Wherein Eric talks about his car radio and ends up apologizing to his parents

>> Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I figured I had a choice: I could spend something like $350 to get a new car stereo or around $180 to activate the satellite radio preinstalled in the Bug and get a one-year subscription to Sirius. When I upgraded the radio in the old Bug it made sense, because the 2004 had a tape deck I didn't need and no built-in way to use my iPod, which I wanted (sure, I could have gotten an adapter, but the short-range radio ones never work well and the tape-head ones are a pain in the ass--not that any of this matters anymore, of course). But the 2008 has an AUX jack in the dash and a built-in Sirius receiver, and VWs tend to have pretty jamming factory preinstalls (if I remember correctly, they used to be licensed from Bose, not sure if they still are)--so I went with the satellite radio ("SDARS"), what the hell? Cheaper in the short term, and everyone I know with SDARS is an addict, and theoretically it was the easier choice although in practice I still ended up at the dealer to have the module replaced (covered under warranty, however).

Anyway, I've been happy with it for the past few days I've had it. The places you get dropouts in a city are a little unpredictable, but it's a nice, clean signal otherwise.1 The thing that's been a little distressing, however, is discovering that one of the channels I've been listening to more frequently, "1st Wave," is categorized as "Classic Alternative."

Classic? Classic? I'm too young to be listening to anything that's classic, unless it's actual classical music or something my parents got me into, like when I taped their old Beatles and Rolling Stones albums in junior high. That's "classic." "1st Wave" plays a lot of stuff I bought in high school, R.E.M., The Smiths, a lot of goth and New Wave, some punk, stuff like that. This morning on the way to work they played a Go-Gos song from 1981 ("Skidmarks on My Heart") that I have loaded on my freaking iPod right now (along with the rest of Beauty And The Beat2). Okay, so that was twenty-eight years ago that the Go-Gos album came out and I was actually in the third grade at that point--and that's really not helping.

Classic? Classic?

I have to wonder if this is how my Dad felt, oh, about twenty-eight years ago, actually.3 My Mom, though she listened to a lot of rock, mostly listened to Country then and now, which meant that a lot of the music she likes was old or sounded old even when she was young or it was new; I imagine, perhaps incorrectly, that this maybe lessens the blow of realizing you like oldies. But my Dad--I have to imagine he's gone through the same "what-the-fuck?" experience I've been having listening to "classic" (classic?!) alternative. He listens to a lot of contemporary stuff, I don't want to give the wrong impression. But was there a sinking feeling sometime in the '80s or '90s when he realized that the radio station playing all those awesome deep cuts from the '60s and '70s was playing "Classic Rock"--classic, great Chronos help us?

I was bopping along happily to my golden oldies when I suddenly imagined some younger person in the car--let's say an imaginary child of mine4, had any of those awful college relationships resulted in spawn--asking me what the hell is this shit. "What is this?" my child would ask, with a bit of sneer and upturned nose that would clearly imply the omitted-but-explicit "the hell" and "shit." And I would try and miserably fail to explain that two, maybe three decades ago, this sound was the essence of what it meant to be alive and young, alive and in love, alive and angry, alive and sad, alive and horny, alive and alive and alive. That "this (shit)" was what you cranked up and blasted in your first car when you were sixteen, "this (shit)" was what you rushed home and turned your TV on for, punching in on the keypad or twiddling on the dial to MTV because "this (shit)" was everything meaningful in the world for three minutes and forty-four seconds.

That mental picture took the bop out of my happy for a few moments, I tell you. I wondered if I did that to my Dad sometime long ago, or even my Mom; more likely my Mom, now that I think about it--I didn't really start to appreciate Country and Bluegrass until college, and there have been times when my Dad's musical tastes were arguably ahead of my own, actually.5 Regardless, my apologies to both of you. If I was snotty, I was also young, and had no idea I'd end up feeling old.

Maybe I'll listen to "40s on 4" on the way home tonight. That ought to put things into perspective for everybody except my grandparents.

