Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Define "Old Fart"

When I was 16, my mother was only 32 and my father, only 35. Both seemed like "old farts" to me. The opening guitar riff to the Four Seasons' "Let's Hang On" was hard rock to them and Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" might as well have been heavy metal to their ears. Again, 32 and 35.

Ian Hunter is pushing 80, and in his own way, still rocking, albeit behind an acoustic guitar as opposed to an electric. Still, a raucous "All The Way From Memphis" suits him just fine. He will be 80 next year and he is planning a small tour and a new record, and there will be a raucous "All The Way From Memphis" somewhere in the set. Count on it.

I don't think I have many readers who are in their 30's, and I believe most are 50 and older. I have written about Motorhead, AC/DC, Nine Inch Nails, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath on these pages a number of times, and I usually hear crickets. Occasionally, someone will comment how this music is not for them. My question is, was it ever? Or, is age a factor?

My father saw Led Zeppelin with me in 1977 and he hated it. He and Jimmy Page were roughly the same age. I guess in my father's case, this music just wasn't for him, but he also went from loving The Band's first two records, to hating all hippies and all music except for Dion, in the span of a year.  I am intrigued by some recent comments, one a few weeks back regarding a Black Sabbath tune on a Weekend Mix, and a few on Monday's Costello post, where age seems to be a factor in how we listen to music.

I was raised in two households, one in what is now Soho, and one in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Music was everywhere, at all times. When I was 3, I was buying records, with a little help, of course. I have vivid memories of buying "Sgt. Pepper," "Darlin'" by The Beach Boys on a 45, and the "Happy Jack" picture sleeve by The Who. My cousin and his dad loved swing music, so at 6, I was air conducting Tommy Dorsey's "Opus One" and "South" by Bennie Moten. It is admittedly strange for a 6 year old to be listening to big band music, let alone knowing all the stops and starts and accents, well enough to pull a Jerry Lewis, but even then, it didn't seem as odd to me as it did to most others. It was music.

My uncle loved reggae, another anomaly in an Italian household in 1972, but I got to listen to "Funky Kingston" by Toots & The Maytals the week it came out. It wasn't The Beatles, but I dug it anyway. The older I got, the more I wanted to explore and the less I let my surroundings stop me. I wanted to hear it all. No friends or family could handle the sound of Ornette Coleman, except for one, a jazz guy who ran a record store in Greenwich Village, who was 15 years older than I was, but loved talking to me about music anyway. He played me Ornette, Sonny Sharrock, Joanne Brackeen, and Sonny Criss. I liked some of it and some of it wasn't for me. But neither jazz guy nor I thought it had to do with my age. When I was an arrogant, teenage asshole, I might have been too dense to realize that Charlie Parker was NOT a hack. (Yes, I did indeed say that to someone and I still cringe when I think about it.) Age was definitely to blame for that.

I am midway through my 50's and I never think the reason I don't take to certain music has anything to do with my age. Come December, when I post my favorite records of 2018, you will see Judas Priest-Firepower right up there. And most definitely the new Elvis Costello. I've really made an effort to think of music as good and not-so-good. I reserve the word "bad" for the soulless, auto-tuned, pop garbage that has been all over the charts for the last ten years. I simply cannot stand what I am hearing. But, I don't think I need to be a demographic to listen to the clever, melodic pop of the Pet Shop Boys, or the headbanging thrills of Motorhead, or even 80 years old to appreciate the beauty of a Strauss waltz.  However much "Stairway To Heaven" or "Bohemian Rhapsody" gets played on the radio, I just don't tire of them. I might not voluntarily reach for either of those albums as much as I once did, but the joy of hearing real art and great record making still satisfies me like nothing else. I've been trashed for revisiting and now loving McCartney's later work, when I once trashed it myself.  For many, it might be easier to just resist it. I still think "Off The Ground" and much of "Driving Rain" is dreck, but I'm grateful to myself for letting the rest of the music in. I refuse to resist the music of an artist who has given so much, from Paul to Elvis to Bob and back again

I am curious as to what being an "old fart" may have to do with hearing music.  Is it a lack of patience as we get older? Is it a fear of wasting what precious time we have left? Of course, our tastes change. I get that. What I don't get is how a fan of any artist, from XTC and Elvis Costello, to Paul McCartney and David Bowie, could just stop caring, like many readers have often admitted, or how there can be such a disparity from one artist's record to another. If the only two records in Costello's career were "This Year's Model" and "North," I'd have a better understanding. But for my money and specifically my ears, the journey from "My Aim Is True" to "Look Now" couldn't be more natural.


Keith35 said...

At 57, I still listen to much of the same music i did at my formative age 16-25. As you know I am constantly open to hearing new (21st century) bands and artists. Some I love (Decemberists, Grandaddy, Steven Wilson), but many newer artists seem to only come up with 1 or 2 good records. Older age hasn't stopped me from listening to loud music, but my tastes have moved to Jazz oriented rather than Rock larely

cmealha said...

I think it is a matter of patience and less tolerance for crap that may have been more acceptable when I was younger. I tend to steer towards music with more substance and have no patience for hacks who create music by committee. I don't think it's a genre thing. I like some of the 'loud' stuff like some Greta Van Fleet but also like some contemporary fluff from the likes of Taylor Swift or Katy Perry but it's very selective. What I really get off on nowadays is the artistic quality of bands like The Lemon Twigs or more mature artists like Mike Viola and of course Elvis Costello who have put out incredible albums this year. Paul McCartney as well. I do tend to veer towards the more familiar stuff but I'm always looking out for new music and artists that are more than just formulaic.

richeye said...

Part of being an "old fart" for me, is not having any patience or much interest in the sheer glut of material available from a lot of new artists. Acts that grew up not on the limitations of 18-20 minutes per side records, but were born in the CD era when an album could be 80 minutes of musical diarrhea... or later, in the streaming era when whatever you ate for breakfast could become your musical turd of the day. Sure, I'm being judgmental, but that's what old farts do.

