The compass of a music fan is an ever expanding enterprise. It generally begins with hearing nursery rhymes or songs on Sesame Street before turning to what an older sibling is into before settling into your own rhythm as a teen.
When I was a kid, music was a constant in our house due to the presence of that venerable cable network known as TNN…The Nashville Network and MTV when it was still relevant. In hindsight it was a seemingly amazing time for country music with the neo-traditionalist movement led by Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam among others. I got heartland rock, hair metal and British art rock from my sister’s MTV and stone cold country from my parent’s remote control landing spot.
Songs like “Swingin’” and “Elvira” were early favorites alongside tunes like “Born in the USA” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”. I didn’t know what any of the lyrics really meant, I identified solely with the videos and the melodies.
I was reminded of this time when I heard Patty Loveless “Shackles and Chains” on the radio and remembered how much I loved it as a kid…I was tapping and singing along before suddenly listening and realizing it is exactly the type of cheesy song I dislike now.
What had changed?
Nostalgia is a unique prism through which to examine art. This is a subject eloquently tackled by no less an authority than pop culture philosopher Chuck Klosterman.
I loved songs like “Elvira” back in the day and it inevitably ends up on whatever old school country mix I’m making be it on iTunes, Spotify or whatever the music service of the day is. And, it’s songs like that which inevitably get the largest response when played around other folks or in a party setting. Cries of “Oh hell yeah…” or “This used to be my jam…” are heard rampantly.
But, I’m confident if that song was released today we’d lump it in with the worst “Country Girl Backroad Shake It For Me Sideways I’m More Country Than You” country radio schlock.
I think a parallel connection can be made to Texas Music.
There are current acts in Texas and Oklahoma that are flamed for doing music similar to what Pat Green and Cory Morrow were making fifteen years ago. But, if songs like “Drink One More Round” or “Southbound 35″ were to be released today wouldn’t those types of songs be lumped in with the Donahew white trash lowest common denominator Texas stuff? I recall many old school Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff fans denouncing PG and CM as copycat kids in it to make a buck playing to frat guys with backwards hats and neon-tinged morals.
Yet, in its day it was as loved by those who mock the Abbotts of the world just as fervently as kids love singing along with “My Texas” today. Much like “Elvira” or Swingin’”, those ol Pat and Cory songs are still considered awesome and at the top of any solid Texas mix.
But, what if they came out today?
What would the response be?
Did we love the songs because they were good or because of the time in our lives we heard them? Would we still dig them as much if they were new today?
I’m not really sure what the answer is.
I loved Def Leppard, George Strait and Billy Idol as a kid…moved on to AC/DC, Pantera, Tupac, Biggie and Metallica as a teen…landed on Pat and Cory type stuff in college…and now love all of the above equally as I dig into stuff like William Clark Green, Dawes, Ryan Bingham and Uncle Lucius.
Truth is we all grow up and never stop evolving. What we loved 20 or 10 years ago is colored by the circumstances we were in during that time when we were first hearing it. Listening to those songs again takes us back to that time. Each year a new wave of kids comes to this realization as they jam their very own old school iPod mix.
Good is always relative. The environment in which you experience a piece of art certainly colors it for you and nostalgia will always trump taste it seems.
This weekend and beyond, I’ll fondly remember the good times as I’m headed out to make some new memories. I’ve got a long roadtrip ahead of me tonight, working a blues gig in Dallas. I think I’ll crank up my old skool country mix and let John Anderson and the Oak Ridge Boys sing me up I-35.
How about you? Does memory lane deliver you to the altar of Elvira?
-Still awaiting autumn. That first blast of cold air, football, playoff baseball!, hunting and fairs signify perhaps my favorite time of year. What say you?
-No matter how it ends up, I’m proud of the way the Rangers have rallied this season. #nevereverquit was more than just a silly hashtag apparently.
-Even though I’m a “cord-cutter”, I’m glad the fall TV season is back in full swing. Still hate when they schedule too much at one time and it makes my DVR have brain freeze. Spread the wealth TV programmers.
-Still waiting for FOX’s dancing robot to make sense.
-Still having a blast hopping on air over at ShooterFM. I just try and do my best impression of JustinFrazzellMattsonRainerChrisAustinShayneHollingerGordonKeith.
-College football stirs the most passion and discourse of any major sport. Truth.
-Does anyone else have redneck neighbors that party outside in their front yard 3-4 days a week like they’re living in a frat house? Oh, that’s just me. Bummer.
–This month’s recommended album: Patty Griffin – Servant Of Love. I gotta be honest. I saw Patty’s first show of the release tour and was not digging it. The songs and band were still trying to mesh. Good thing the two had already melded perfectly in the studio. Patty’s still got a way to wrench the strongest emotions out of you and her latest is worth blasting. Sidenote–I have been unable to wrest the Ryan Adams–1989 out of rotation. Shoutout to Don Henley’s fantastic new record too. Two old warhorses getting it done.
-”Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain