I have reached a new stage in life, and I’ve got to be honest: it’s really pissing me off.
I can deal with the “Everything pops or creaks when I bend over” stage, as well as the “I need a nap every day” stage. Even the “Why did I come into this room” phase is tolerable. But folks, this stage is intolerable.
I have now entered the “Today’s music sucks” portion of life.
I always swore I would never be that mom. You know the one. The one who tells her kids to turn down their music because it’s just not as good as the music from her generation. The one who takes over control of the car radio because she just can’t understand the garbage today’s kids listen to.
Yeah, I’m there.
I am the youngest of three kids, and I remember when my two older sisters sat me down sometime in the mid 1970’s and informed me that I was not a normal teenager because I still enjoyed John Denver. They would line up a stack of records on the record player, one after another, and hand me album covers and lyric sheets to study while I listened.
To digress for just a moment, if you are too young to understand the concept of a stack of records or don’t know what a record player is, just walk away now. There just aren’t words sufficient to describe the finesse involved in stacking just enough albums but not too many, and making sure that the quarter taped to the needle arm was in just the right place to prevent skipping.
And no, I am just not pretentious enough to say vinyl and turntable. They were albums and record players, damn it. Sure, kids today have an easier time downloading music off the internet, but that simply can’t compare to the experience of strolling up to Murphy’s Five-and-Dime on a Saturday morning to plunk down my allowance for a handful of forty-fives with their cheap plastic inserts that made them fit on a regular record player.
All it takes is a few notes from “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die” or “Nights in White Satin” to take me back to those days, sprawled out on the bottom bunk in my sisters’ basement bedroom at two in the morning, listening to music and gazing at album covers while we hoped that mom really was a very heavy sleeper upstairs.
I’m not confessing to anything here, but there may or may not have been a few questionable substances consumed during those late-night listening sessions. Frankly, it was all too long ago to remember all the details. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
As I got older, they would quiz me on music trivia, turning on me at random moments to demand things like, “Who is the drummer for Cheap Trick?” “How many famous musicians died by choking on their own vomit in 1980?” “Who did the artwork on the inside of ‘Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die’?” (For the record: Bun E. Carlos, three, and Dave Gibbons.)
I was in high school before I dared to step away from my sisters’ opinions and started forming my own. My friend Kathy introduced me to songs from this little-known garage band out of Athens, Georgia, and my mind was blown. Couldn’t really understand a word that Michael Stipe sang, but that didn’t stop me from wearing out my homemade casssete of REM’s Chronic Town EP in a matter of months.
Kathy was also responsible for making me aware of The Replacements, The Jazz Butcher, Peter Case, The dB’s, Robyn Hitchcock, and oh, so many more.
That was music, man. Music that evoked an emotion, that took up residence in my brain and in my soul. Music that still sometimes wakes me up in the middle of the night with stray lyrics running through my mind, keeping me awake until I can remember who sang it and why it was important to me.
And in the morning after one of those nights, I’m left sitting here with my morning coffee, lost in the soundtrack of my life as I wonder whatever happened to that girl who used to know every word to “Bastards of Young” and “King of Birds.”
She got old; that’s what happened to her. She became that mom.
But she finally understands what Jethro Tull was singing about:
No, you’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll
If you’re too young to die
Rock on, y’all.