Nevertheless, the dividing line is still THE SONG! If behind, beneath or within some bangin' beats there is a song, I can still relate. Of all the EDM bands going, there is one that stands out to me -Sofi Tukker; because they actually write songs and can play those songs with or without the electronics! Lyrically interesting, rhythmically creative and structurally sound; i.e., songs well written

That's what matters to me. I'll go back to being quietly miserable now.

buzzbabyjesus said...

A genius friend of mine (a visual artist and musician) once described to me a science book that explained how music is heard, especially by teenagers, and why that music tends to stick, and also why we stop looking for new things by 40.
It's mostly hormonal and physiological (our ears age), and has very little to do with choice.
New music has to jump a lot of hurdles the older you get.
You really have to give a shit to get past it, which most people don't.

itsok2beright said...

I usually look at it as the difference between listening and hearing. Most, if not all, of the people on your blog listen to the music, the instruments, the production, the harmonies, etc. Others, who don't cringe at recent pop music, are just hearing music as almost background noise, or because they know the lyrics, or feel like head bobbing and dancing.

This is similar to car guys & gals. We don't view cars as appliances for transportation. We look into the mechanicals, the designs, the history, etc. Many people drive cars, but not many people appreciate the cars as art and design.

Everyone listens to music, but hardly anyone appreciates the music.

Sal Nunziato said...

I agree with everything you say in the first paragraph. It's been a real sore spot for me for some time and it is what inspired my NYT Op-Ed about missing "the suits." But in regards to the artists I mentioned in the post, I guess it's up to each individual to decide if songs on "This Year's Model" are "better" than songs on "Momofuku." But I think it's fair to say, the majority of songs on ALL of Elvis Costello's records are worthy of more than dismissal or in worst cases, complete apathy. It's the old "I stopped listening to the Stones after "Exile" routine. I really disliked "Blue & Lonesome," mostly because of the production which belied the impetus of the project, but I still couldn't wait to hear it when it was first announced.

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on having the time and curiosity once you get past 50, tho I would also think if you're reading this blog you at least have that. It's one reason I look forward to The Quietus.com's Baker's Dozens - I always learn of stuff I never heard of (well, except for Joe Elliot's which was a glam paradise), then look it up on youtube. In most cases, it's a dry hole, but out of the Richard Thompson set I learned about Offa Rex (Olivia Chaney and friends) and then discovered my library has a copy the cd.

I believe the "stopped listening to X after X" crowd are probably exaggerating - my suspicion is that they sneak a listen to their old faves' new music, if just to confirm their bias. If they don't, then yeah, they don't have the curiosity.

Spreadin' Rhythm! said...

I must agree with Duke Ellington, "There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind."

Sal Nunziato said...

I love that quote, Marie. I also love Irving Berlin's- "Popular music is popular because people like it."

FD13NYC said...

Ones music taste does come from whatever we enjoy listening to. The experience of having many years of listening, we all like what we like. I’ve found myself liking some songs by artists that I didn’t like years ago and vice versa. It’s a strange odyssey music is, but I’m happy I’ve had it in my life all these years. And I prefer the term Old Relic.

Sal Nunziato said...

Of course, we like what we like. But if it stopped there, why discuss anything? I am always interested in "why." It's my favorite part of Burning Wood, the back and forth of "why" we like what we like, and why we don't. Why we stopped listening, etc. I have you to thank for playing records I would have not heard on my own, and I am sure you've discovered some gems through me. But my fascination with all of it, the ins and outs, and the whys and why nots, never ceases.

Spreadin' Rhythm! said...

Have you heard this track by the Dixie Cups? (About as far removed from 'Chapel of Love' as you can get.) I usually post it around Mardi Gras time.


Anonymous said...

I just turned 60 last week - I don't believe my taste of music has changed over the years, it's just expanded. I still listen to the old stuff a lot but am very open to the young pups that come along, though I usually have to rely on old farts like you, Sal, to turn me on to them.

If I end up in a nursing home, I promise I'm going to crank up LZ's When The Levee Breaks just to annoy everyone on my unit.

Great post.


Shriner said...

I will admit to having a lack of patience for *most top-40 rap*. I will still spin each new Eminem record because I think there's *talent* there (and not because he's white -- or from Detroit -- specifically -- I think I've dropped enough hints over the years to indicate I live in the greater Metro-Detroit region so there's *some* homer in me, but I argued *against* the MC5 a couple of weeks ago, so it's not sacrosanct.)

There are plenty of things I listened to when I was younger that I know longer listen to very much (I grew up loving folk music and while I still enjoy it, I rarely seek it out -- and you'd think becoming an old fart would lend itself to drifting to that style.). And there are things I've tried (jazz and reggae) that, frankly, bore me to tears. Yes, I said that.

But I have plenty of friends my age who do not seek out new music and may listen to some top 40 on the radio (if their kids are playing it, maybe) and that's about it. My ex was like that. The only new music she ever listened to was new stuff I played (and she liked a lot of it) or new stuff she heard on the country station as her tastes started to drift that way as she got older. I played a *ton* of music for my kids and they've picked up on new and old stuff, but I don't necessarily think their experience is "broad".

A small number of your readers -- are musicians or (at least) instrument players. I think people who are that ingrained in *performing* music -- *will* seek out new stuff. Those are the exceptions. Top 40 is for the teenage-college crowd. "Oldies" is for people who have moved on from Top 40 and revisit memories of their past.

I'd define "Old Farts" as those people where they don't have the capability to let *new experiences* define *new memories* for them. This may not be limited to music, but could be expanded to books/film/television/travel/food, etc. The desire for something *new* is either there -- or it's not. I think it's really that simple.

But I've been called a simpleton before...

Ken D said...

