The Kids Of Today (Still) Need To Defend Themselves Against The ’60s

Aug 12th, 2009 // 8 Comments

Get ready for another wave of Boomer nostalgia to crash over our collective shores during the dog days of late August. The one-two punch of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and the run-up to the release of The Beatles: Rock Band just happen to coincide with what are traditionally super-slow days in the music press, thanks to a large number of factors that include the waning days of the summer shed season, record labels’ decision to hold off on putting out anything “important” until back-to-school season starts, and the fact that any reporter who actually has to work in the weeks leading up to Labor Day not feeling all that inspired. (Cough.)

Not that I’m not happy to post videos that include shots of the dearly departed Shea Stadium in them, but I can’t be the only person out there who hopes that the summer of ’09 will be something of a last hurrah for blind boosterism of the 1960s? Take the title of the most recent AP piece on the impending 40-year anniversary of Woodstock, which happens this weekend: “40 Years Later, Woodstock Still Fascinates.” Well, that may be true for a slice of the population, but if it really still “fascinated” a wide swath of people, wouldn’t it have been able to garner at least one measly sponsor for its big birthday party? Never mind that if you say “Woodstock” to people under the age of, say, 20, they’re going to think of Fred Durst telling people to break stuff and the occasional bonfire. (Perhaps that’s why the writer of this piece tried to claim that Woodstock “went viral”—youth appeal!)

As for The Beatles: Rock Band, I have to say that the game does look legitimately awesome, and the careful detail put into the game’s production certainly results in the videos that result from gameplay mode being turned on looking at the very least convincing. But what does it say that one of the biggest musical events of the coming weeks is actually a bunch of reissues, and that “videos” from this Rock Band offshoot are being sprinkled into the playlists of both the throwback-happy Vh1 Classic and the aggressively now MTV Hits? Synergy’s important, sure, but there’s something bigger, and odder, about that to me. Is everyone just tired? Has it all been done? Are the few powerful people left at major labels that in love with the legacy that they’ve worked so hard to tarnish over the past few years?

Certainly it’s easy to succumb to nostalgia—after all, look at all the bands out there who have tried to catch the ears of ever-fickle listeners with a cover, or a very egregiously used sample. And yes, I’m as guilty of looking to the past for comfort as anyone. But there’s something about nostalgia for the ’60s in particular that grates with me—perhaps it’s the whole attitude of Things Will Never Be As Good As They Were Again So Maybe You Shouldn’t Even Bother Trying that emanates from every single Summer Of Love-themed piece I stumble across. Or maybe it’s just because as someone who’s been alive since 1975, I’ve basically only been subjected to the hangover from that allegedly idyllic era, and have thus been only able to see the “peace and love” that was supposedly so prevalent back then calcify into a present that’s marked by pessimism and loathing for anything unwilling to pay proper homage.

40 years later, Woodstock still fascinates [AP]
While My Guitar Gently Beeps [NYT]
Beatles Rock Band: Ticket To Ride [YouTube]


  1. Amen Maura. The tyranny of the 60′s has been incredibly oppressive force for too long. People have to live in and appreciate the moment at hand.

    The door to the 60′s should be shut for at least ten or twenty years while the world catches up on all the stuff it’s missed in just the past ten years.

  2. There’s a lot of things I love about the music of the 60′s. Woodstock just isn’t one of them (though I do like Tim Hardin and Melanie a lot, and–for personal more than actual musical reasons–the Incredible String Band.)

