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.