I think you were referring to the remark I made re Black Sabbath a few weeks back... and at the time I said that despite my total lack of interest in Oz & Co., I'd give a listen in the spirit of that Weekend Mix, i.e. staying with artists after they've maybe passed "their prime." And I did try it. All nearly eight tiresome minutes of it. And then I deleted it (I kept the rest of the Mix—thanks!). I didn't give up on Sabbath. I've never listened to Sabbath. You can kick me out of the Cool Kids Club.

I just can't apologize for liking music I like—and have always liked. And the fact that a lot of people would rather stick hot pokers in their ears than listen to an hour of say, Kitty Wells, doesn't make me like her music any less. If that, and the fact that I continue to wear my pants around my waist rather than my thighs, makes me an old fart, I plead guilty. (But I don't feel guilty in the least...)

I also think there's a lack of perspective here... you, and probably everyone who bothers to read this blog, likely has tastes that extend miles beyond the average listeners. We do listen critically and we do try new artists. I'd venture to say that most people "our age" (and I'm even older than you) haven't bought an album—in any format—that wasn't a Christmas present for a niece or nephew, in decades. I mean, "Why bother? I can just put on the classic rock station..."

Troy said...

Glad to be of service in helping you come up with a new topic. I’m sure you will get us all fired up now, at least until nap time….

Honestly, I don’t know what the hell happened to my musical preferences. They have definitely changed over the years. Part of that may be due to the gradual hearing loss I have suffered; according to my audiologist, it’s hereditary and not caused by too many loud concerts (though I think I could have a pretty good case against Blues Traveler in the mid-90s and Cowboy Mouth and Poi Dog Pondering in the early 2000s for standalone damage).
Kidding aside, I find I listen to less musically complex pieces, as without significant amplification they are harder to follow. I gravitate towards ‘cleaner’ songs, both production-wise and song structure wise. More verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus kind of stuff, well-crafted songs that tend to be easier to follow along with even if I don’t pick up all the words. And definitely a warmer, more organic sound; colder sounding production can be uncomfortable to listen to. Listening to the new Jayhawks record with headphones on was so wonderful that it nearly made me giddy. Despite that experience, I do listen to less new music than I used to; part of that is that I don’t have as much time, and now I really need to be in a less cluttered listening environment to fully digest newer music.

But there’s more to it than just the audiology. Some of the bands that used to pump me up, that meant everything to me at one point can still be enjoyable to listen to, but are not ‘essential’ like they used to be. Bands like The Clash, The Who, The Jam, U2, EC and the Attractions, The Alarm and Big Country used to dominate my musical preferences. Now, I enjoy them from time to time but with a more nostalgic twist (sad, right?). None of them except EC and U2 have anything new for us to measure whether we’re still with them, and them with us. The music didn’t change, I did. I know it’s still great and I still love it, but it doesn’t thrill me like it did years ago. Who knows, maybe I’m just not as angry as I used to be.

Also, I hardly play any classic rock, as I hear it every time I turn on the car radio, and I really don’t need to hear it any more than that. While I do still love and play the Beatles, ELO, and Fleetwood Mac, I could mostly do without the Stones, Pink Floyd, and Zeppelin. I recognize there are great records there, but many of them just don’t resonate with me anymore. And there’s hardly any new material from any of that lot either.

So what does that leave that DOES move me? I listen to a lot of new & old from Michael McDermott, The Jayhawks, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, The Band, Jason Isbell, as well as lots of New Orleans music (Nevilles, subdudes, Allen Toussaint, Meters, Zachary Richard, Jon Cleary, etc). My wife and I listen to a lot of Ruthie Foster, Carole King, Melissa Etheridge, Marc Broussard, Marcia Ball, and Irma Thomas while we’re in the kitchen. Good stuff, good songs, accessible, and to be honest, familiar. Even the newer stuff from those artists has a familiarity to it. I can listen to it and even if I can’t always hear it perfectly clearly, I can feel it.

I have no idea if I answered your question about the definition of an old fart, but I actually feel better having put that out there. So, thanks.

kodak ghost said...

Good post, and interesting comments. I agree with itsok re the listening v hearing. I used to buy LPs and LISTEN to them. Sit down and listen to side one, then side two, read the sleeve and start again then listen again with some friends.Music was a precious thing bought with hard won money. Now I have access to too much music, and I tend to listen while I'm doing something else. So focussing on some areas/ artists has to happen.

Then something happens on your blog ( or Quietus... the Thompson top 10 threw up some real curve balls... Offa Rex .. yes) that makes me search out something new that will stir my pudding (Rails, Decemberists -King is Dead, Mighty Mo - Griot Blues etc) but as a registered old fart I think I have earned the right to cast aspersions on copyists and dreck that just repeats what has been before.

So back to listening to Blind Blake and Joseph Spence!
Keep it all coming.

Chris Collins said...

I've thought about this a lot. Especially when I go to shows of older artists I love, from Springsteen to The Who to Willie Nelson, and see fans who want to hear the songs they loved from ages 15-25, played EXACTLY the way they know them. Forever. It's not even the artists. They just want those songs. That way. If Bruce plays something from this century, they just start conversing loudly over the song. I honestly don't understand that. Don't you WANT to hear something new from this artist you profess to love? And if you won't even listen to new music by artists you already know and love, what chance do new artists have?

I don't want to sound like I'm patting myself on the back, but I find new artists I love all the time. I've listened to Jason Isbell as much as I've listened to the Stones this year. I've listened to Rihanna and Lorde and Cardi B as much as I've listened to the Beatles and Bob Dylan. I love the new Judas Priest record. Hell, I love the "Star is Born" soundtrack! and I even know I'm being manipulated! but goddamn it's effective!

in short- be open to it. there's a ton of great music out there. a ton.

stewrat said...

