The Soundtrack Of This Age

When I was a boy, my grandfather would tool around in his car listening to big band music or classical. The former was the music of his youth, while the latter was what he thought sophisticated people liked. He was not wrong about that. In his youth, the kind of music you could dance to was for proles, while the sophisticated people appreciated classical and opera. It was not as clear cut as that, but the early 20th century was a time when people still looked up for guidance and inspiration. That included entertainment.

The thing I always hated hearing from my grandfather was how modern music was terrible and not fit for civilized people. He was a man of his age and class, so he used colorful euphemisms to describe popular music. Even as a kid, I understood that every generation has their soundtrack. Maybe never having known anything but a world where pop culture dominated, this came naturally to me, while my grandfather still recalled an age before everyone had a radio and television. Maybe he knew things I could not know.

Either way, I have always just assumed that once I passed my mid-20’s, pop music was no longer for me. Some stuff would be appealing, but most would be aimed at kids and strike me as simplistic and repetitive. There were some good bands in the 90’s that I liked, but most of it was not my thing. By the 2000’s, I was unable to name popular groups or the songs at the top of the charts. Today, I have not heard a single note from any song on the current top-40. On the other hand, I am sure I have heard some version of all of it.

That may be why music sales have collapsed. A 15-year old can go on YouTube or Spotify and find fifty versions of the current pop hits, gong back before their parents were born. They can also find stuff from previous eras that was remarkably well done and performed by people with real talent. Justin Timberlake may be talented as a singer, but no one is confusing him with Frank Sinatra. It is simply a lot easier for young people to see that pop music is just manufactured pap from Acme Global Corp.

That is another thing that may be plaguing pop culture in general and pop music in particular. When I was a teen, your music said something about you because you felt a connection to the band. In the sterile transactional world of today, no one feels an attachment to anything, much less the latest pop group. There is no sense of obligation to buy or listen to their latest release. Supporting a type of music or a specific act is no longer a part of kid’s identity. The relationship is now as sterile as society.

That is the funny thing about pop culture in our Progressive paradise. It is a lot like the pop music of totalitarian paradises of the past. The Soviets manufactured their version of Western pop, but it was never popular. Just as we see at the Super Bowl, comrades can be forced marched to an arena and made to cheer, but no one really liked it. There is a lot of that today, as every pop star has the exact same Progressive politics and uses their act to proselytize on behalf of the faith. That is not a coincidence. It is by design.

The West does not have a competitor that embraces freedom and liberty, so the past has become the competition. Look at YouTube and you will see that old songs and bands have enormous amounts of traffic. Given that the people who listened to Sinatra in their prime are mostly dead, it must be younger people discovering and enjoying the old stuff from when the West was still in love with itself. I have often been surprised to see young people, particularly young men, into music that pre-dates me, but it is common.

As an aside, I include music clips in my podcast, mostly to break things up, but also to entertain myself with inside jokes. The number one question I get from people is about the music. Every week I get e-mails asking about some clip and the e-mail is always from a younger person. If I use a clip from an old crooner, I get compliments from people of all ages. Nostalgia certainly plays some role, but most of it is people looking for enjoyable music, because the current popular music just does not work for them.

What is happening to pop culture reflects our age. We have been turned into Pandas by a smothering, soft totalitarianism. The feminization of the culture means we are ruled by mothers, who refuse to ever let us wander from the nest, physically, spiritually, creatively or intellectually. That has had all sorts of effects, like the drop in sperm counts and the collapse of popular culture. A deracinated people, kept in adult daycare centers and tended to by belligerent spinsters is not going to have a lot to celebrate or live for.

The great philosopher Homer Simpson said, “Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.”  There is a lot of truth to that as per capita music sales peaked in the 70’s and began a decline until CD’s forced everyone to repurchase their music. But that peaked in the late 90’s and there has been a precipitous decline ever since. Two factors driving it would be demographics and the fact that our most musical people, blacks and Jews, no longer play instruments.

Pop music is not art, but like art it does hold a mirror up to society. In the heyday of pop music, the society it reflected was one that was optimistic and happy. Today, the society it reflects is the gray, featureless slurry of multiculturalism and the vinegar drinking scolds who impose it on us. It is not that it is low quality or offensive. It is that the music is a lot like the modern parking lot. It is row after row of dreary sameness. Like everything in this age, popular music has the soul of the machine that made it.

120 thoughts on “The Soundtrack Of This Age

  1. Insanely late to the party here but noticed the z-man and I have the same taste in music although probably not too much of a mystery since only have a couple of years on our host.

  2. I can’t tolerate the “I love jazz,” crowd.

    That’s a bottom line go-to for me.

  3. There is a gentleman on YouTube who goes by the name EMGColonel. He makes available recordimgs going from about 1899 to the mid fifties. I very much enjoy the early stuff, and it served as a welcome respite from being acquainted with the antisocial endeavours of swarthy swashbucklers and the trivial concerns of decorative women.

