I mostly take solace in not having a yard to tell them to stay out of...

>> Saturday, March 27, 2010

A moment of zen: students at a Staten Island elementary school rehearse The Church's "Under The Milky Way," a song that was originally released in 1988 (when I was in high school).







This song is twenty-two years old. These kids are in fifth grade. I was in fifth grade in... let's see... carry the two... divide by the square of the hypotenuse... multiply by e... 1983. So these kids singing "Under The Milky Way" is a lot like when I was in fifth grade singing songs recorded in 1961. "Stand By Me." That song would be bigger a few years later when the movie came out in 1986. "Runaway." "Crying." "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." "Please Mr. Postman." "The Wanderer." Fucking hell, that stuff was ancient when I was a kid; I mean, we're talking pre-Beatles, here; there was a lot of old stuff we were exposed to and listening to, especially if your parents were Boomers like mine were, but it wasn't nearly a quarter of a century old. I have to wonder what these kids are thinking: "Under The Milky Way" is a gorgeous, glorious song, one of those I still crank up when it comes up on the radio (which, now that I think of it, must mean I'm technically listening to oldies radio when I'm listening to a station that plays The Church), but to these kids it has to be play like a novelty song.

Clearly, this makes me feel old. No, "old" is an inadequate word. "Ancient," "decrepit," "antique," "crumbling into ruins" (that's three words, so sue me).

The irony of this is that I came across this video clip via Salon, and a piece by Andrew Leonard ragging on someone kvetching in an elderly way about digital music. Leonard links to an earlier piece he wrote, ragging on an earlier critic of digital music, Duran Duran's John Taylor, who was kvetching in an elderly way about digital music stifling creativity. Originally, I was predisposed to agree with both of Leonard's pieces, and not even mention them beyond an "H/T," but now I'm not so sure; I mean, is it good or bad that these kids are singing a quarter-century old pop song? I'm inclined to say "Hell no, 'Under The Milky Way' is a kickass song!" But I'm nearing forty and "Under The Milky Way" is a piece of my youth, not necessarily theirs. Had The Beatles been performing twenty-two year old songs in, say, 1963, they would have been playing music from 1941. "Chattanooga Choo Choo." "Racing With The Moon." "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Great songs; I have SiriusXM's "Forties On 4" as a preset on the car stereo and listen to it sometimes when I'm in an ultra-retro mood--but it's really, really, really old music, and it was really, really, really old music in 1963, music from a different universe, really. So maybe John Taylor is onto something--why aren't these kids singing something from this year or this decade or sometime within their own lifetimes, I mean aside from the fact that their generation's music sucks, unlike my generation's music, which was the pinnacle towards which all previous human musical efforts pointed and from which all subsequent music was nothing but decline, a bunch of noise and half these people don't play their own instruments and what is this "Autotune" crap and nobody cares about melody anymore and nobody will be listening to any of their shit in twenty-two years, I'll tell you what, because in my day music meant something and was important and sincere and oh fucking hell did I just channel my grandfather?*

So, anyway, I should be enjoying this clip for what it is--a bunch of adorable kids singing a great song from when I was a kid a little older than they were. But I can't help thinking it was a song from a different world, too--there was a place called the Soviet Union, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were still alive, a black guy couldn't be President Of The United States (hey, Jesse Jackson had tried), they had a big wall in Berlin, MTV played music videos (though not quite as many), Michael Jackson was still (a) alive and (b) not much weirder than any other child-star-turned-pop-culture-god. So I'm not enjoying it, awesome as it is, as much as I might be enjoying it if it wasn't making me feel desperately old and disconnected.

Gee, have a great Saturday.





*Actually, so far as I know, my grandfather VanNewkirk hated his own generation's music, therefore I'm not channeling him. My other grandfather died when my Mom was a little girl, so who knows what he would've thought. Crap. Did I just ruin a joke by over-analyzing it? I did, didn't I? I knew I was going to do that. See, the problem is that both my parents read my blog, and (a) they have relatively contemporary musical tastes (I say "relatively" because their tastes are actually sort of similar to mine, and the point of all this is I'm not sure my tastes are that contemporary anymore) and (b) I can expect to hear from them about what kind of music their dads would have liked. So if the joke was, "Did I just channel my mother/father?" it would understandably piss them off, but doing the joke with my grandfather, it's like I'd end up having to explain it was just a gag anyway. Does that make sense? So I feel obligated to forestall the inevitable objection with a footnote that's likely to be longer than the original piece. Dammit. I should just go back and delete the gag. Except now I've gone and written this. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. Screw it. We'll leave it in.

Tangentially speaking, I had a great conversation a couple of years ago with my Grandmother VanNewkirk, and she happened to mention a time she'd had a chance to see Sinatra when she was young--I think she would have been in her 20s, if I remember correctly; which I thought was really cool because I love Sinatra, but the rest of the story included the fact that she really, really, really hated Frank Sinatra. Which, in a weird way, was kind of cooler. I mean, here's this iconic pop music figure in his early prime, before his fall from grace and re-invention and re-emergence, and my grandmother's attitude was basically, if I may paraphrase using a word I'm not sure my grandmother has used in her entire life, "Fuck him."

My other grandmother, I'm pretty sure, has used that exact phrase somewhere along the line. There's a great story my Mom tells about my Grandma jumping up while the most recent President Bush was on the TV and hurling a string of invective at his televised image.

My grandmothers are both kind of badasses in their own really idiosyncratic ways.



2 comments:

Nathan Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 10:56:00 AM EDT  

When I was a child, my mother would force hospitals to ignore their visiting hour rules when any of us precious peas were sick so she could sit up with us all night, never leaving our bedsides.

The only time she is known to have left one of us alone in a hospital is when I was 4 and she had Sinatra tickets.

Priorities!

WendyB_09 Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 1:19:00 PM EDT  

I was 18 in '74. I'd babysit for the three families across the street with kids.

Got a call from one of the mom's one afternoon inquiring what I was doing on a particular night, and before I could answer, she blurted out that it was ok if I already had tickets, she'd understand. Huh?

Seems the 3 sets of parents had tickets on the night in question to see Elvis Presley. Eh, I was not even remotely interested.

I happily told them I'd have a big slumber party for all three sets of kids at the middle house and the parents could stay out as late as they wanted. They could round up the kids in the morning.

I do believe they were all surprised at my non-reaction. Especially coming from someone who constantly pestered the Coliseum manager to get in to cover the likes of Elton John, John Denver and Alice Cooper for the local college newspapers.

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