Like many teenagers of my generation, music became a significant part of my identity. I grew up mostly listening to what my parents did and various pop music on the radio but later got into alternative rock and metal — mostly through the influence of friends. I listen to very little of this music now but it included bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Incubus, TOOL, Limp Bizkit, Korn, P.O.D., Linkin Park, Blink-182 and Rammstein. I saw three of these bands live and a lot of others I haven’t listed. My favourite band was The Smashing Pumpkins but I still rarely even listen to their music anymore. There are many more bands beyond this (including a number of Australian bands), that I have not listed.
People grow. Tastes can change — I can’t believe I used to hate eggs! There is nothing unusual about this though I will say that last I checked, most of these bands are still active recording and performing artists so they must have kept many of their original fans or else attracted more. I will say that I began to see the lyrics and content of many of these bands as dark or crass though there were plenty of more explicitly Satanic bands around at the time and still are. Despite all this, I mostly lost interest in their music. When peer approval and identity mattered less, I found myself interested in other music and bands and as I’ve matured, have begun to enjoy classical music though I couldn’t expound about upon why with any great competence. I just know it is more sophisticated and well… better music.
As my interests were predominantly in various subgenres of rock, I found most of these artists were influenced by earlier bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Pink Floyd. Even if you weren’t into these bands, there was always an implied respect or even reverence for them. Though I tried, I never found any of these bands to be particularly good and maturation has not changed my mind. Yet even some of the original members of these bands are still alive and sometimes even performing. There is still a general respect in the industry for them but I think most of them actually suck.
What put all this in mind was the news that The Rolling Stones (who are now all around eighty years old), have released a new single. I didn’t listen to or look into this because I particularly dislike The Rolling Stones. I don’t like any song I’ve heard by them, including their most well-known hits. I couldn’t even understand what they were singing in one of their songs (Start Me Up) and thought the chorus was something like, “Photo Copier, never stop”. It took a bit of effort in a search engine to work out the title of the song and the lyrics.
The same is true of Bob Dylan who is not a band but held with the same reverence. It is truly baffling to me that he is given the esteem he is. His voice is terrible and similar to the aforementioned band, all the recordings of his song have this tinny sounds I find hard to like. I guess this is an example of where listening to vinyl would help but not enough for me to like it.
Some other related news regarding Jann Wenner, one of the Jewish founders of Rolling Stone magazine. He was in trouble for not including any “people of colour” in his book, The Masters: Conversations with Dylan, Lennon, Jagger, Townshend, Garcia, Bono, and Springsteen. I am more concerned with the title which suggests that all these people are “masters”. I am reminded also of the comedian Bill Hicks’ bit on how ‘drugs have done good things’. The gist of his routine is that all the music you love was done by people high on drugs when they wrote their music. He gets partial credit for that as the music he thought was “great” comes from this same generation. But he is wrong because it isn’t great music.
I am not going to argue that many of the great musical artists were not troubled in some way. Artists of all stripes invariably are. But far more sophisticated and enduring music was produced by men who if drunk, were drunk on the Holy Spirit and not addled by any modern pharmaceuticals both licit and illicit. And The Beatles, one of the few boomer bands who I think had some good music produced their best stuff before getting into drug culture. When they were supposedly “real ****ing high on drugs”, they still weren’t when recording as shown in a recent Peter Jackson documentary produced using archive footage.
The main thing I want to get across here is while I enjoyed a lot of the music I grew up with, I don’t pretend for a minute that it was better than anything that came before or after. I don’t now listen to virtually any pop music (if I can avoid it), but with what I know now, that would have been just as true fifty years ago. What is evident is simply more of the narcissism of the boomer generation who think everything they did and experienced was great and take evident delight in the fact that the happy circumstances they were given will be lost to future generations. The music is one part of this though the truth is that the music was one of the worst things they lived through. The best were the relative social stability, affordable property and job opportunities. All of which they squandered or destroyed.
The fondness for names like Dylan, Jagger, Lennon and Townshend won’t last much longer than the last surviving boomer. This may be a hard statement to believe now but the reality is their legacy is still one of living memory. Most of these “masters” are still alive as of writing. The generation that adored them are dying and won’t live much longer than them. Future generations will not lament their loss.