Neatly nestled in my mid-60s, I was the old guy leaning on the stage last night seeing Guided by Voices in Cambridge, MA (with ear protection). On the older side, but not the oldest there. Yes, they play pop/rock that is reminiscent of lots of great new and old songs - so not that much of a stretch. I look for new things every week - but it's in a "comfort lane" whether new or old. Much new rock reminds me of older stuff, so less and less feels "new". That said, I'd like to think I'm open to a pretty wide range of things. I hope that never changes. Great thread here. Cheers, stewrat.

Sal Nunziato said...

First I’d like to thank everybody for their comments. There’s a lot to think about here. But I have to say, it seems like many of you had a different take away than what I had hoped for. If we are all defending ourselves about not being open to new music, then please allow me to lead the way. I am the most guilty of all. I have no patience for new music. And when I say new music, I don’t mean new music from artists I’ve loved my whole life. I specifically mean a new artist being touted as the new so-and-so, when most certainly they are not even close to being anywhere near the old so-and-so.

I wrote this piece today because I was inspired by the new Elvis Costello record, as well as recent comments about XTC’s later work, and of course by the endless amount of dismissals of such great late works by so many artists that I think continue to put out amazing music, including Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, etc. I referenced your black sabbath comment, Ken, not looking for an apology or for a reason why you don’t like black sabbath. It was More of a curiosity which I explained in the post. Is it that we are too old to appreciate music like black sabbath, or did we just not appreciate it at any point in our lives? I’m sorry you thought it was “tiresome.” I think it’s huge! We like what we like.

I really didn’t want this to be about whether we should like Cardi B, or rap music, or reggae music or jazz or heavy metal. My interest lies in why so many of us can love something with an incredible passion for so long and then completely give up. I thought, possibly, though maybe mistakenly, it may have to do with age, based on some comments. Personally, I love black sabbath and I love kitty wells. I love Ornette Coleman and I love reggae. I absolutely adore Bruce Springsteen and I think Magic is one of the great records of the last 20 years. But for the record, I still can’t listen to the ghost of Tom Joad. It bores the shit out of me. I don’t think it’s very good at all. It has some moments, but I will never play it. That is not enough for me to give up on Bruce Springsteen. If I said I stopped listening to Elvis Costello after punch the clock, I am sure many of you would wonder why, and that’s all I’m trying to get to with this post.

Keep the comments coming.

Sal Nunziato said...

One more thing, Re: classic rock : I don’t drive. I don’t listen to the radio. So when I do hear Mr. blue sky by ELO or whole Lotta love by Led Zeppelin if I happen to be in a cab are on a road trip, it all sounds great to me. Also for everyone with a car and a drivers license, you don’t have to listen to classic rock radio stations. Give it a rest for a bit and maybe when some old stalwart comes on, You will turn it up instead of off.

Michael Giltz said...

Old fart: me.

draftervoi said...

Lemme tell you how I do it: I figured that I'd work the way Top 40 used to work: you put familiar songs that you dearly love in between the new stuff. By "new" I don't necessarily mean "from the last few years" I mean" songs that you don't know well, or at all. I make a 500 song mix; about every five songs is something I know well, ranging from Elvis Presley through Mott The Hoople through Nirvana (sort of my core years where I have a good idea of what the heck was going on. Then...I had things I don't know. A trumpet playing buddy chided me for not knowing jack about jazz trumpet players, so I added a sprinkling of jazz. My pal Sandy from West Oakland gave me a list of 80's hip-hop that she says is great, so I added it, too. I'm weak on country, so I took a couple of "best of the genre" comps and added those. Then I mix it so that country bumps up against reggae, no songs from the same period or genre are right next to each other....and give it a listen. A few songs get weeded out as unappealing on the first listen. I replace them with more new songs. I ask my children (25 and 28 for recommendations). My wife does the same sort of searching; we both actively looking for the Shock Of The New. Now....I don't think this stuff is going to affect me the way it did when I was young. I'm 62, I'm not going to join a "youth subculture" and get in fist fights in the alley across the street from the Mabuhay Gardens with the heavy metal kids these days. I'm not going to wear buttons with the name of this week's favorite band like in 1979. But my goal is to hear as much as possible before I die, and this is a wonderful future for people who want to hear music. I can hear (and see) millions of records from hundreds of genres.

Shriner said...

"My interest lies in why so many of us can love something with an incredible passion for so long and then completely give up"

I think you've just expressed a wonder why people get divorced. But I digress...

So I see two ways of answering this as relates to music.

1) If an artist with a large catalog of albums (EC, Neil Young, Zappa, Bowie, Stones, McCartney, Elton John, REM -- you know -- the usual suspects) has a run of 1-2 albums you don't like for whatever reason, it's relatively easy to just stop following that artist's new material from that point on because it feels like there's practically an infinite amount other good/great music out there that you enjoy more.

I *love* KISS. I really disliked the albums after "The Elder" and -- because of that -- the rest of the 80's were a lost period for me. I *gave up*. I never went back to the band until "Revenge" (because Bob Ezrin came on board and he's a "do no wrong" producer for me) and then rediscovered my love for that band and their previous material. But I still never play any of the 80's albums.

Same with Costello for me. Like I said previously, I still try his stuff based on past history, but it would have been easy to overlook "Look Now" because I eventually gave up trying. I am not willing to give every artist I liked at one point a second or third chance -- no matter how much I liked their earlier stuff -- because they have been replaced by other artists I like as much (if not more) and time is better spent pursuing what makes me happy than trying to dig out the nuggets on stuff I don't.

Which dovetails into:

2) There's only so much bandwidth in our brains -- and that's age-related. I *like* discovering new music. I must easily listen to at least 3-4 albums a week that I've never heard before -- about half are new artists. Some are great, some are ok, and some were a waste of my increasingly-precious time. I'm fairly unique with most of my friends on listening to lots of new stuff (with very few exceptions).