  4. J.S. Bach appeals to the brain
    Pop & Rock to the emotions.
    Early Rap to the gut.
    It currently is a series of edited farts
    One wonders what is next.

  5. I don’t really know if this is quite accurate. The current pop music seems to be dominated by sub-moronic ghetto blacks and hispanics rapping about selling drugs, long as it has been, probably at least a decade now.

    The number 1 viewed music video on Youtube is Daddy Yankee’s Despacito at an absolutely mind-boggling 4.9 BILLION.

    Whip Whip/Nae Nae is basically this generation’s Kriss Kross one-hit-wonder song. 1.5 BILLION views.

    This poison has never been viewed by more people. Worrying about album sales and downloads and all that is a bit beyond the point. This is poison in the well, not so much money maximization.

    I’m right now, out of pure morbid curiosity, becoming the 1.5 billionthh person to listen to a clinically retarded black middle schooler exhort me to “do the stanky leg.”

    It’s comforting to think people are going to Youtube for Frank Sinatra but its a falsity. Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walking is the top Sinatra song, at an absolutely pedestria 119 million.

    Its also quite striking how many of these songs are by Hispanics of difficult to ascertain vintage and not in English.

  6. I have Sirius XM in my car. My playlist when I am alone covers 60’s-80’s with a mellow channel and channels called Classic Vinyl and Classic Rewind. I have one playlist set up for my teen daughter with all the channels of new pop music from today.

    The other day, I had on my USB plug-in (about 250 songs) when my daughter gets in the car after dance school. The song that comes on is “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf. She sits down, we drive off and after about 30 seconds, she is tapping her foot and bouncing her legs to the song. When the song ends, I throw on the Sirius back to her her channel playlist. She tells me I can keep listening to my music, lol. Hell she even liked that old bubblegum song by 1910 Fruitgum Factory – Simon Says. So yeah there’s some yearning out there for the classics!

  7. Watch this to the end, if you haven’t seen it, or even if you have. It’s fun as hell. I’m a gen-x’er. So, I grew up in that perfect in-between age where the Golden Age movies were still staples year-round, but also as rock was ascending and R&B/hip-hop/pop was getting started.

    The thing Z doesn’t really say, maybe he doesn’t have kids I don’t remember, is that kids today benefit tremendously from the Silents, Boomers and Gen-X’ers in terms of music. We play music that spans hundreds of years, and we have it all at our fingertips. Our KIDS get to hear that regularly. How many kids would call up “Summer Breeze” on Siri on a road trip? Not just that they like the song, but that they prefer the Shaw-Blades remake over the Seals and Crofts original. Then, switch gears to the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and then that Mylie Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” on a road trip skiing on Friday night? Throw in a little classical, some disco, pull up some crooner from Bing, then over to “Cats”, back around to “Uptown Funk”, over to “O-o-phelia” (Lumineers), and wrap around and the whole family sings along with Sir Paul for “Yesterday”.

    And shit, we’re not even to Denver yet! Let’s go around the horn today. How about a little Bon Jovi and some Journey, and then Beyonce singing “Listen” (Dreamgirls soundtrack, one my daughter introduced me to)? How about “A Fifth of Beethoven” (Walter Murphy), then listen to the original one, and over to “Jupiter” (the Planets, Holst)? Then back to something a little more current, like “The Work Song” (Hosier) or “Lazaretto” (Jack White)? Oh, how about a little Blues Traveler ’cause they’re awesome? Or some Collective Soul? “Paint it, Black”? Now we’re getting somewhere.

    That’s our Friday during ski season on the 2-hour drive into the mountains. Round and round we go.

    Yeah, there’s less connection to the bands, but the kids do still identify with the bands. It’s just harder to do because so many choices, so easy to access, so Twenty One Pilots needs to bring their A-game every time, often with genre-bending changes in style to stay on top.

    I love that about music today. It’s boundless, which makes it fun. Or, as I told my kids a few years ago when I got on a Tom Petty kick (buying all his back catalog on iTunes one weekend), “It’s NEW TO ME.” Doesn’t matter how old it is, great music is just great music. The kids understand that better than any generation that came before.

    • No, I alluded to the time factor. Look up Miley Cyrus singing “Jolene” and then look up Dolly singing it. The former is a ham and egger, while the latter is a legend. We never had that ability, for the most part. The kids today get to compare the present with the past, with regards to lots of things, in ways that were impossible 20 years ago.

  8. Interesting post especially since I just subscribed to Sirius. The best 59 bucks I’ve spent in a long time. Oldies, Sinatra, great American songbook, the whole shebang. My favorite is the Opera channel. What a rich, wonderful experience. I have the Opera on while watching MLB pre-season (muted). Given that most operas are about as long as a typical MLB game it’s a great fit. I wish all of us could rediscover the beauty created by our (European) ancestors. What a marvelous patrimony.

