When I was growing up, we listened to a certain type of music, either from a certain era, or a particular style. Some favored classic rock (and those sometimes even broke down into decades), some jazz, some new wave, some disco, some heavy metal, etc. We were defined by the music that we listened to, and chose it as carefully as what we were going to wear on our first date. We even had names to categorize people by their musical preference (metal heads, punks, jazzers, etc.). This has all seemed to have fallen off, if not disappeared altogether. The fall of the album and the rise of the song have driven loyalties to the music itself, as opposed to a particular band, genre or even decade.
Case in point; Circa 1999, I was at work, having a conversation about music with a co-worker. He was 24 at the time, and when I asked him if he could name all of The Beatles, his response was, “I’m not sure, but I know George Harrison was the fifth Beatle.” Now, can we blame him for not knowing the names of all the members of a band that broke up five years before he was born? We can debate that another day. Fast forward to 2010, when while at work, I could hear Zeppelin blasting through the ear buds of another co-worker, also 24 years old, while he was working on his computer. When he came up for air, I asked him if he had an older sibling, or if a parent had turned him on to Led Zeppelin. He said, “No, they came up on Pandora, and I really liked them, so now I listen to them all the time.”
Funny. This 24-year old kid was as die-hard a Zeppelin fan as anyone I grew up with. It may be sad that he missed out on the era of the vinyl record album, sitting in a dimly lit room, listening to an entire album while going through the cool photos and liner notes on the cover, but at the same time, the music truly won out in the end. Here he is, listening to music that came out 35 years earlier, with the same gusto as those of us who listened to it when it was first released. And why not? Do we not still listen to Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, some paying premium ticket prices to hear this music reproduced hundreds of years after the composers have gone to their their great reward? Do we not still enjoy the Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey Bands that still tour the world despite the demise of their founders? Hell, are there even ANY surviving members of The New York Dolls? Sorry, I digress.
How does all this affect me? I’ll tell you. For an entire decade (the 80s), a band could not get through a set without hearing the obligatory battle cry of “Freebird!” And I mean the entire decade. It got so bad that towards the end of the 80s, when someone called out “Freebird,” I would flip them the middle finger and say, “Here’s your free bird!” Likewise, the rumors of music stores with signs over the guitar section that read, “No Stairway To Heaven” were absolutely true. Don’t get me wrong. These are both great songs that rose above all others at the time, and were just played to death. I, for one, was grateful when they seemed to disappear underground, seemingly destined to become and remain parodies of themselves.
Well, apparently, they were just hibernating, because here we are, thirty years later (forty years after Freebird’s release), and suddenly, lately, they are my two most requested songs. Not by people in their 40s or 50s, but by 20 and 30 somethings, eagerly embracing the iconic bar cries of their forefathers, doomed to recalling the glory but forgetting the pain. Truth be told, though, these songs have enjoyed a 25 year hiatus, and it’s actually a lot of fun to play them again.
George Carlin suggested that the Earth needed plastic, so it spawned man, who created plastic. Now that the Earth has plastic, man is being phased out. I submit that likewise, the internet needed to resurrect the desperate, beer-breath laden calls to Freebird, and now that this has come to pass, free porn is being phased out (God forbid).