Saturday, July 07, 2007


My ex-husband and I read somewhere ("The New Yorker"? "Atlantic Monthly"?) about research on how a music lover becomes an old fogey. It would seem that in a person's mid-thirties, usually they gradually become unable to appreciate new music. They may be able to find a new artist to love, but only if that person's music is very derivative of something the fogey already learned to love. There was a lot of blather about the aging of the brain and so on which I have forgotten, but the basic point was during the thirties, your taste crystallizes and then after forty, forget it. You have to listen to the oldies channel on the radio station, because each and every generation hates the music that those darn young people make.

I felt I needed to get exposed to as much new music as I could, storing up nuts for the long winter of my brain's old fogeydom. I had a few successes, like Ali Farka Toure, Ry Cooder, and the Mermen. But it seemed the process was already happening: I hated almost everything new I heard. This genuinely upset me (this was before I had children, so I had a lot more time to pay attention to myself. Once I had the children, I didn't have much energy for examining myself any more in depth than that classic query of the parent, "Have I left the house in filthy clothing?").

I felt out of touch with pop culture, adrift without being able to enjoy music. Like everyone, I loved Nirvana (RIP, Kurt Cobain), but all that crap that followed... shudder. Flannel shirts (I wore enough of those growing up in Maine to last me a lifetime). Droning music. And the ridiculous shunning of smiling or ever appearing unsuicidal... I used to look at images from the sixties and wonder, "How did we get from a place where flowers and smiling and being happy were what we all wanted to HERE?" It was the fashion to look miserable on stage, no matter how many millions one was raking in. (Not just rock stars, but the heroin chic phase meant the fashion ads in my magazines were all depressed skeletons splayed about in Prada or Jilsander). It all seemed driven by the dreadful music, the horrible stuff that followed Nirvana.

And then there was the techno, ridiculously popular in the Bayeria. It had such a brainlessly repetitive beat that it could make one want to whack one's brains out against a cinderblock wall. Sillily enough one wasn't supposed to listen to this drek on drugs, which would have possibly redeemed the experience, but just on water and smart drugs at the ideal rave. Back in the 80's, the music I loved had complex and changing rhythmns, and I couldn't tolerate these banal, simplistic programmed drum beats which seemed to go on and on forever. Not to mention emocore (so much whining!). Shudder.

I couldn't bear to listen to the radio very much; everything sounded so terrible to my old-fashioned ears. Alas, there were no radio channels devoted to the 80's New Wave music of my youth, so I couldn't settle happily into old fogeydom. (This was before satellite radio and internet radio. Since those technological revolutions, musical fogies have rich ruts to live in). This was genuinely a source of sorrow to me. I did have one coping mechanism: I started exploring ancient blues, which I did love, preferable from the 1910's and 1920's and preferably from Texas and Arkansas. It seemed fitting for a fogey.

But, as it turns out, I hadn't become a fogey. It's just that the music of the nineties sucked. (I have heard so many people opine that the 80's were the worst decade of all history for music and fashion, but no. We were just fine back then, thank you very much, dancing to the Talking Heads with our gravity-defying spiky hair). Somewhere after the turn of the century, the god-awful music of the 90's gave way to new things, things which are actually fun to hear.

I listen to the radio a lot in the car nowadays, as I drive my child overlords hither and yon, and I'm constantly hearing new songs to love. I heard a rap song about "I'm living in liquor land" which I've never been able to track down since, but it made my whole day the time I caught it on the radio. The latest British invasion is composed of hard-drinking neurotic girls, and I love them. Amy Winehouse! Lily Allen! Over in the East Bay, there's a newish form of rap called hyphy. I don't know how to explain what it is, and the articles I've read about it couldn't articulate a definition, either. All that I know is that when they're doing a hyphy show on a local radio station, it's fun to hear. My favorite hyphy song has the most charming line: at one point, in an encouraging voice, the singer calls, "Go, stoopid! Go, stoopid!" This never fails to make me smile.

Even the top forties music of this decade is relatively palatable. There have been some huge hit songs I adore, like "Hey Ya" by Outkast, which has beautiful rhythmns, a wonderful lead singer, and great words. "Lend me some sugar, I AM your neighbor!" is another line which always makes me grin. All the first graders and I loved Justin Timberlake's "Bringing Sexy Back." That song is truly sexy, with its sinuous beat and that line, "You see these shackles/Baby I'm your slave/I'll let you whip me if I misbehave." (I'm not "in the scene" any more, as we used to say in the old days, but I'm confident that song is becoming a dungeon classic, with its steady beat for whipping to. Perhaps it will become enshrined next to that odd kink classic, the disco version of the Hallelujah chorus, which I suffered through so many times in dungeons. And no, I did not share these insights with the first graders).

I could go on and on. Turn on your radios, people; it's a musical wonderland out there. Even one poised on the brink of musical fogeydom can listen happily and rejoice.


Amy said...

Anonymous said...

You know the fogeydom after 35, makes total sense. Well not totally, but I can see why its been said. I've noticed my musical taste changed or maybe it just "firmed up". I still love hearing new music, but I'm just not as open to other genres as I used to be.