  9. Ironically, my assignment at 10 am sharp tomorrow (I’ve blocked my work calendar for 15 minutes) is to obtain 4 tickets for the “Arctic Monkeys” for my 16 year old daughter and her friends when they go on sale Apparently these particular monkeys are the most significant thing to hit alternative rock in the last decade…or something….wish me luck.

  10. I owe you for introducing me to “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”. Got a good laugh when I looked it up. The version you had at the end of last week’s podcast was good, too.

    I read an interview years ago with John Lydon, and he mentioned how important it is for musicians to have strong roots. Kind of ironic, given that the Sex Pistols were one of the most manufactured bands of all time, but the idea has some merit.

    I like EDM, but it’s always amusing to me that an atomized, deracinated people would end up listening to beep-boop music with the human element removed.

  11. Digital technology has allowed music and music making to proliferate to a level far beyond what was possible in the era in which you truly needed a studio to make a decent song. The result, I think, is that modern music is some of the best music ever made (some of, no one’s ever topping Mozart). The problem is hardly anyone has ever heard any of it. We don’t yet have a good system for making a taxonomy of new music and getting individuals the best of the styles they enjoy.

    Popular music is the shit pumped out by the record companies. Record companies are like print newspapers. The new technology means they are irrelevant people clinging to the remnants of their former necessity. We shouldn’t be surprised their products are just as awful as print media.

  12. Someone once told me that their are an infinite number of possible musical compositions. I thought about this and realized, while it may be mathematically true, there are not an infinite number of GOOD musical compositions.

    • Funny, but I thought about trying to figure out the number of three cord combinations that are possible and appealing. That would be the absolute ceiling for the number of possible pleasant songs. Then, narrow it down with four chord and five chord combinations.

  13. “That’s another thing that may be plaguing pop culture in general and pop music in particular. When I was a teen, your music said something about you because you felt a connection to the band. In the sterile transactional world of today, no one feels an attachment to anything, There’s no sense of obligation to buy or listen to their latest release. Supporting a type of music or a specific act is no longer a part of kid’s identity. The relationship is now as sterile as society.”

    The same is true for sports. Why should I root for one professional sports team over another, other than that it’s fun to get together with friends and pretend to care?

  14. When I was in HS just about all of my money went to buying albums. Now days I pay almost $0 for music; only buy stuff I hear on the local jazz station, that isn’t available online. Have almost 2TB of music now, mostly jazz with a large amount of rock. In my online journeys have encountered so much beautiful and unusual music. An album of Byzantine music made with replica instruments from the era; Balinese temple chants, etc. Have a decent system to play it on too.

    So I could give two shits about the current state of the music (or film) industry. The history of music is at my fingertips — even if the internet goes away.

  15. Meaningful music is often the product of individual genius (or an ensemble of similar exceptional talents). Perhaps the dearth of good music is a manifestation of the absence of genius in modern music. In my view, good music inspires and reinforces creative thinking. Conversely, I have long contended that rap music actively destroys brain cells because it encodes simplistic repetitive mind states.

  16. I’ve been enjoying the comments on this throughout the day. One other thing I think of is that Quincy Jones interview everyone made fun for a few weeks ago did have some smart elements among the craziness. At one point he laments that younger musicians don’t actually study music anymore. Lots of that “corny” stuff from the old days people have been talking about here–Mancini, Herb Alpert, Sinatra, the Beach Boys–had lots of craftsmanship to it. There were smart people who knew about arranging and harmony behind this stuff. Today so much stuff is literally “written” on a computer. They have programs where you can just blop in sampled elements, repeat them, etc. and you’ve got a dance track. They literally refer to this as “piano roll” style programs, because the elements are just rectangles on the screen. No need to read music anymore.

  17. The incubator of genius is provincialism, always has been. Art, literature, music, even politics. Universalism suffocates genius.
    A few decades of European Union will undo ten centuries of advance.
    The great majority of Aferican genius happened under the watch of segregation. Great Jewish musicians were usually raised in ghettos. What did Paganini experience as a child in 18th century Genoa other than what Genoa offered? On and on.
    The great political thinkers of our day are waaaay off the reservation.

  18. I can’t stomach Rap and Hip Hop, yet you can’t avoid it if you attend any modern sporting event. At a recent charity tennis event, they insisted on blaring terrible music on every change-over and often between points in a game.

    • I went to a yoga class (for the purpose of hitting on the ladies) and the instructor played rap throughout the class. A yoga class! And I live in a conservative state.

    • I’m with you and Bruce Willis’s character in “The last boy scout”

      Milo: You think you’re so fucking cool, don’t you? You think you’re so fucking cool. But just once, I would like to hear you scream… in pain…

      Joe Hallenbeck: Play some rap music.