  3. Ah, the baby boomers. They were the Greatest Generation, weren’t they?

  4. I myself grew up in the late 70′s, so I missed out on being a part of the “love generation”. Being the pop culture fanatic that I am however, I did my homework and research and have come to the conclusion that the 60′s are no better than any other decade in music history. Yes, the Beatles, the Stones and the Who and all that stuff is great. I still enjoy all that because I love undeniably good, timeless music. (And Jebus knows, there’s 100′s of great underground garage bands during that period that never got big for whatever reason.) But every decade has its defining music that is just as good and relevant as anything that came from the 60′s. the 50′s gave birth to rock&roll and R&B, the 70′s had glam, punk and yes, even disco (ugh), the 80′s watered down punk and called it New Wave and recycled glam rock into “hair metal”, while also progressing metal in general into its various subgenres. The 90′s had its grunge and “alternative” once that broke into the mainstream, even though underground bands had been going all through the 80′s and were just called “college rock”. Which brings us to today, which in all honesty, I think sucks. Pop is more vacuous, plastic and disposable than ever, old school metal is finally making a comeback after years of turgid “nu-rock” and “nu metal” ala Nickelback, Staind, Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc. (Although, the recent return of Limp Bizkit makes me sad.) And this whole emo thing is so far removed from its roots that it’s just become a big cash cow for pasty kids with rich parents who’ll buy them Marshall stacks and full sleeves of tattoos before they’re 21 years old. It’s not even pop-punk. It’s just pop.
    So no wonder why reissues of the Beatles catalogue still rakes in big bucks over the years. I hate Eric Clapton and the Mamas & the Papas almost as much as I hate Creed (there’s another reunion that shouldn’t happen), but everyone needs something to help them re-live their youth and right now it’s Woodstock. The kids today don’t need to defend themselves though because they don’t really care about what happened 40 years ago. Hell, they barely care about what happened 10, 15 or 20 years ago. They just like to co-opt the styles of those times and pretend it’s their own.
    Sorry this is so long. I tend to take music very seriously and I like to rant.

    Love you on the Sandbox.

  5. @theSamhainKid: this is some shit that krisskraft and i were knocking about the other day and i think your initial statement “that the 60’s are no better than any other decade in music history” holds water. however you go on to denounce your own theory further on, claiming that this decade “sucks,” which is just fucking silly. i think the issues at play here are artist’s popularity level along with oversaturation. which is to say that throughout the history of recorded music there have, of course, always been great obscure artists, but i don’t think the percentage of great relatively obscure artists vs. popular artists has ever been higher.

    in the past a lot of the best music was popular and easy to find. i think in the 50s and 60s this was the result of such a great wealth of new(ish) genres, r&b, rock and roll, soul, modern jazz and country, that were in vogue and still developing so that some of the most interesting music being made was also the most popular. and with the 70s, 80s, and 90s we continued to see the development of interesting (and popular) sub-genres (glam, disco, punk, new wave, hip-hop, and, for lack of a better term, alternative).

    the 00s have seen the emergence of some truly heinous popular sub-gernes for sure (rap-rock, emo, etc.), but there has been incredible mainstream releases in rap, r&b, rock and more. beyond that though, we’ve also got more shit under the mainstream radar than ever before, and even under the indie royalty radar as well (matador, merge, sub pop, secretly canadian, domino, 4ad, etc.). you’ve just gotta work harder to find it.

    or, to sum this rant up in 3 simple words: DIG FUCKING DEEPER.

    or, to sum this rant up

  6. @iantenna: Or maybe it’s because time is a great filter?

  7. Okay iantenna, when I said this decade “sucks” I thought I was being fairly clear that I was really only talking about the mainstream side of things. Maybe that’s my bad for not making it clearer and I did neglect a couple of points about this decade that bother me. One thing that kills me is, like you said, an artist’s popularity level and oversaturation. A band or artist gets bigger quicker nowadays and then gets pushed down our throats to the point where we’re sick of them within a year. Not very conducive to a long, healthy career. There’s more bands going now than there were at any other time in history. That’s good for variety, but bad for people with ADD who too easily bounce from band to band whenever a new band crosses their radar. Careers and longevity are sacrificed for flash in the pan fame and success. Artist development is almost a thing of the past.
    Since you don’t know me, I think it would’ve been a bit cooler if you asked me questions instead of finger wagging and telling me about under the mainstream radar stuff. I do in fact dig deeper. I read a lot, talk with a ton of various musicians and i know my music history. Like for instance, I’m surprised to see you mention emo as a heinous 00′s genre, when it’s roots begin in the 80′s and really flourished in the mid to late 90′s. The stuff in the mainstream today like Panic at the Disco or whatever, is so far from its roots and really shouldn’t even be called emo. None of these bands sound remotely like Fugazi or Rites of Spring, who for better or worse, actually originated the genre. But that’s just me being a smart-ass.
    I do in fact agree with most of what you say and I wish more people would dig deeper and not just blindly take what’s force-fed to them. I LOVE working to find something new. It makes the music I find much more special and enjoyable to me. Like when I found out about Sons & Daughters, Camera Obscura, Ludicra, and even the Gaslight Anthem who are now getting pretty damn big.
    Anyways, keep on rockin’ iantenna.

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