One of the speakers at the Iowa Newspaper Association convention a couple weeks back made an interesting point. Law enforcement once encouraged 1960s parents to monitor their children for possible drug use by taking note of what music they listened to.
The example they used for parents wasn’t an obviously drug-influenced piece like Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” or the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper.” It was a Beatles tune: “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Today, those aren’t really controversial songs. Today’s rebellious rock is tomorrow’s Muzak, he said.
I took the point, but wasn’t entirely sure I bought the idea that rock would become Muzak a decade or two later. Sure, some of what’s called soft rock was pretty much elevator music with lyrics. Think Air Supply or half of Hall and Oates’ catalog. Those guys, maybe. But a real ROCK band?
I got my answer this past Wednesday. I had to run to the store to pick up some items for that night’s editorial board meeting. And over the PA I heard not soft rock, but Van Halen.
Part of my teenage years couldn’t take the strain. I haven’t seen it since it ran screaming out the door in combined shock and horror.
Van Halen, man. That’s exactly what some of my friends and I listened to and what my parents tried (unsuccessfully) to ban. They weren’t overly thrilled with me discovering “Weird Al” Yankovic, for crying out loud.
Some purists might object. The front man on this song was Sammy Hagar, not David Lee Roth. That doesn’t fly with me. Take a closer look at the next-to-last album they did with Hagar. The title is an acronym I can’t print here.
Some 25 years later, the songs my friends and played when our parents weren’t around are being pumped into the air at a grocery store.
This isn’t the first time that kind of thing has happened. The first time I heard Guns N Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” on a classic rock station hurt a bit. At that time what I thought of as classic rock was what is now oldies. There’s nothing wrong with the old music. I grew up listening to stuff from the 50s and 60s, and I still don’t think anyone has packed more into a 10-year span than the Beatles. Heck, I’ll give you 25 years on that last, and I still don’t think any band measures up.
It has to happen, though. Time doesn’t stand still. Never will. If there’s one thing I learned studying history, it’s that permanent is an illusion.
I’m not sure what I’ll do when we hit the next musical reminder that more time has gone by than I like to admit. You know, the moment when Nine Inch Nails is played at a hockey game or a song by Marilyn Manson is used for the theme on a television show.
Both of those, incidentally, have already happened. It’s just taking my inner teenager a while to deal with it.