  19. American pop music of the 1950-70s was a tremendous force for U.S. soft power. The songs reflected a human nature and a drive that was lacking from most non-British pop. It was cool to listen to the American pop. Foreigner educated here became strongly attached to the American music that was popular during there time here. Having spent much of my career in E. Asia I can attest to this power. What a terrible thing to piss this away. As we can see among the newly arrived “youths” of Europe, anybody can do rap, it takes talent to make music.

  20. Even as recent as the 80s, R&B had great lyrics and spoke about love in a meaningful way. Now all we get are vulgar renditions of a teenager’s fantasies. Thank heavens for streaming services

    • Very true. But Black music went down the blind alleyway of Rap, and it just can’t seem to gets itself out. Even if you like Rap, as a genre, it’s over forty years old, and any genre will pretty much be mined out in that length of time. As to why this is, I have no idea, but it certainly hasn’t helped the American music scene.

      • One of my mom’s favorite records was Ray Charles’ two country albums (mostly Hank Williams songs). I think the problem these days is no melody. People want to be able to SING a song. You can’t do that with most of the current music. And I still don’t understand why rap is popular, other than you don’t need much talent to do it.

        They have done all they can to drain our society of beauty.

  21. In the future, our entire pop culture will be indistinguishable from an Apple commercial.

  22. Related: Over on Zero Hedge this morning they report on the chapter 11 filing for the largest radio conglomerate in the US.

    • Good. So many times I’ve been driving home listening to the radio – get far enough away I have to change stations – only to hear the exact same songs again.

  23. “Justin Timberlake may be very talented as a singer, but no one is confusing him with Frank Sinatra.”

    But, Justin Timberlake is not really a singer, is he? He is really a song-and-dance-man. We can thank MTV for the reemergence of the S & D man. Once music started being marketed with the visual overwhelming the auditory component, the equation changed. Young people needed something to watch in tandem with what they were hearing. Sure, music has always had a visual component. Concerts. Night Clubs. TV shows. The Beatles even had “music videos” like Hard Day’s Night or stylistic interpretations of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. But MTV changed music from what you heard to what you saw. This led to the Michael Jackson phenomenon. He was Sammy Davis, Jr, for a new generation. After Jackson, if you couldn’t shuck and jive you wouldn’t be found entertaining by large numbers of children.

    I think the generational component of music is fascinating. I can listen to Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart and be in awe of their genius. But, I can listen to Big Band music, the music of my parents, and music from the 60’s and early 70’s and find the genius of the composers and musicians. My personnel generation was the 60’s and early 70’s and I am amazed at the quantity of great music from that period of about 10 years. But, why just 10 years? I have concluded that it is because of the worldwide over-exposure of the music of this period, the imitation of and competition between artists, and the disposable income of the youth, something that never really drove commercial music. I also believe that music is a young man’s game. How long did the Beatles really create great songs? How long was Paul Simon a good tunesmith? Sure, they might pop out a popular song after their heyday, but it only showed the contrast with how great they had been “in the past”.

    Why do I prefer the music of the 60’s and 70’s? Possibly because that was just before and after puberty. When you are young, every experience is more intense than when you are older. I attribute this to the fact it is new to you personally and your neurotransmitters and hormones act to make new experiences create new pathways in your brain. But this doesn’t explain why I don’t care as much for the music of the 50’s. I heard that at the same time I heard the music of the 60’s and I found the earlier music to be more primitive. Partially because it was, partially because electronics and recording techniques had not reached the level they had a decade later. That explains it to me, but why were the musicians that came after the 50’s more creative than the Elvis’s and Chuck Berry’s? Why did the thinner, less sophisticated sound of 50’s popular music appeal to the Beatles, Stones, and others, and become the inspiration for what they did? Again, the generational component of coming of age with something “new”. Music of the 80’s and 90’s? Sound-of-a-raspberry. Sure, you had an occasional bright light, but overall I find hair bands and rap to be low forms of music. Their enthusiasts do not.

    I would love to see scientific treatises on age related susceptibility to art. I think it is very important, actually. If you have noticed, since at least the late 80’s, rap became ubiquitous in movies, TV and the airwaves. I think the process has dissipated somewhat. But, what is the psychological result of exposing young impressionable minds to such a pathetic excuse for art and forcing an entire generation to consider it “their music”? We know that dumbing down education is a fact and see the results everyday. What effect does dumbing down your exposure to art have on your soul?

  24. I listen to Top 40 radio on my commute, for sociological reasons. I’ve heard every one of those songs in your link. We’re screwed. The goal seems to be to give our entire society Borderline Personality Disorder — everything is either great or terrible in these songs; “emotions” are either cranked-to-eleven or idling-in-neutral. Even throwaway 80s cheese like “Careless Whisper” has an emotional depth to it that makes it sound like it was recorded on Mars. “Guilty feet have got no rhythm.” Ok, if you say so, Grandpa, but…. what is this “guilt” you speak of?

