus from getting new stuff to getting nice, neat digital repackagings of old stuff.

But beyond all that, I had simply gotten to the point where I didn't care anymore: there had been thirty different Number One songs in 1986, and I'd actually bought only one of them. (For the curious: Bananarama's remake of the Shocking Blue's "Venus," which itself had been Number One in early 1970.) Worse yet, two of them involved Peter Cetera.

I rather enjoyed my estrangement from the charts for the next couple of decades, picking up an occasional CD but keeping the vinyl handy for "serious" listening. And I had no real regrets: the market had fragmented to such an extent that it was impossible to follow all the genres and subgenres, yet my belief in the benefits of a unified Top 40, the way it seemed to be when I was a kid, hadn't quite been shattered, so I figured it was simply Too Much Work. Let someone else bother with the differences among CHR/Pop and CHR/Rhythmic and all the other flavors: my tastes had relocated elsewhere.

Which, in fact, they hadn't. They were right where they started, a little broader maybe, but still there. Obviously a lot of stuff was being recorded and released that I might have actually enjoyed: I simply had to find new channels. And oddly, finding independent material proved a lot easier than getting my hands on more conventional pop vehicles.

For the latter, it helps to know someone half your age or so. Trini does our PC maintenance, and she'll be half my age nine years from now. Inevitably she'd wander into my compound and marvel at the sheer perversity of my song selections: eventually she started suggesting additions, even finding them herself and bringing them to my attention, on the not-all-that-dubious assumption that she can deduce what I like by noticing what I don't turn off in disgust when it comes up on the shuffle. As synergy goes, this is top-shelf quality: I get to hear some newish (as in "post-1986") stuff I might not have heard otherwise, and given my tendency to be didactic in the extreme, she learns where a lot of that stuff came from in the first place. We had an entertaining discussion, for instance, of Atreyu's "Falling Down," which she said reminded her of something she'd heard before, perhaps from the parental units. After about twenty seconds, I'd identified the influence: Golden Earring's "Radar Love," from way back in the 1970s. To prove the point, I attempted to synchronize the two: I never got them exactly in sync, but what the hell.

At this point, I don't know which is more miraculous: the fact that a twentysomething woman can have a serious musical discussion with an old fart like me, or the fact that I'm actually listening to bands that exist in the here and now. Ultimately, I suppose it doesn't matter.

The Vent

  9 May 2008

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