Saturday, April 23, 2016

Meditations on Prince and Bowie or; Why I'll Never Say, "I May Be Old, But at Least I Got to See All the Good Bands"

The public outpouring over the deaths of Bowie and Prince says a lot about the similarities between the artists and explains why the death of, say, Glenn Frey just wasn't as big a deal. Yes, both had distinctive costuming, unprecedented business dealings, and interracial audiences, and they expanded our ideas of appropriate sexual behavior. But much more importantly, both were relentless in pursuing new musical boundaries, of exploring and exploding genre definitions. They didn't rest on the laurels of their back catalogs but spent their whole careers trying to create something new. That kind of vision resonates far more than just selling a shitlload of records.

Which leads me to my challenge to the reader. If our most revered artists constantly looked forward and not just backward, shouldn't you be doing the same as a listener? It pisses me when people, especially those around my age, post the meme on Facebook, "I May Be Old, But at Least I Got to See All the good Bands" because it is closed-minded and backwards looking. And it pisses me off because it was the same bullshit that Gen Xers endured in our youth at the hands of Baby Boomers and that we are now aiming at Millennials. At that attitude's worst extremes, it's powerful Baby Boomers like Tipper Gore parading before the Senate because they fear the music of Prince (and I'll probably have more to say about this after I finish reading Folk Devils and Moral Panics by Stanley Cohen (no relation)). But it also plays in less virulent ways, such as the Steve Miller Band, who sold a shitload of records to Baby Boomers but offered no grand vision or musical innovation, getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before the Cure or Depeche Mode, who defined their musical genres and had the songwriting chops to sustain careers long after the novelty of goth and synth pop subsided, but they are icons to those who came after the Baby Boomers. As Jim DeRogatis said in Color Me Obsessed, "You had the motherfucking Baby Boomers consistently getting in your face and saying, 'Nothing you ever see in your life is going to be nearly as good as the Beatles. Nothing you ever experience is going to be nearly as good as Woodstock.' To which you and I were responding, 'Fuck you. We just saw the Replacements.'" But now the motherfucking Gen Xers are saying the same thing to Millennials, but replacing the Beatles with the Replacements or Nirvana.

So get over yourself. Acknowledge that there is good music being made and still to be made, and go try to find some it. If you need a suggestion, start with OK Go the next time they hit your town. Kurt Cobain never got to see them, and he missed out.

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