    • Yes, a lot of the stuff I dismissed as tripe back in the 70’s and 80’s sounds pretty good now. And some of the stuff that was supposed to be risque back in the 60’s, like Mick Jagger’s song “Let’s Spend the Night Together” sounds almost quaintly romantic these days.

      • One of my favorite old Beach Boys tunes, “Wouldn’t it be Nice?”, is incomprehensible to modern listeners. “You know it’s gonna make it that much better /When we can say goodnight and stay together.” Lolwut?

  25. I was at a trivia event recently, and was amazed when the 20 somethings at my table knew the oldies better than me. I spent a lot of time in Israel over the last decade, and all the bars are filled with young people listening to music from the 70-90s. I always tell my kids that if you can’t identify at least 3 instruments, it’s not music. They are teenagers and like a lot of the older pop/rock music. Unfortunately, they also like a lot the the current jungle boogie, and I don’t mean Kool and the Gang.

  26. I still have soft spot for The Ramones, Johnny in particular.He was an America loving unashamed righty and later brought a young Marine CJ into the band too, someone of the same political persuasion I believe. They were a band that made this Brit dream of America.

      • For you perhaps,me and others not so much.For a working class white guy surrounded by motown and disco loving contemporaries it was the perfect music for a difficult time here in the U.K. 4 white guys playing simple fun tunes at breakneck speed….what was there not to love.

        • For me it’s mostly Joey Ramone’s super annoying singing voice. The lame guitar playing didn’t help either but I’m willing to chalk that up to having higher standards than the average joe due to being a player myself. But mostly Joey Ramone’s dreadful singing.

          • As a guitarist then you should appreciate his style was unique and quite difficult to reproduce especially in a concert setting and yes I do play myself but one mans meat etc.

          • Unique? Maybe. Difficult? Uh, no. No it wasn’t. Maybe reproducing the sound, due to Johnny favoring those crappy Mosrite guitars, but technique, or should I say lack thereof? Not in the slightest for anyone even halfway competent.

          • yet somehow he features in all top guitarist polls…..not bad for only halfway competent, I’ve never counted shredding or blazing away at scales as anything other than dull and yes I find that reasonably easy but you don’t rate him and I do but that’s fine room for all I guess, enjoy whatever it is you like.As an aside a label here just re released a single I recorded when 19….now that has some shite playing on it!

      • I saw them live at at club in Portland. They played non stop, with just a brief break to say “1..2…3..4” between songs. It was impressive, although I can’t say I’m a big fan.

  27. When I really, really need solace, I put on some of Mozart’s chamber music. Works every time.

    • J S Bach too. Incredibly intricate note combinations. Somehow connected to the brain waves sometimes.

  28. I would like to recommend the biography of Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich titled “Testimony” by Solomon Volkov. It came out in the West while the Iron Curtain was still intact and there was debate on this side about its validity.

    Shostakovich worked in the circles of the Soviet elite in St. Petersburg, was close friends with Marshall Zhukov and even had a personal encounter with the mustachioed tyrant himself. Stalin, who fancied himself a music critic wrote a critique of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk that was devistating. He thought surely he was destined for the Gulag. The book draws a clear picture of what is was like for an artist of extreme genius to work under communist totalitarianism. It also gives one a rounded picture of life in Leningrad before, during and after WWII.

    • I highly, highly recommend a book by Nigel Cliff called “Moscow Nights”. Van Cliburn, a masterful classical pianist from a small Texas town, travels to Moscow during the height of the Cold War and wins a Soviet sponsored international piano competition and becomes a national idol – in Soviet Russia. It’s not just about a classical piano player, it has a lot of Cold War history during the period of time when nuclear war seemed inevitable. Shostakovich plays a minor role in the book also, being one of the judges of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. A very good read.

  29. There are son many other distractions for young people. 50 years ago music spoke to people. Now it’s just background noise to a movie or video game.

    Read or watch the biographies of the big names from the 70’s. Rock and Blues weren’t diversions – they were crusades and obsessions.

    • Big music is an artifact of the mass culture of the industrial age. I’m rather glad its dying though and a far more diverse, individual music scene will be better, IMO

      Lower barriers of entry is rarely a bad thing

      This doesn’t mean the music of the past was bad, not at all but that does mean a bigger idea space, actual diversity in its positive meaning and a lot more opportunities to avoid Entartete Kunst or enjoy it if that is what you are into

  30. The reason the magic beans quit working is because muzak in the 90 s sucked the hind shit tit. (Did gramps use that one?)
    I mark the end officially as Yo! MTV raps. Once things became a black thing that I didn’t understand, because I was not OG like Mr Robbie VanWinkle, I sort of retreated into my cassette collection. Nirvana worked for about a year, but Seattle sound was just a bunch of unwashed dope fiends preaching about ThaPooor.
    the whole social justice message thing is the greatest culprit. Even Dave Mustaine got all weird and anti nuke. Another refuge lost.