I literally (not figuratively) choked up when I first heard Sufjan Stevens' "Illinoise" album and it's now one of my favorite albums of all time (I'm waiting to find the next album that moves me that much.)

But I think it means that album pushed out something else by some other artist -- or at least has taken away my attention from the other artists. Costello (and I don't mean to pick on him) dropped off my radar when I gave up and has since been replaced by a swath of other artists I look forward to their new material more.

For me *some* favorite music just becomes overplayed and I tire of it. I will never tire of "God Only Knows" -- I think it's one of the top 10 songs of all time and every time I play it, I feel like I hear something new in it. "Don't Worry Baby"? Untouchable in it's greatness. But I got tired of "Fun Fun Fun" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" and even "California Girls" and "Good Vibrations"?I wasn't at one point, but now I am.

"Get The Knack", though -- I can't play that album often enough. I want it played -- loud -- at my funeral on a never ending loop. :-)

But I'm always on the hunt for the *next* "Get The Knack". A few things have come close, though! And therein lies the crux of the biscuit -- I can't stop looking. I am not content to be left with what I have (which is what made the "other 100" conversation so difficult because it felt like I had to take a snapshot at that time and 5 years later -- it may be different.)

Enough digressing. This didn't help, did it? :-)

Sal Nunziato said...

"My interest lies in why so many of us can love something with an incredible passion for so long and then completely give up"

"I think you've just expressed a wonder why people get divorced. But I digress..."

That was my first thought when I wrote that line, but I decided it really was a completely different feeling.

Another thought, in regards to how you, Shriner, "can't stop looking."

The opposite is the crux of my biscuit. I'm tired of looking. It doesn't mean I am not open to suggestions, or that I completely shut out new music. But it might just be the signs of my turning into an "old fart." I am disappointed most of the time. It is rare when something new comes along that wows me the way something new by an old fave comes along.

Years ago, NBC ran a commercial during summer reruns that said, "If you haven't seen it, it's new to you." I thought that was brilliant and it became a mantra at my shop, when my "old fart" customers would browse for an hour and leave empty handed, saying "There's nothing new that's good enough to buy." I would always ask, "What was the last record you bought that you loved?" And if someone would say, "Rain Dogs-Tom Waits," I'd say, "Do you have all of Tom Waits records," and most of the time the answer was no. BOOM! THERE are your new good things to buy. It worked, not all the time, but enough of the time.

I get a lot of what you're saying. I rarely ever listen to "Fun Fun Fun." But I also know, that while I might know "Pet Sounds" inside and out, from years of playing IT, I neglected "Sunflower" and "20/20." And I'll take both of those over some power pop band who is trying to sound like the Beach Boys.

Stinky said...

Hi Sal:

I look at people who aren't into music as sort of handicapped... because it brings me such happiness. To repurpose Frank Sinatra's comment about feeling sorry for people who don't drink because: "When they get up in the morning--that's the best they're going to feel all day."

Music is a natural mood enhancer.

Because I've kept a firm grip on my inner child (which I feel is a function of having a good memory) I still thrill to the albums and artists that used to give me a charge as a pubescent. I'm way past there, but I remember it vividly and an album like "Get The Knack" (to use Shriner's example) can take me back, and give me a better, more optimistic, outlook.

I went to see The Vapors at The Mercury Lounge last weekend and my mid 50's body memory had me pogoing during my favorite songs. The Vapors hit big in '79/'80 as I was just setting out on my own, and just becoming a man. I transitioned from The Kinks, The Beatles, Rod Stewart & The Faces, George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers, and The J.Geils Band into "the new wave" of artists, which didn't obscure my love for the aforementioned artists. But The Cars, The Pretenders, The Knack, and The Vapors was "my" music discovered on the radio before MTV made such discoveries commonplace. The $75 I spent on tickets and a t-shirt last week was the equivalent of buying a long draw from the fountain of youth.

So regardless of the age of the artist, or the style of music, whenever someone elevates a song to art through the use of studio wizardry, virtuosic playing, inspired thinking, or just being so dumb that they're clever (like The Ramones) they have my ear for the next three-and-a-half minutes or so.

And I get a lot of "new and exciting" in every day, unlike people who only listen to the radio.

Have a great day!

- Stinky

Honest Ed said...

Some random thoughts on age and music rather than an answer ---

I think when you are younger, your relationship with music is more intense. At it's best, it's a doorway into life, preparing you for what's to come. Sometimes like a best friend, sometimes it lies through it's teeth. Or it feels that way. Over here in the UK, what you listened to defined your identity in many ways, it led you to your tribe. Whether you were a punk, a mod, a rocker, a soul boy, etc... (though that has diminished to a large degree). I made a lifelong friend because I walked in to a university class wearing an EC Blood and Chocolate tour T shirt. It can be a battleground. I hated my dad's music when I was younger, music was a battlefield, as we battled over access to the record player. He hated my music - though ironically, he was willing to give Costello a break, because he was a fan of EC's dad, and I think he could recognise the songcraft. He loved Sinatra, Bennet, big band music - and would laugh with triumphant delight at some of the stuff I now have in my collection. But he hated country.

Now I have kids. I think what inevitably happens is that, for most of us, when you're young, music is your life, when you get older, it just becomes part of your life. Now I have kids, when they were growing up, they hated dad's music. Now they're teenagers, they're coming round. My daughter hates liking dad's songs. Especially when I go into the lounge and fetch the CD of someone she's just discovered, as happened last week with Jeff Buckley's Grace, or fetch the original of something sampled on her favourite Childish Gambino record. My son, who used to moan loudest of all, now likes a lot of what I do. I took him to his first gig a few weeks ago (Okkervil River, great show). So was age a factor when I was standing next to my kid watching a band we both love?

That said, they both still think I'm an old fart, as they probably should!

Jim G said...

