(Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my generation
(Talkin' 'bout my generation)"
When I was little, I can recall my mom saying at one point or another that I was born a generation too late. I can recall getting my first stereo: a record player with big black plastic speakers, each containing several silver rings of descending sizes in the middle. I later regretted having picked this one as the trendier black-fabric covered speakers seemed infinitely cooler. But, it was a good lesson to me that "cool" didn't really matter. What mattered was that this well-made little stereo opened up yet another window into the world of music for me.
For many years I was content playing read-along books and children's songs on my little record player, even branching out to Stevie Wonder and friends with We Are the World. (We are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day so....oh, sorry.) But as I got older, and moved on to tape players, my older siblings tried to turn me on to the likes of Cindy Lauper and Madonna, Duran Duran and Kiss, but to no avail. You see, I loved 50's music (and square dancing and re-runs of all the old sit coms depicting life in the fifties and little black and white tile in bathrooms and Woolworths with it's malt shop in the back).... I still have the poodle skirt my mom made me for something or another but gosh darn if the elastic didn't up and die so that it no longer stays up....on Madeline of course....I mean, I'm beyond Poodle Skirts now....um, er....
At any rate, while the pop music of the time did nothing for me, my brother inadvertently turned me to classical music in pre-adolescence when he gave me a tape of Issac Stern playing Beethoven's Violin Concerto, or maybe it was Brahms. But from then on I listened to all the great violin concertos I could get my hands on. After all, I was an aspiring musician and that type of music seriously intrigued me like no other. So, while others my age were singing "You Can't Touch This" and other such "stuff" for lack of a kinder word, I was humming 50's and classical music in my head, truly marching to the beat of my own drummer. It just didn't happen to be the likes of Charlie Watts, Tico Torres, Steven Adler, Eric Kretz, Zac Starkey, or, sorry to say Kurt, Neil Peart or any other drummer from bands I couldn't hum a tune from to save my life. (And yes, I had to do a big google search to even come up with those drummers' names who played for Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, STP, The Who, and Rush, in that order.) Really, how alternative is "alternative music" when EVERYONE is listening to it?
I don't know why I am like this but ask me about any music or musician or rock band on the radio during the 80's and 90's and I will stare at you blankly as if you just asked me to prove the quadratic formula using only toothpicks and pickles. I was too immersed in the Everly Brothers, the Coasters, and perhaps a little Patsy Cline to keep up with, um, whoever they were. Sure, I eventually found the Beatles (who didn't?) and other bands of the 60's and 70's but, until I was knee deep in adolescence and fell head over heels for jazz (think Stan Getz and Kenny Barron, Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday, oh and we can't forget Johnny Hartman, mmmm), nothing really did it for me like some good old 50's music or Isaac Stern playing any of the great violin concertos.
Kurt and I were at a dinner party a year or so ago when a song by The Who came on and Kurt, being the loving husband he often is, teasingly said from across the table, "Hey Karen, who sings this?" Had I known, and been wittier and perhaps even somewhat comfortable with the surrounding company, I might have replied "What's on second?" but no, I just stared blankly at him with silent but deadly thoughts racing through my brain as I tried to deconstruct the quadratic formula with toothpicks and pickle juice. And of course, all of the previous conversation stopped right on cue, all eyes on me. So, it came out that not only was I by far the youngest chickie at the table, but I was clueless about pop music (actually pop culture in general to be honest) and the host proceeded to go through his very hip iPhone connected to his iTunes connected to the iBone connected to the Hip Bone (which apparently I don't have!) connected to the wireless everything which of course made the speakers work like magic or something (wow, when did they come up with all that?) and he went song by song asking me if I knew who sung this or that....no, nope, nada aaaand no again....oh, oh, I got that one, it's ol' blue eyes himself....God I love Sinatra....But I was burning by that point because, even though he didn't mean to, Kurt had just thrown me under the bus. And I am not talking Jerome Bettis here or the puny school buses Liam rides. No, we're talking those double-decker buses over seas. Ouch, that hurt!
But wait, it gets better. So the neighbor from up the street who is sitting next to me leans over and says, "Karen, if you could only listen to one more song, at the end of which you would die, what would it be?" I paused. As much to go through the files and files of beloved music in my head as to make some silent judgments myself, I mean come on! Get off it already!
"Probably Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto but you know, I'd have to really think about it," I said, thinking through the various requiems and symphonies I have loved over the years....wondering if I would pick the most beloved, or the one that lasts the longest! He looked at me, apparently using toothpicks and pickles to solve something in his head and turned back to the conversation about why I apparently don't like rock music. Do I think I am BETTER than rock bands? Am I somehow superior in nature to them, the host wanted to know? He seemed very intrigued but somehow it felt a bit more like, I don't know, HUMILIATION?! Why can't I just like different music than the herd? If I was listening mostly to the Golden Oldies station and Classical and Jazz, why would I know who, um, [insert band name or random singer here] was? I was the kid who didn't talk music to other kids, or just smiled and nodded or perhaps went to my happy place during those conversations and ate pickles on toothpicks while doing math equations....and no I have no idea where the toothpicks and pickles came from, maybe I am secretly wishing I had pregnancy cravings while reviewing grade school math?
Things were a little better in high school when, caving to the pressure, I was able to sing every song by the Indigo Girls with my girlfriends and we listened to the same song sung in every possible way (yet sold as different songs somehow) by the Cranberries. And of course, I was the designated driver for my boyfriend and his buddies to some pretty "big" concerts, starting with Helmet, where one of our friends broke his leg in the mosh pit (interestingly enough, that just doesn't happen in an orchestra pit...unless of course you accidentally misstep and fall in!) and then Bad Religion, Pennywise, Blind Melon, Lenny Kravitz. I missed Stone Temple Pilots (phew) because of a soccer tournament I believe....The list goes on and on. I dreaded them all to be honest. And when I got to choose the venue and ended up at a Yo-Yo-Ma or Perlman concert or perhaps swooning over Harry Connick Jr., ahhhh, things were just right.
At any rate, I have now branched out into Country music, and as it turns out, I must have always been a closet country music fan because just last week during the Country Music Stations Legendary Lunchtime (where listeners send in their top 7 classic country songs to be played on the radio) I was able to sing all but one of the 5 songs I heard which included old timers like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, even the song Delta Dawn. Who knew I was such a fan! But looking back, even the country singers we listened to growing up were old school.
So not too long ago, I overheard a conversation between Madeline and Lily about texting boyfriends. (You'd think we could wait a few years to worry about either but no....) And I couldn't help but thinking like an old person: Back in my day we'd actually pick up a phone, one that couldn't fit conveniently in your back pocket nor be carried from room to room, and we'd have real, live, vocal conversations with our suitors....you know, back in the olden days when sentences were more than a series of hopeful letters just waiting to be decoded....
I can recall meeting a girl in grade school who had clipped and cut everything she could get her hands on for her New Kids on the Block scrapbook....I had never even heard of them (and wish I hadn't once I had) and while I envied her for feeling so connected to something and so excited about cutting and pasting and collecting etc, I couldn't see what the big deal was.....As far as I could tell Bach rocked. Ever heard of Paderewski or Berg or Bruch or Albinoni? Good, lasting music there.
So, it's no wonder that when Kurt announced yesterday that "Lani Jane died," my response was, "Um, who?"
"You know, the lead singer for Warrant," he told me.