    I can’t even enjoy Kill The Poor by the dead Kennedy’s now thanks to the Damn progressives. Before I thought it was funny, now I see hidden messages and control levers in everything.

    • “Seattle sound was just a bunch of unwashed dope fiends preaching about ThaPooor.”

      Fantastic line, and oh so true….

  31. It seems to me that most of the 20th century was a process of losing our musical vocabulary. Rock lost the harmonic and rhythmic sophistication of jazz, rock is generally played with mostly power chords backing repetitive song structures. Rap in turn lost rock’s melodic sensibilities and lyrical intelligence. We are now reduced to drumming and chanting. Even at that, it’s frequently a machine doing the drumming and chanting. I’m curious as to how much more can be removed and still be anything that could reasonably be called music.

  32. They’ve even sanitized the past in a lot of cases. For instance, whenever I introduce a class to cultural criticism, I ask them to guess what the number 1 song was in 1969, the very year of Woodstock, the Days of Rage, etc.. I get a lot of guesses about the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, etc., all of which had huge hits that year, BUT — the #1 overall best seller was “Sugar Sugar,” by the Archies. Tom Jones was in the top 10, and Harry Mancini’s Orchestra was in the top 20. That’s real diversity, but nobody knows…

    • For many years of my childhood “popular music” still included Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk, and the Boston Pops. I suppose the audience big enough to justify those broadcasts eventually died off. In a sense “everything” is on tap via YouTube and Spotify, but there was something about broadcast shows that put the spotlight on things and allowed the larger culture to share them. Now everyone can be an expert in obscure stuff, but it’s hard to share passions for obscurities. Another example of the atomization of modern society

      • Yes, it’s always important to remember that one of the most popular groups of the late 1960’s was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. As Severian noted, this has all been airbrushed away by our cultural Commissars.

        “The West does not have a competitor that embraces freedom and liberty, so the past has become the competition.”

        Very true. The past has become to our modern managerial state what the US was to the USSR during the Cold War; and our modern totalitarians hate and fear it for the same reason, and respond in the same way – jamming, censorship, social opprobrium. Our overlords fear the past like they fear nothing else, except possibly Christianity – and of course, the two fears are very closely intertwined. This is like the death wish that infects so much of our society – once you start looking for it, you see it everywhere.

    • Most young people know nothing about anything older than Madonna and Brittany’s open-mouth stage kiss — and even that’s receding into the gray past. I lead (past tense) many soldiers — from new recruits to older NCOs, and newly minted lieutenants to mid-field-grade officers. Even in that crowd, they had no idea of who we were as a people, and what we had done, in or out of uniform. 

      In that particular field, associated with their own, they had no idea about the great bomber war in Europe — the numbers and human cost — even with participants still this side of the turf. Over 600 aircraft launched in two missions to Schweinfurt-Regensburg alone … with 60 lost each mission. Six hundred men. Those I know yet alive who flew these missions still awaken at night from terrible dreams.

      Nor did they know anything of the unfathomably difficult B-29 flights undertaken from Guam, Saipan and Tinian to Japan, and back. 1,500 miles each way, or, as one old participant told me: “Nine hours up, and nine back.” Nothing; nada.

      Or how about the wonders we created, like radio, and the supporting technology … at thing that gripped our nation for decades. Or the automobile, and on and on.

      All of this gone under an impenetrable wailing about pollution, exploitation, sexism and racism. They are taught nothing; they know nothing (as a whole), yet they are primed for activism, social action, and to “make a difference.” Savages.

    • Music is just like movies, magazines, and books. Much of what was popular has been airbrushed away. Go through the top tens of all of these things in times past, and a few things jump out at you. Many are unfamiliar now, much of it is dreck, but it is dreck that was part of the cultural landscape of the day. Many people delude themselves about the present, and also about the past.

      Here’s a hint. The past was mostly about the white middle class interests, fears, and experience. Airbrushing it away helps hide how warped our current culture actually is.

      • Funny thing is, just a year earlier “Harper Valley PTA” was a massive hit — Jeannie C. Riley was, sez Wiki, the first woman to top the Billboard Hot 100 and the country charts. It sold 6 million singles, and it was about a single mom and her daringly high hemline. It doesn’t sound like a “Sixties” song, but you’d thing such a Grrrrl Power! anthem would be fondly remembered today….

        • Even past versions of liberalism are a threat to the modern version. Carl Marx is now just another dead white male, and those “daringly high hemlines” that were all the rage among lefty chicks in the ’60’s are now “signs of sexual objectification and submission to the male gaze” or some such BS. That’s just it; you can’t just be on the left, anymore – you have to keep moving left, ever farther and ever faster. “Red Queen Syndrome” indeed.