Great post and the best bunch of comments I've read on this excellent blog in the five or so years I've read it.

I've thought about this a bit and it seems pretty clear there's lots of reasons we ossify musically:

There's so much more of what we like, so less reason to be adventurous and seek something new out. Along with that goes the lack of time we have as adults with busy lives to concentrate on something new or challenging so that it can resonate with us, and a corresponding wish to be satisfied in the limited time we have , i.e its easier to put on Exile or This Years Model than Blue and Lonesome or Momofuku. And as others have pointed out, its just less important to us, even the hardcore musos that read this blog. Those of us with children and/or time consuming jobs have to squeeze in that listening around these responsibilities.

Music has become a much more solitary activity due to earbuds etc., especially for us middle aged adults, so outside of the occasional live show, we don't get the feedback from the more communal listening of our youth, as Sal has described so vividly in past posts. Everybody can turn on their phone and plug in earbuds and listen to what they want. As a result we are more often left to our own devices, with desultory results for our sense of musical adventure as we age.

vincentsear said...

i dig what you're saying , little brother (i'll be 66 next month) most friends i have around my own age haven't bought a record since the 70s or earlier. i on the other hand keep seeking "the next". i try to share my latest finds with my peer group by making a copy of this or that, saying throw in on in the car and check it out. so often i'll find the disc left behind gathering dust, sitting right where my friend placed it saying thanks a lot. it's like an avoidance mechanism to the new. i'll never figure them out. i play music with these cats once a week in a garage band and they always respond favorably to any song i bring in to cover often raving about what a great song something might be, tunes by Guided By Voices or Band of Horses that they truly seems to love playing but never listen to any others i hand over for listening. i also have friends in their 40s that can't get past the 80s. cultural stasis, i'm just not drawn that way ...

Shriner said...

"It is rare when something new comes along that wows me the way something new by an old fave comes along. "


I'm the opposite. So maybe that's really the heart of what you are asking.

I'm rarely *wowed* by something new by an old fave. It doesn't mean it doesn't happen. "Robyn Hitchcock" *wowed* me as I wasn't expecting him to do a full-band album *and* that it had such strong material. That was the exception in a long, long stretch of old faves. It doesn't mean I don't get enjoyment out of the old faves, though. But *wow* -- not often.

Rob Bonfiglio's "Trouble Again" -- somebody I didn't know about -- was the most recent album that actually "wowed" me enough to immediately play it after the first spin and it'll certainly be on my top albums of 2018 list -- maybe at the very top. Finding something new like that is what makes life worth living. "Bird Streets" was right up there, too.

Bombshelter Slim said...

Perhaps I've always been an old fart, I have the same impatience now in my mid-60s that I had in my teens. This is a big ol' beautiful world full of wonderful music, and if something doesn't "hit" me right away with that breathtaking "discovery" feeling, I'm not very willing to waste much time investigating it. In addition, very few of my old favourites have aged poorly. While I can always appreciate the srtistry and craft of the many musicians whose work I encounter, if it doesn't have that "thing"...well, NEXT!

Eric said...

neil young is relevant...clapton isn't anymore....costello is relevant....being famous is easy, being relevant isn't easy in the artistic world... showtunes, sinatra, beatles, doors, stones, neil young, bowie, allmans, dead, elp/yes, lou reed, miles, marley, costello, x, ramones, heads, television, blondie, clash, stones again, grandmaster flash, replacements, husker du,only jazz, nirvana, alice in chains, oasis,,,rap..this timelines dies a slow death in 95 that culminates in cd chain stores and eventually spotify....

draftervoi said...

I took my both of my children to their first "rock shows" in 2006 and 2008, and for both of 'em it was Radio Birdman. There was an age limit of 16 so my daughter missed the 2006 show. I walked 'em through stupid club culture: Hey, there's the guy who showed up late and plans to shove his way through to the front of the stage while cupping three beers in his hands! You let the asshole through because there's no upside in beating the shit out of a drunk (ask Dad about the San Francisco drunk tank!). Hey, look, it's the MERCH table! We can buy a $3 tshirt for $40.00! Et cetera. I think I ruined rock rebellion for my children; I'm a jerk.

The other thing that's WEIRD is that TIME seems to have stopped. In 1976, I would not have been caught DEAD in a Fats Waller t-shirt. In 1976, who would have branded themselves as a fan of the music of their grandparents? But in 2018, I walk down the street...and there are kids with MISFITS and DEAD KENNEDYS shirts. Not a lot...but a significant number that I notice them. I want to grab them by the lapels (yeah, I know, t-shirts have no lapels..) and get right in their face and scream, "Why the fuck are you dressed like me in 1980, and how is it that you think dressing like forty years ago is a friggin' rebellion against anything?"

The GOOD NEWS is that "youth" has finally produced a hairstyle that pisses me off on the sight of it (and good for them). MAN-BUNS.

I am DEFINITELY an "old fart." Did I mention my daughter has dyed her hair blue, and we think that's normal?

kevin m said...

I'm 55 and I pride myself that I still love to discover new music. Just looking at what I've downloaded from iTunes this year alone and have spent a fair amount of time listening to makes me proud that I haven't put on loafers and just listen to music from '76-'85.

New artists I've been enjoying this year include; Isreal Nash, DMAs, Greta Van Fleet, Magpie Salute (lumped in here as I consider High Water their real debut), and Sadler Vaden. And a few artists that have been around for a couple of years that have released good music this year; Nathaniel Rateliff, St Paul & Broken Bones, Franz Ferdinand, Jonathan Wilson, and Howlin Rain.

And artists that have been making music for decades are still going strong; Paul Weller, Elvis C, Miles Hunt, Bettye Lavette, etc.

Most of my friends couldn't be bothered to listen to anything that's been released in the past 10 years unless I force it upon them.

Thank goodness my wife (3 years older than me) shares my passion. Probably a major reason why our marriage works! :)

M_Sharp said...