There is still amazing music coming out all the time. And I for one thank all powerful deities for I come from a city with a fabulous string of radio stations, totally in sync with what the masses crave in new music (ever in Madison Wisconsin, check out Triple M!) But now that I live in Syracuse NY, a hole, where all good things must be literally dug for, well, lets just say, Pandora is a godsend :) Good radio does not exist in Syracuse NY.

Great post DHW :)

the Drunken Housewife said...

OMG, a., I love that! completely coincidentally I'm working on an art idea about the sea, and so that imagery was very welcome. God, that was great.

the Drunken Housewife said...

and thank you, Carla! I would have guessed there would be good radio in that neck of the woods with all those colleges up there, but nooo.

hughman said...

oh girl -

don't even get me started on this music thing. as someone who was also into "new wave" when it was actually new, i hear a lot of today's music and think been there/done that. being older than you, i was into new wave in the late 70s (i first saw blondie perform in 1977 when i was in high school). patti smith was my goddess. the cars, b-52s, the go-gos, elvis costello, joe jackson. now that's all "classic rock". ahhh!!! oh, i also adored Rufus with chaka khan.

now, however, i don't listen to the radio at all (i never really did to be honest). i still find some new artists i like (amy winehouse!) but it's usually by happenstance.

i found some great music in the 90s that i still love. the sundays, the cranberries, the breeders, erykah badu, massive attack. i still listen to them. i was also into jazz vocalists like shirley horn and abbey lincoln.

but i am definately fogey status. not much music inspires me and takes over my life like it did when i was younger. i could have listened to "Horses" 24/7.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Taste is so subjective, I know. The 90's just sucked for me. Out of your 90's list, Hughman, I only liked the Breeders, and didn't they only do one album? (One of the sisters had a big drug problem). "Last Splash" has truly one of the best bass lines ever. I gotta dig that CD out today. I did like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Joy Division, to be honest, but the current stuff the RHCPs do leaves me cold (like "Dani California." My reaction: Meh. But "Suck My Kiss"? Brilliant).

For me it's just fabulous that after all that time of hating 99% of what I heard that was new, I can now enjoy new music. I'm not fossilized yet!

Silliyak said...

Imagine, if you will, a bunch of relative youngsters calling themselves "Fogeys". How the hell do you think that makes ME feel? Sigh
The only comfort is that your turn is coming.
I'm with you on the blues though. Can you hear the heavy blues influence with Cream, Hendrix and of course our toppled God, Clapton?
And all that was preceded by jazz greats Brubeck, Coltrane Basie,etc.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I heard "Purple Haze" on the radio yesterday driving Iris Uber Alles to her swimming lesson. Fabulous as always.

hughman said...

"cannonball" by the breeders was on repeat for me.

Freewheel said...

Amy Winehouse is good. I liked the Raconteurs/White Stripes and the new stuff by RHCP. But I'd say about 90-95% of what I hear on the radio really sucks.

hughman said...

the RHCP suck. i've met two of them there here in LA and have been unimpressed. it's a personal thing.

2amsomewhere said...

Satellite radio has enough variety to keep your mind ever expanding.

Just change the channels frequently.

Some of the things I realized that I loved once I started listening to XM...

lounge/space age pop, progressive country, African pop, chill out music, folk music

Not all of them may have been necessarily new in the universal sense, but much of it was new to me.

I wouldn't be too hard on yourself for not being able to assimilate pop music from the early 90s onward. I believe that there was a fundamental shift in the way pop music was produced and marketed.

I draw the line when Mtv stopped being about music and more about young urban pop culture. Music became less about talent and substance and more about flash and fashion.


M said...

who told you not to do drugs while listening to techno? lol!

let us not forget the important (but sad) reality that 50% of EVERYTHING is below average. lots of music from every decade sucks. you have to find the good stuff.

I'm getting tyord of Amy Winehouse. overexposed! but I love the flanger on the guitar in the RHCP's Dani California.

I think most folks have much more diverse musical tastes than anyone realizes. I was looking at Mermen CDs online someplace, and got an auto-generated link that said "people who purchased this CD also purchased music by Frank Sinatra" I'm sure it was true, but what do they have in common?!

also, if you love the internet radio, please please go to and call your elected representatives! because it all may go away except for the richest commercial stations, and *soon* if the save net radio legislation fails.

Anonymous said...

the Decembrists!!!!! (I probably spelled that wrong.)

The Stute Fish said...

It was Robert Sapolsky in the 2005 New Yorker - I blogged about it here:

Allow me, by the way, to recommend as an excellent way to explore new music. you can listen to 'similar artists' or 'tag' radio stations, or other users' radio stations, to find new stuff - it's much more accurate, IMHO, than Pandora, and I'm really loving the musical renaissance it's facilitated for me.

Steve said...

Man, I'm 25 and already a musical fogey. I'm a rocker through and through, but the garbage people are calling rock these days is awful. I haven't heard a good new rock album in about 5 years. I feel much older than I actually am.

Liquor Store Stories

2amsomewhere said...

I'm on the mailing list for the XM Village channel (folk music) newsletter. Today, I got an edition with a reprint and link to a column that talks about fogeyism in reverse -- that of younger folks discovering and learning to love older music.


Anonymous said...

Mighty Casey, Liquorland, I think