Bold Statement: On some level, music needs to be consumed in a timely manner to be best “experienced” although not necessarily best “appreciated”.
There is an expression that some (lame) first wave Baby Boomers are fond of: If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t REALLY there.
Subtext: drugs, man!
This statement is ridiculous for various reasons. It glibly implies that to have REALLY experienced the 1960s, ideally, you’d have fried your brain on LSD and bad acid rock.
It’s also a tad insensitive to those who have friends and/or loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Or all grades of concussion victims. Or 90 per cent of pro boxers. Or old people, in general.
The frustrating part is that I guarantee that ANYBODY who ever uttered this phrase without irony would also contend that you can’t really “get” the Beatles or the Jefferson Airplane or Barry McGuire or whoever because again, you weren’t REALLY there.
This hypothetical person needs to be hypothetically slapped. However, he… she… this “spirit animal” actually raises an interesting point…
Is a person’s understanding (… and by understanding, I don’t mean appreciation) of music going to be predicated on whether they lived through it?
One could argue to the answer is “Yes”.
From about 1995 to the fall of 2004, I loved the Pixies. LOVED them. Even in 12th grade and more-or-less pre-Internet (pre-dawn AOL barely counts due to the five hours/month limit), I was somehow aware that I was supposed to like the Pixies if I was going to be a supporter of “cool music”. This was known. Even in Thornhill.
Big picture: it was an easy sell. For a supposed underground band, the Pixies were immediate. Their songs were exciting. They only had 60 or so songs total, which in a pre-iTunes age, made them easier to fully digest than somebody like Frank Zappa or the Smiths or Hagood Hardy.
They rocked in a conventional sense, wrote interesting lyrics in a literal sense and were weird in a non-threatening sense (with the possible exception of the track “Broken Face”, which would have been menacing if it wasn’t sung by a guy who looked like a really tall 5-year old).
Anyway, here is the point.
The Pixies shockingly reunited for a world tour in 2004. Most assumed that it’d be a one-and-done affair and the simmering tension between Black Francis and Kim Deal would give the reunion a shelf life. It was thought they might strike each other. I went to see them play by the airport in Toronto that fall. It was great and a bit surreal to see my (1a) favourite band of all-time in the flesh.
In the end… well, there actually isn’t an end to this annecdote. Because it’s almost a decade later and the Pixies reunion tour is STILL GOING ON (I think). No new music. Just reunion shows and then some reunion shows and then some gimmick-y reunion shows Let’s play Doolittle in its entirety! Let’s do a tour of places we’ve never played before!
Yeah. I don’t really begrudge any band for cashing in if/when they can since a majority of bands are going to get screwed by some combination of managers, agents, record labels, drug dealers and/or “dear, dear friends” at some point.
Bands come and go. Reunions happen. They don’t happen. They implode. Whatever! The fact remains, I pretty much stopped caring about the Pixies by spring of 2005. A year in, I was tired of reading about the reunion tour (already) and I had been listening to the same five dozen songs for the last decade. Vamos!
Token nautical reference: the ship had sailed.
The Pixies were not hard to give up. I loved them but they were easy to compartmentalize when the time came.
The reason is simple. By the time I got into the Pixies (1995), they had already been broken up for two years (that’s 1993 for all you dullards). Therefore, even when I discovered the Pixies, I was doing so in retrospect.
I was alive during their first incarnation but I was pretty much unaware of them so they might as well have been Black Flag or Mozart in terms of my ability to truly experience them with any sense of immediacy. I existed (in my own way) when they did. I just wasn’t paying attention.
I never had the experience of anticipating a new album, seeing fresh press photos, speculating on tour dates and other aspects that us music dorks lap up like so much rancid consommé.
To re-hash (see what I did there) what our hippie friends told us, I wasn’t really there.
Does this matter? Should this matter? Maybe. What I do know: it does to me. Dammit.
That’s OK. I think it’s true.
This is a major issue I take with music writers and record store clerks who laud a band like Kraftwerk. I have no doubt that Kraftwerk sounded alien in the mid-1970s. And I get that a lot of early hip-hop DJs would go squirrely mixing these austere pieces of German vinyl. That’s great. Sincerely.
However, there have been sooooooo many bands post-Kraftwerk that have morphed, evolved, adapted their bedrock into music that is denser, more soulful, more engaging and frankly, more memorable.
It’s opinion. I get it. But I can’t be in the minority here.
That’s not at all to suggest that Kraftwerk can’t be appreciated and it’s not a judgment on whether they were important or not. What it is is a statement saying that the segment of the population who TRULY experienced Kraftwerk is very small. Again, it’s resigned to serious music geeks of the mid-1970s, a few primordial hip-hop crate carriers and (assumedly) some random German people.
This leads to the phenomenon of the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’” and it’s preponderance amongst many under the age of 30. Largely, this song was introduced to a younger generation by the TV program Glee and less largely (but still significantly) by the final episode of The Sopranos.
I’d imagine that if you took a cross section of people who identify “Don’t Stop Believin’” as their favourite song (and it’s a big cross section considering it’s allegedly one of the top-selling songs in iTunes history), a good chunk of these individuals would picture the song being belted out by a bevy of SAG members in lieu of Steve Perry mincing about in a stained undershirt.
Again, I can not judge. I will not judge. However, I think it is fair to say that the Steve Perry/stained undershirt “vision” (and what a vision it is) is certainly a more accurate depiction of what the song was supposed to be… even it is not a reality of what it ultimately became.
So getting back to my Pixies example, I haven’t fully relapsed back into the outfit since they fell off my radar in 2005. Maybe I will some day. Maybe I won’t. But a consideration for why I likely won’t? I didn’t have the guttural pleasure of experiencing them in their original incarnation and therefore, something intrinsically is missing in my fandom.
And that’s the reason I’ll always feel more ownership and authenticity over my Eria Fachin/”Savin’ Myself” experience than anything in the entire pre-1992 4AD catalogue.
It’s reverence in hindsight.