Excellent article and comments! I don’t think your age (or mine, slightly older) has anything to do with it, it’s the years of experience that we have listening to music. After listening to who knows how many songs, I like to think that I can spot a clunker pretty quickly.

My tastes really haven’t changed very much over the years. I lean heavily to any kind of roots-rock, rock ’n roll, real country, honky tonk, blues, alt rock, alt country, folk rock, pop rock, old school soul music. I want good tunes, hooks and lyrics, and a sense of humor definitely helps. Most of the newer music I like sounds like the older music I like.

Unfortunately, I don’t hear much of what I like in most of the music by newer bands I hear. I grab new releases from a free download site, and it’s a good thing they’re free, because the majority don’t get a second listen. I grabbed The Bottle Rockets new album, and it’s a fine one that meets my criteria, like most of their albums have. Then I bought it. It’s not what I’d call great, and it doesn’t break any new ground, but then I wonder why the younger bands can’t do anything this good? Maybe their influences just don’t go back very far. They don’t seem to have listened to much of what I have. Or maybe they’re just not all that good, I dunno.

I can’t imagine giving up listening to music, it’s too important to me, and it’s still fun

Michael Giltz said...

About twenty different ideas and arguments are bouncing around here, all interesting. I love the idea of falling out of love with an artist akin to divorce and of course the idea that the music of your hormonally driven teen years is going to remain hugely influential all your life.

DID YOU EVER LIKE AC/DC QUESTION? -- No, I never did. Even as a 14 year old boy when I was supposed to bang my head, I was just not into heavy metal or speed metal etc. I always fell on the pop divide of pop and punk. So no, I was never ever into Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. It took me ages to pay attention to Led Zeppelin. Once in a blue moon if you tout an act's album or it's on some damn random Best Of All Time list I'll give a listen. I have def driven down the road late at night while loving the "Back in Black" album. But I won't naturally gravitate to that or start exploring the AC/DC catalog the same way that first Bob Marley album led me into reggae.

ARE YOU A SEEK-OUT-NEW-ARTIST PERSON? -- Always. Even as a kid I had a sort of obnoxious quietly competitive edge. If someone was extolling an act, I was annoyed I hadn't already checked them out and would rectify that pronto, even if it was just to disagree. In college, I had a LOT of CDs and a guy visited and mentioned an Irving Berlin multi-artist CD compilation ("Always" -- terrific!) and intentionally needled me, Oh gee, I just assumed you would have it. Fuck you, I thought to myself and then ran out and bought it. In every art form, I feel a constant pull between exploring the classics and staying on top of the latest.

WHY HAVE YOU STOPPED LISTENING TO (FILL IN NAME OF GRACEFULLY AGING ACT YOU FEEL IS STILL WORTH A LISTEN)? Well, it could be the Woody Allen effect. When he churns out a dozen really bad movies in a row, you don't rush to the theater to see The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion (a film that vanished from my memory AS I WATCHED IT -- scene to scene I simply couldn't remember what had just happened a minute ago. Or care. You know, when it's been five albums since an act excited you, maybe you stopped being eager to keep buying their albums? Streaming changes this but time is money and as someone else said, you've only got so much bandwidth.

more to come

Michael Giltz said...

MOST ARTISTS DON'T CREATE IMPORTANT MUSIC FOR THEIR ENTIRE CAREERS -- Why do people stop paying attention? Because most acts are damn lucky to have one great album. Even important artists usually do their best work during my arbitrarily designated 10-15 year creative peak. The Picassos and the Dylans and the like are few and far between. All the readers of this blog are atypical. but even many of us kind of move on when an artist isn't wowing us. It's cruel, but it happens. Yes, one can find good tracks here and there, but usually if they really knock it out of the park you'll hear about it. And man is the Eric Clapton Christmas album LAME. I've never been a particular fan of Clapton but I'm a sucker for Christmas music so I gave it a whirl. If I had to pay for it? Not a chance, unless the reviews were great and surely they weren't.

TASTES CHANGE -- The classic evolution is current popular music to classic rock to standards to jazz to classical. Aren't we all supposed to be absorbing string quartets in our 60s and so on? I assume the folk on this blog are all wide-ranging, with an eagerness to hear a lot of different genres. I don't care for heavy metal and thrash. Others don't care for country. (Fools! Kitty Wells and Hank Williams and Patsy Cline are awesome! So is jason Isbell.!) But I bet we all roam widely. Nonetheless, as I get older I do find myself leaning a little but more naturally towards acoustic, organic music, music that sounds like it was created by a group of folk in a room, as opposed to programmed on a computer...says the guy who thinks Kraftwerk should be in the Hall of Fame.)

OLD VS NEW -- Like I said, I've always felt a tug between exploring classics and the latest. That continues but the older I get I feel the pull of the classics a little more strongly. We all know how amazing music can be so yeah, after you've listened to thousands of albums, you're less patient with some new punk. Why pan for gold when nuggets (and maybe Nuggets!) are already waiting for you to enjoy? I could spend the rest of my life listening over and over to the catalogs of Louis Armstrong and Bob Dylan and Billie Holiday and Miles Davis and the Beatles extended family. There are classic albums I've never heard or at least albums I'm told are classic and they've never been more readily available. I'll always listen to a new Neil Young but I completely support those who don't and let me do the dirty work and let them know which one of the latest 5 or 8 NY albums is actually good. In the last few weeks I've listened to The Mamas and the Papas albums and Buffalo Springfield and I've heard them but I'm gonna listen to the Byrds in order for the first time ever. The first two artists I had NEVER HEARD BEFORE. Astonishing. But when you love pop and rock and jazz and standards and big band and Broadway and movie music and know next to nothing about New Orleans and only last year listened to Joni Mitchell's first ten albums in order, well there's always more great music to hear. So yeah, I think I'm more inclined to listen to the music I know is great or has a better shot at being great than just panning for gold like a I did as a young whippersnapper. (Loved Troy's joke about nap time.) It's like theater and film. When you've seen "It Happened One Night" or a great stage play and know how great they can be, you just have less and less patience for the ok or not bad or promising. Twenty years of theater going will spoil you -- you've seen the best and won't settle for less. Or maybe we just get cranky and old and it's harder to get jazzed about something new. Get off my lawn!