  33. I listen to FM radio when I am driving around, but don’t listen to music much, otherwise. The stations are all ads and happy talk now, and the DJs have quickly evolved from some old wizened guy leavened by a few younger people, to the sports and beer bro’s, to now a duo with a gal that has a voice like Kathy Griffin and a gay guy.

    As for the music, for me it has gotten to “whatever’s on, at least it is music (rap and the Beastie Boys are not music)”. Even country has sold out.

    My Tijuana classical station (the only classical in San Diego) just closed shop, the slot going instead to these mariachi infused Mexican ballads and 60s style over-the-top love ballads. Few ads, and the ads themselves are hilarious, often done up in the big voices and cheesy sound effects of those old 60s radio ads. Strangely, I find myself on this station more than any of the others. More music, less other stuff, and some sort of banal honesty (it is what it is, and does not pretend otherwise). I can work on my smattering of street spanish as well.

    The state of music and radio broadcasting must be pretty bad if a cheezy little Tijuana broadcast sounds better.

    • That’s the reason I actually got Sirius renewed on my car. I got the first 6 months free and realized that the same stations (NYC) were playing the same stuff over and over again. The oldies station WCBS, which used to play 50s – 80’s is now mostly 80’s and up with a smattering of 60’s and 70’s. One classic rock station, but too many ads.

      The small fry stations that sound interesting for 5 minutes are of no use because after 5 minutes of driving the static noise overwhelms the speakers, the result of their low wattage transmitters and going out of range.

      On the AM dial, its sports talk which I have grown tired of listening to all the armchair coaching and ridiculous hypothetical trades from callers and announcers alike. Don’t like the news stations and there is one channel with the likes of Rush and Hannity, I get tired of it after a while.

      So my Sirius got me hooked after 6 months, I always thought I would never pay for it, but to get more music, less chit-chat, that was fine. Plus on occassion, I’ll toss on Patriot radio to hear some new voices that I don’t hear on free AM.

  34. I don’t even know how to explain the excitement of a rock concert in the 80’s to my son. I showed him the Metallica ’89 concert as much to see the crowd as to hear the band.

    And you’re right about the loyalty. I was watching the concert video of one of Rush’s last tours. It was like a religious revival for middle-agers.

    Much of what I hear from today’s music sounds like a black guy reading a Dr. Seuss book.

    • It is a strange thing. In my youth, punks had their music. Metal heads had their music. The future libertarians listened to the Dead. Music reflected the groupings among white teens. That seems to have started to collapse in the 90’s and now it no longer applies.

      • The US was increasingly diverse in the 90’s and as the decades went on people spent less and less time with other people.

        Once the Internet was everywhere (mid noughties or so) the public culture has started to collapse.

        On the positive side of things the Internet made music available to all even earlier

        . Back in the late 90’s early 2000’s it took a while to download (a few minutes) there was a ton of music . I used to haunt before the record labels got them shut down and found out about tons of new music there.

        Once you are off the industry plantation, no need to go back and with such a large variety the commonality of limits is gone.

        Big cities where the subculture formed to a high degree are also heavily foreign which has an impact too, most US metal-heads , shitkickers and punks were American White . Less of those guys less of the related subcultures .

        Non White subcultures, mostly Latino have different music tastes, around here rap and Spanish language music

    • Rock is basically updated vaudeville. You get the same thing from a Stones concert you get from a minstrel show. Mick Jagger gives you a song, a dance and a few jokes, engages in silly call and response dialogues with the audience, etc. All that’s missing is the blackface. Throw that in, and it’d almost be indistinguishable from Al Jolson, except louder.

        • Ha! Yeah, Cab Calloway is great! When I see films of him from the 30s he looks like a prototype of Prince, with the long hair and the leaping about. There’s an old film of him doing Refer Man that’s really a treat. I don’t have a link handy, but if you can track it down you’ll see what I mean about the resemblance.

          • Cab Callaway attended our suburban NYC Episcopal church. He was very dignified, always in a suit, which is what all the men wore to church in the 50s and 60s, with white shirts and neckties; the ladies in dresses and hats. I remember Mrs. Callaway as being from Jamaica (not Queens, NY) and having mocha colored skin and auburn hair. Their oldest daughter was Chris Callaway. She was a stunner. Very unusual looking with large, very dark eyes, oval face and slightly freckled mocha colored skin. Her reddish hair was short and curled close to her head. We were in the same Confirmation class. She married trumpeter Hugh Masekela later. I’ve always wondered why the Callaways chose to drive at least 20 miles to attend this particular church as back then there were lots of Episcopal churches around in that area.

  35. The conservadads who work for Corp block A, have been listening to Rush on a loop since 85. LOL

    • Wheedle;
      Those drawings are absolutely but not surprisingly shocking in their depiction of the human depravity of Russian Communism.

