What replaces boomer rock?

So Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) and I stopped in a new restaurant for breakfast this morning. We had spent the night with some friends way up north after throwing a party, and hit 12th Avenue Cafe in Issaquah on the drive south. Pretty solid breakfast, but that’s not why we’re here today.

Was listening to the music playing in the background. Lots of 70’s and 80’s rock. Bob Seger, for example. Stuff I remembered from being a kid (born 1969) and a teen.

I recognized all the songs playing, although mostly from an unconscious standpoint. But I had to wonder about the genre of quiet rock being played in a reasonably yuppie/upscale restaurant on a Sunday morning.

I asked her “So at what point do we start hearing music by Phish or Dave Mathews Band playing?” Mind you, I couldn’t identify a song by either group, but I know the names, because they tour extensively and I have friends who are rabid fans.

But I have a hole in my musical experience that does not jive well with many of my friends. I got seriously into country music starting in about 1990, give or take. Garth Brooks, when he was on the way to becoming the single biggest thing in the world musically.

At the same time, Poodle/Glam Rock was dying as Grunge took over. I listened a little to some of those bands, but never really got into any of them. (And I have a friend who is mortally offended some days, because she actually worked at Sub Pop records in those early days and knew most of those people, when I could barely pick a handful of them out of a police lineup.)

(Also, I kinda gave up on country music in about 2006, give or take. It had finally turned into redneck bubblegum pop. In 2009 I spent a week in England, driving 1200 miles around Lincolnshire in 5 days while sightseeing. The only radio station I could reliably get was BBC Radio One, so I turned into a British Dance Pop fan for a while, but that’s a whole nother story for later.)

Depending on where you go, some places will be playing country music these days, either from that particular era that I listened to (1990’s) or “modern” stuff from the last few years. Rarely anything older than the 90’s. And something of a gap from the early 21st Century.

I remember as a kid when there were lots of diverse radio stations, instead of three companies that owned all of them and programmed them identically from a central headquarters in New York City. You’d have an Oldies station playing stuff from before 1970. (Give or take.) A classic rock station running from 1970 to present. “Modern” stuff that was Top 40 rock. New Wave came in mid-80s but I only tangentially encountered it. (In college, the two tapes I wore out were Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits and Some That Will Be. Draw your own conclusions.)

But let’s get back to Bob Seger, playing in a restaurant in Issaquah, WA this morning. He’s retired, if I remember right. Or about to. That song was “Still The Same” from Stranger In Town (1978 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Seger_discography). Released forty-two years ago. I was nine when the album came out. My parents were Elvis, Neil Diamond, and Beach Boys fans when I was a kid. (And Kingston Trio, if you go back a little ways.)

I sent out a newsletter yesterday talking about anti-stodginess, and how to avoid getting yourself into the sort of rut from which you never escape. For me, part of that is music, so I am forever picking up new or old used CDs at the bookstore and listening to them. Cheap investment in trying new music out. (And I have all of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band albums on CD, going back probably thirty years.)

But then I wondered how much of that is what we might classify as Boomer Rock. Music that was originally popular with that age cohort called the Baby Boomers, who are now slowly sliding off the stage after they have done so much to change the world. (Both for good and evil, when you want to talk ethics and morality.)

They are the sorts of folks in that restaurant with us this morning. Plus a younger generation that just happens to hear it as probably muzak because that’s what their parents or grandparents listen to. Listened to.

At what point will “current” bands start playing on those loops? I have never stopped to think about it until today, but I’m squarely a Gen Xer with a strange background. My dad was born in 1940. Mom in 1941. They are what the lists call the Silent Generation, mostly because the boomers were so loud. Both of my grandfathers were in the US Army in the ETO. They also listened to way different music than my parents did/do.

What happens to that commonality of music that we once seemed to share, after all the boomers are gone? Or at least no longer a relevant social force? Already, you have music splintering into a few major acts of the type that the hit-makers have always created, but much more vast collection of smaller acts than ever existed in the old days.

Will there be a commonality of music that all American kids might recognize, in this new future where nobody listens to the radio, but instead picks up music from their friends and then locks in on a playlist of a few acts that they stick with forever?

Acts from the 90’s are now on the nostalgia tour. Those who were big in the 80s have been for a while, but I suspect that their arena shows are dwindling as their core demographic shrinks. And dies out.

Will there even be a commonality? Or is that something that falls apart after my generation, when we had a great splintering 30-40 years ago and it has only gotten bigger since then?

What album/playlist do you have in the car or on the phone right now? When was it recorded? How long have you owned it? And what does that say about you?

In my car right now are Willie Nelsons “The Great Divide” from 2002. When I was in Half-Priced Books last week, I found a Stray Cats Greatest Collection from 2000 that I picked up because I had never owned one of their albums from the old days. Another one I picked up was an Essential Simon and Garfunkel. Again, the first one by S&G that I had ever owned, and it gave me a chance to listen to things from before my usual era. Finally, Velvet Revolver’s Contraband, which was a nice enough album, but mixed in such a way that I could never understand the lyrics over the guitars. (Maybe that’s me, but it was annoying to try to understand the words and never quite succeed. Kings of Leon was the same way, when I realized that every single song on a couple of different albums I’d bought appeared interchangeable.)

But I’ll go back and pick up more music.

Here’s an idea: Who wants to suggest some music for me to listen to? I like good storytelling with emotion, rather than mumblepop. Bands over dancers who autotune. Something I can actually understand and bounce to. It doesn’t even have to be in English, as one of the best albums I’ve picked up lately was Tinariwen’s Live In Paris album.

So what would you like me to listen to?


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