Michael Giltz said...

And at the risk of being called a fool (and recognizing that one or two listens may not be enough and I'll give them another shot:

BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD -- bitterly disappointed. I expected to be wowed and was thoroughly underwhelmed. There's so much talent in the band and the critical consensus is so strong I may simply have had too high expectations or somehow expected something different. It was one of those acts I KNEW I would like and looked forward to. I mean, good, just not instant classic for me.

THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS -- underwhelming and certain to stay that way for me. I'm pretty confident my own stupid opinion on them won't change much. Very easily reduced to a greatest hits set, esp if it's short. Two incandescent singles of course -- Monday Monday and California Dreaming -- and some good covers and some solid other singles. None of the albums came even close to good for me. Uninteresting production, a lot of weak songs and if there was even a side that was strong start to finish I missed it. It felt like the last gasp of folk, whereas CSN/Y's first two albums are stronger (though with their own flaws) but at least feel like they're looking towards the future. And their greatest hits are much stronger.

BRUCE -- I agree with Bruce that Wrecking Ball is tremendous. That's my favorite album of new songs by him in my book, with the Seeger Sessions holding tight right alongside it. But I'll listen to Magic again. I would NEVER give up on a classic act, Sal! :) Shit, I just made a playlist of Bowie's "never let me down" remixed album....

Sal Nunziato said...

@Michael Giltz

I love the first two Buffalo Springfield records, like really LOVE. But okay, you were underwhelmed and I get that. I think.


Monday Monday & California Dreaming aren't even the two best Mamas & Papas singles. I wouldn't argue that were an albums band. They were not, though I like their albums fine. But their singles, all 20 of them, were sublime. The background vocal arrangement on "I Saw Her Again" is hall of fame material alone. The melodies and songwriting of "Twelve Thirty" and "Look Through My Window!" The descending harmonies of "Dedicated To The One I Love" make it the definitive version over The Shirelles for me. "Go Where You Wanna Go" is pure sunshine pop bliss. Cass Elliot's vocals on Glad To be Unhappy. A greatest hits may be the way to go, but it must be a double album!!

Michael Giltz said...

That raises a different issue of greatest hits albums. I MUCH prefer a greatest hits set that is focused and strong and can be played beginning to end like an album. (I'm such an old fart that I still think in terms of an album.) When they are focused and tight and can be played over and over, I think they make a much better case for an artist than a more "complete" double album or 20 track CD. I think Elton John should have stuck with Greatest Hits I and then Greatest hits Vol II and only done Greatest Hits III. (Maybe 4 eventually). Those three albums would be/are fantastically playable and a perfect way into that artist. I know it's the label's fault but Madonna should never have had those gazillion repackagings of her hits. The Immaculate Collection was impeccably programmed and wisely ignored certain hits. Immaculate Collection Vol II should have been an equal blockbuster/artistic statement. Billy Joel was poorly served by waiting and having a double album. Simon & Garfunkel are4 the gold standards: ignoring MULTIPLE hit songs because they didn't hold up/last/fit the album they were creating, adding in live versions and album tracks to create a unique artistic statement that solidified their legacy. I think The Mamas and the Papas would be better served by a smartly programmed 14 tracks than a double album. Maybe that should be your next mix. But just consider instead of a completist version if you create the absolute best representation of their work and program it to have an artistic beginning and middle and end. What would you choose? 20 tracks at 62 minutes won't be as good as 12 or 14 tracks, I bet. If only Chris Isaak had the perfect Greatest Hits set his brilliance as a singles artist would be recognized.

Michael Giltz said...

Oh and I know I have to give Buffalo Springfield another shot. I was expecting to be blown away. I gave all three albums three stars out of four. It's not like I didn't like them. But the second album was leaning towards 2 1/2 while the third was leaning towards 3 1/2 (which would mean in my book it was one of the best of its year). I will definitely live with them again when I can give a fair, fresh listen.

Gene Oberto said...

I grew up in a household with lots of music being played, most of it on the radio. My mother was a big fan of swing, so the Sinatra/Billy May?Nelson Riddle LPs were in heavy rotation along with Ray Charles, Count Basie, Ella and Sarah Vaughn. We never missed Big Joe Turner on Ed Sullivan. WNEW-AM was on all day every day. To this day, that kind of swinging music remains in my favorite playlist.My Dad was not so sophisticated. He loved the Jackie Gleason Orchestra and, it still has me awed, Louie Prima nd Keely Smith.

I had older cousins who were in college and through them I discovered Dave Bruback's Take Five/Time Out/Time Further Out. What was in those albums that mesmerized a pre-teen boy I have no idea. Of course, there was Stan Getz and Desidinado.

Now my taste, though, eclectic, has formed and reformed over my decades of listening. I never"got" Bop Jazz when I was younger, but now I dig it a lot. Youth can't understand paying big money for wine. But the more sophisticated one becomes, the more they understand.

While my wheelhouse is Blues, R&B and rock, I still think that The Backstreet Boys, "I Want It That Way" is a great song. Abba,for all their success is underrated and Mozart can make my heart melt. All of this music to play, remember and discover new songs and artists, You can watch a movie dozens of times (Caddyshack) and learn the dialogue. But every advance in sound reproduction brings me to say, "Wow! I never heard that in that song before."

Sure, people have their favorites, but with time their Musical Galaxy will expand exponentially, if they let it come to them.