The other day I heard someone say the music you grew up with will always be the best music to your ears because it provided the literal soundtrack for the most enjoyable years of your life. If you think about it, that kind of makes sense.
And if that’s the case, then I’m even more appreciative of the great music that was my personal soundtrack.
When I think back on all of the music that has been a part of my life, I don’t think there’s any question the music I listened to from about 1975 all the way up to about 1985 or so was the best music there is to be heard.
The innocence and innovation that pushed the birth of rock music in the ’50s into the ’60s was sharpened through the ’70s. Popular music was bold and confident in the ’70s (with the exception of disco), and the age of the guitar god took the center stage spotlight. It wasn’t good enough to just be cute and poppish anymore. Musicianship became measuring stick of cool.
And then, advances in technology melded with that confidence to create the incredible canvas of music that was the ’80’. At least in my mind (and ears), everything kind of peaked as the ‘80s came to a close, and things haven’t been nearly as interesting since (especially since Eddie Van Halen almost ruined the emergence of future guitar gods).
But then again, that’s my view of it. I’m sure every child of the 50s/60s/90s/etc. feels the same about their era of music.
Let me state before we get any further I am a life-long guitarist. As a result I have an acute appreciation for people who actually learn how to play an instrument and share their talents with the rest of the world — and especially when a group of similarly minded musicians join together as a band to do as much.
So what happened? At least in my view, technology became equally or more important than talent, and it eventually took that precedence as people learned how to program computers to become a virtual shadow of actual musicianship.
Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with a synthesizer or other technological advances. But when I learned how computer technology was doing almost all of the work for certain artists, I knew we had crossed a line.
There is a thing in modern music production called “auto-tune.” To illustrate what it does, let’s say I go into the studio to record a song as a singer. However, in the process of recording said song, I hit some clunker notes along the way. So, we could use auto-tune to go find those bad notes in the mix and “fix” them to the correct pitches.
So what’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, the technology has reached the point where auto-tune can be now utilized in a live performance. To give you an example, there are artists out there who can barely carry on a coherent conversation, much less carry a tune. With auto-tune, all they have to do is utter the words of songs in the correct timing (or close to it), and then a computer can “grab” their voice and in real time adjust the pitch of those words to be in tune with the song.
What this basically means is that even in a live performance situation, you have no idea whether what you are hearing is legitimately live or virtually live. That bothers me.
Some years back I spent a lot of money to see a very famous band in concert. You can imagine my disappointment when one of their vocalists words started coming from the speakers before he ever got close to his microphone — essentially meaning that some of the vocals we were hearing in their “live” performance were actually anything but.
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather hear an artist actually try to perform a song and come up a little short than know I am listening to little more than a pre-recorded file of them doing it perfectly.
In other words, if I wanted to listen to a CD, I would’ve just stayed in my truck.
It’s because of those factors and many others that I look back at the 70s/80s music I grew up with as the peak of the popular musical mountain. I realize there have been some good songs done since then, but let me pose the question I always ask young people when we talk about music: what songs recorded in the last 20 or so years will still be listened to 50 years from now?
Their answer? “Not many.” When I know that far too many of those young people are still listening to the same music I listened to when I was their age, that’s all I need to know.
Now, with all of that said, there have been some hints of classic rock type music coming back into the fold. There is a band called Greta Van Fleet that impresses me with everything they do — even though some of the crotchety old guard music guys say “yeah, but they sound just like Led Zeppelin.”
My reply: “And that’s a problem?”
So all you old fogies, be thankful you had the music of your youth, because unlike us it will never die.