1There are two good FM stations in the Charlotte area, WFAE and The Eagle. The first, an NPR affiliate, has a pretty strong signal these days but suffers from interference in some parts of the region. The latter is run out of a community college in Gaston County and isn't always accessible in Charlotte, though I was recently surprised when a friend was able to pick up a solid signal in north Charlotte.

The rest of Charlotte radio is pretty much shit, the usual Clear Channel cesspool you'd expect in most urban areas. Fifteen minutes of commercials every hour, flavor-of-the-week bands, the Same Old Shit.

2The Go-Gos being, of course, one of the best-and-underrated surf-punk bands of all time, and infinitely better than those goody-two-shoes, The Bangles. I kid about the latter bit, of course: The Bangles are perfectly cromulent. But the first part, seriously, the Go-Gos were basically a surf band with a charming dose of that "What The Fuck Are We Even Doing On Stage" aesthetic of a lot of punk and garage bands, and I love them forever and to the death. Jane, call me sometime; if you're ever in town, I'll buy you a coffee if you don't mind being gazed at adoringly.

As a further aside, I love that "cromulent" shows up in Blogger's built-in spellchecker.

3I feel like I'm throwing you under some kind of temporal bus, Dad. Sorry about that. For whatever it's worth, he's very young to have a son who's nearly forty.

Sorry. Guess that didn't really help, either.

4"Sweet Child O' Mine," a classic Guns'n'Roses tune, came out in 1987, during the summer before I began the tenth grade. I was fifteen. I'd imagine you can hear it on Sirius channel 15, "Classic Rewind ('70s & '80s Classic Rock)".

5Nonetheless, Camper Van Beethoven, David Lowery's first band, is objectively superior to Cracker, his second. I'm sorry, some things are just simply true and you should learn to accept them.


Nathan Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 12:29:00 PM EDT  

I feel like I've just returned from a time warp. While in Minnesota, I found myself listening to a few stations that were playing what I'd consider "Classic" rock...only they never said that's what they were. They just sort of assumed their audience hadn't heard anything new since 1990 or so.

Random Michelle K Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:30:00 PM EDT  

We listen to the 40s on 4 and the Sinatra channel a lot at my house.

But that's because that's the music of my grandmother's youth. :)

Me? I listen to the jazz channel. No idea how old the recordings are, and I'm OK with that.

And no. Sorry. I love Cracker.

Tania Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:30:00 PM EDT  

When I meet the news crops of college students each year, I try to think about what music was playing when they were conceived. The last five years or so, that exercise has made me feel old.

Dr. Phil (Physics) Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 4:01:00 PM EDT  

WLAV-FM 96.9 MHz in Grand Rapids -- Classic Rock, baby! And you can listen live:


Dr. Phil

Eric Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 4:07:00 PM EDT  

Michelle, I'll see your "What The World Needs Now" and raise you "She Divines Water."

Cracker's a good band. Nothing wrong with Cracker. Aside from not being Camper Van Beethoven, I mean.

(And I suspect Tania would see and raise you her namesake's song, also on Camper's Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart*, just saying.)


*Matter of fact, the album's title is a reference to "Tania."

Tania Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 4:11:00 PM EDT  

Eric is correct. Someday I will go to a bank in San Leandrp and have pictures taken. Just because.

Anonymous,  Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 5:07:00 PM EDT  

The stuff I have endured!! You and I have seen some of the most wonderful concerts together so there has been harmony. The Eagles, Emmy Lou, Junior Brown.....
The Mavericks! Some of my favorite memories.

I think the most important thing is the love of music. You got that honestly!!


Tom Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 12:11:00 PM EDT  

Subscription to Sirius - $180

New Car Stereo - $350

Having a Mom who likes your music and reads your blog - PRICELESS!

By the way, is that the Mom who probably isn't older than I am? :)

Jim Wright Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 2:16:00 PM EDT  

Dr. Phil, do you remember when Tony and Lauri were on WLAV in the mornings?

Yeah, how old do I feel right now?

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