Oldies are not necessarily goodies

Brace yourselves, folks, for the truth must be told.

Forget the refrain heard on these "Classic Rock" stations. All the "new" radio stations and formats, with listeners harking for the music of yore, can't hide this simple truth.

"Classic" rock doesn't exist. Oldies-but-goodies formats shouldn't exist. In the midst of all this B.B.B.(Baby Boomer Brainwashing), it had to be said.

Bob Dylan is no more profound a poet than Natalie Merchant. R.E.M. is just as good as the Doors were. New Edition is no less talented than the Temptations were.

What are the main differences between modern popular music and that of bygone eras? The musical arrangements and stylings, and, of course, issues of the day. Other than that, not much. Creativity, you say? Don't make me laugh. "Louie, Louie" is considered a classic, but can anyone understand one verse in that song?

No, the main difference is time period of highest popularity, and herein lies the rub.

What makes popular music "classic" is that it is linked to the life-shaping experiences of Baby Boomers. Since they run these stations, some of them want to shove these "oldies" formats down our throats under the auspices that this music is older and, therefore, better.

The music that is integral to our lives is so because of its sentimental value; music is linked to experiences. Music is most powerful during a person's first 25 years, when one is having the experiences that will shape their entire life. The music that is most prominent during that era will have the most power to evoke memories. For example, I had to leave the school of my first love. My mom played an early '70s song to stop my daily bawling fits. Although the lyrics fit the situation, it simply had no emotional pull, like "Lost in Love" by New Edition and "Crazy For You" by Madonna. Even "Who's Holding Donna Now" by DeBarge made me think of her, even though her name was Kim.

Some young people have been duped. They say things like "there'll never be another" so-and-so. Lighten up! Of course there won't. Eventually, they get sucked into the value judgments of their elders, that anything new can't be as good as the old stuff. This becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, as youth close themselves to the "possibility" of music of today living up to past standards.

This is not to denigrate older popular music. I only mean to question the pretentiousness that justifies it's proliferation as a format. Rather, it's better to recognize that music has peaks and troughs in quality. During my life, I've seen several of them. Rock has been experiencing a peak for four years now, with groups like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and Soundgarden. It experienced a similar one from 1981-1986, with the second British invasion, or "New Wave" era, with enduring groups like U2, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and Duran Duran. Rap and R&B hit peaks almost concomittantly, from 1986-1991. R&B is experiencing a trough now, as it did from1980-84, but can anybody tell me that the late '80s era, with production talents like Teddy Riley and his "New Jack Swing" sound, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Babyface, can't match the Motown era. I can name just as many soul "classics" from 1986-1991 as anyone can name from 1962-1968, as well as just as many good acts, like Guy, Levert, Sade, and Anita Baker.

Baby Boomers have already shaped their collective courses of life, as has the generation before them. As I said before, music has most impact when one is shaping their life, so chances are, little will "move" them when that mold is set.

That's why the music of the past will always remain important to them. But I feel sorry for those who only listen to certain eras of music. I would admonish those who do to simply enjoy and look at music critically for what it is, and not criticize it for what it can't possibly be and doesn't try to be. I love "Brown-Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, but it wasn't the song out when I met my first college girlfriend; "On The Edge" by Everlast was. When she turned my heart into shredded wheat, it wasn't "Who'll Stop The Rain" by Credence Clearwater Revival or "Have You Seen Her" by The Chi Lites that prompted pensive moments, it was "Something In My Heart" by Michel'le. All are good songs, and should be appreciated as such.

As I said before, there is place for all music on the radio. It's all good, and oldies segments are more than welcome to my ears. Better yet, I like stations that insert older music in with their contemporary format. But for those people whose radios are perpetually on those stations that play nothing made after 1977, I would advise them that the "classic"rock program play list is not getting any longer. Flip the dial and live a little. Besides, how many times can you really listen to "Stairway To Heaven?"

Tyrone Henry is a political science senior.

Read Next Article