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Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation
by Solomon Philbrick
So it’s Seventies Week at Faster Than the World and I was once again at a loss as to what to write about this morning until I checked the site. I couldn’t tell you much about the seventies from personal memory. I was alive late in the decade, but not very aware of anything other than mealtimes and other such important things to very small children. However, while thinking about what I would write about I found a big sore spot that I have had toward the sixties, seventies and eighties for some few years: my generation’s music and the fact that I was born just a tad bit too late to really see the stuff I actually like happen in front of me.
My dad’s a pretty big music freak, so I got a good dose of the avant-garde from an early age. He had records by Love, The Mothers of Invention and H.P. Lovecraft, just to name three. Along with that were the more mainstream acts that I still like such as Bob Dylan, The Who and The Rolling Stones. This is a pretty good foundation for a young music lover and a budding (self-described) rebel in my arrogant opinion. Since I had no older siblings, I had to rely for a few years on the music that pissed off my dad’s parents before I could find some that would irritate him.
In junior high I discovered rap and that did the job for a while, specifically NWA and Ice-T. I don’t know to this day if I ever even really liked the stuff, but I do know that I had to smuggle it in under the radar since my parents didn’t let me buy albums with Tipper stickers. Even if the fruit is really crap it tasted pretty sweet when it’s forbidden. Once the ban was lifted I moved on to Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I was still in junior high and at this point both groups had become more or less mainstream. Suddenly, there was real music that I liked, but I couldn’t see them live because I had no money and there was no way my parents would take me to Lollapalooza. After that, there was no more Jane’s Addiction and every Red Hot Chili Peppers album seemed to be about Anthony Kiedis once being a heroin addict. No thanks.
Nirvana broke out about the same time and I just didn’t like them. They had a few good songs, but it just wasn’t my thing. I guess I like them now, but I didn’t get all worked up when Cobain killed himself. Just another dead rock star. Unfortunately, he had become in the span of his career the “Voice of a Generation,” meaning the voice of middle-class white kids in a certain age demographic which just happened to correspond with mine. What gives? I never asked for some self-indulgent hippie to speak for me. I was angry, not depressed. And certainly not suicidal.
Anyway, about this time a friend of mine with a brother who was twenty-one (and therefore God) gave me Group Sex by the Circle Jerks and Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols. I was sixteen and that day was probably the beginning of my scorn for my generation and the feeling that I had somehow been born at just the wrong time.
Twelve years later, it seems like every band I have come to really like is either broken up, doing a reunion tour or just plain too old to draw my attention. The Pogues are not The
Then there are the reunions, or the “now that we’re actually popular let’s get back together for a month” tours. Forget it. The last thing I want to see is Mission of Burma playing “Academy Fight Song” twenty-five freaking years after they wrote the damn thing. I won’t even get into the Sex Pistols debacle. Sorry, but punk bands just do not mature well. The only one that I heartily endorsed was the Dead Kennedys reunion and that was only because it pissed off Jello Biafra. He deserves it.
Here’s something really depressing. The best rock station in LA., Indie 103, has a weekly program called “Complete Control” where they play two hours of punk from across the last thirty years. For about a year I visited my grandparents every week for dinner and would listen to “Complete Control” on the way home, and it seemed like every week they had Keith Morris hanging around in the lobby and waiting to be let into the studio. That’s right. The great Keith Morris, my introduction to the world of punk, has nothing better to do than hang around in a radio station’s lobby. Every week it seemed he would drone on about the eighties LA scene in this burned out San Fernando Valley dialect. Sad.
While there are some groups who are currently producing music that I actually like, such as Built to Spill and The Decemberists, neither one inspires me to pack up the car and drive to LA or San Francisco just to see them play. I guess I’ll have to be content with CDs. And the next “Voice of a Generation” gets punched.