      Having also watched the Jordan Peterson video, I am stunned and saddened that he resolutely refuses to connect cause to effect. Namely that rejection of God can lead to this sort of depravity by small steps. To begin with, he hides the fact that Alexander Solzhenitsyn became a Christian in the camps and attributed his survival to that.

      Apparently Peterson is all about Existentialism. While this is better than the Nihilism he rightly excoriates, for most people it’s a thin reed to lean on that pierces the hand. IOW, It’s just like Libertarianism: It’s of comfort to the top 1%, period. And it’s of no practical use or comfort to anybody else.

      In the analogue ancient form of Stoicism, it was the preferred philosophy of later Roman Emperors and Senators, etc. But pretty thin gruel otherwise. The Goths thought otherwise.

    • It is nothing as to the 120 year old ” water treatment ” of the US thugs in the Philpines.

  36. Art, and pop music, like advertising we see now on cable channels, and predominately in the shows themselves, is now about power. That end, of course, is a major concern of politics — along with money, position, and …. passion. Art is now both a parent and the child of politics. Power is the brass ring for which they reach. So of course Art — pop music / movies / painting / literature et al — becomes flat, utilitarian, and somehow false (though visually stimulating). Those seeking power have bent all to their use, and coopted those delusional souls who are artistically inclined.

    I come from a family of artists, and have seen the delusion, political madness, hate and destruction that follows the fusing of art and politics.

    Looking back as a high-year boomer, it’s easy to see, for example, that John Lenon certainly was about politics, along with countless other musical artists, such as Madonna, to name just one of these later … performers. (NOTE: I followed none of them, and was not a “fan.” Even as an early teen, I was put off by late 60s-early-70s popular culture.) From my aging vantage point, I can see this channeling of music into politics and power came in order behind the written word, and film, this latter being largely consumed with those things from it’s earliest times, when directors, producers, actors and writers discovered the power that story and iimages exerted over great swaths of humanity. But they all become political tools, if not created initially to that end.

    Art now provides the creative engine driving the ideology of post-modernism, or leftism, or whatever we want to call it. It is used now to supply a continuing source of imagery, of grist, to fill the minds of a population that must be manipulated to the ends of those who would shape our reality, and control our lives …. entirely.

    • The same thing has spilled over into any exercise that offers opportunities for creativity. Think of architecture, housing, transportation, computers, phones, and so on. They all socialize us to accept what we are given, and to not criticize anything. Brutalist architecture, and its style allies in the West, are the most egregious examples, IMHO.

  37. A rough rule of thumb I use to decide whether some tune has any worth is to ask myself if people are going to be playing it on a jukebox in a bar fifty years from now.

    For “playing it on a jukebox in a bar”, those of you of not so old, substitute ‘having it played in a public space where a bunch of you are gathered, with the expectation that most will tolerate it without raising a fuss.’

    Blacks in their eighties listening to “Fuck Tha Police” is going to be hilarious.

    • I often think of that kind of thing. In my case, I wonder “will we be cranking Tool in the old folks home?”

  38. How do talented musicians even hit the market anymore…? It used to be the big record labels used to control the soundstage… but now? What’s the process, and who are the gate keepers?

    And if there are no gate keepers, how in blazes is it that we are drowning in rap – crap? Get off my lawn you little chits!!!!

    • Hmmmmm. Are you trying to send me a message, Z? The captcha code I had to enter for that comment above was ‘gFUCK’.
      You youngsters are a bunch of foul mouthed little hellions that need your mouths washed out with soap!!!

    • It used to be the clubs were the proving ground. You started at the fifth warm-up act, learning how to play live and develop your own sound. A guy I went to prep school with got a job while in high school as a scout. Even though he was underage, he could get into clubs and listen to acts. He’d write up a report and send it to his boss. After school, he worked full time as a talent scout. About 20 years ago he changed careers as there was no real need for his talent. Pop music is produced like all other pop culture. Even hip-hop is a system now.

      • Ya know what? Take a look at the publishing industry. I’ll be damned – but I think I see the exact same thing going on with the arts and literature crowd…

    • I’m not a blue grass fan, but I don’t hate it either. It’s one of those sounds that has a place. If I’m at a ramp festival, I want to hear blue grass.

        • I have to be in the mood for it. But, that’s true of most things. When I lived in the south, you could always find a blue grass channel. The same for old country.

        • Blue grass fine for short durations, after which is sounds repetitious. If you want to relax with a drink in your favorite soft chair, nothing beats ’60’s rock and roll. if you play it loud.

    • Every so often, my church has a bluegrass band come in to play in place of the normal music. I always feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk, when he starts dancing around like a madman.

    • Go to YouTube and do a search for “Gangstagrass”. They’re a band that has successfully merged bluegrass and rap music. It’s surprisingly good stuff.

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