I Wonder if the Reason Curmudgeons

FALL PREY TO THE halcyon days syndrome — you know, where they say the world is going to hell and they don’t make ’em like they used to — isn’t so much about a fear that the world is deterioriating, but that it’s not improving quite.

Not that “What’s going on is worse than when I was younger” so much as “it’s not getting better like I’d hoped it would.”

And, by younger, I don’t mean so much “when I was seventeen” as “when I was thirty-five.”

Thirty-five is about the time you can expect you’re finally getting good. Not as good as you’ll get, but good enough to blow doors. Whereas an enfant terrible will get by on the simple amazement that he’s performing at that level at all, the thirty-something is assumed to have the chops and is expected to be able to rule the stage. It’s also the time when one’s contemporaries are (finally) coming into their own. Getting respect — and elbow room — from the preceding generations.

Everybody longs for their youth, but they measure everything by their thirties.

A lot of the Baby Boom was in their thirties in the ’80s. We were, in the lexicon of the time, thirty-something, and discovering — as if we were the first (yeah, right) — what all the generations before or since learned. Yeah, rock-and-roll from the ’60s was claimed to be our music, but that’s because we danced to it at the prom. (Or, in our case, didn’t, because that wasn’t — you know — cool.) But up until about ’75, or so, the real stars of the musical firmament were war babies. John Lennon — born 1940. Eric Clapton — born 1945. Pete Townsend – born 1945. Grace Slick – born 1939. Jerry Garcia – born 1942. Joe Cocker – 1944. Mick Jagger – 1943. Dylan ’41, Leonard Cohen ’34, Hendrix ’42, Baez ’42. Carlos Santana was a skinny little kid, born in 1947. Turned 30 in ’77. It wasn’t until the ’80s that we got our hands on the levers of power, so to speak, and made the music our own.

And what did we do with it?

Hair metal.

So, of course, rap and hip-hop can’t hold a candle.


On WinAmp: Sade – Stronger Than Pride

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