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Nostalgia April 2019

Sam's Side

My Age-old Musical Madness

By Sam Beeson

I imagined him thinking, “What’s this old guy doing listening to this? Shouldn’t you be buying a Don Ho record somewhere?” But again, with a red face I persevered because I liked what I heard and wanted more.

“I guess I’m going to have to come to grips with the fact that someday there will be 80-year-old Depeche Mode fans.”

My son said that to me the other day. It struck me as funny. First of all he assumes there aren’t any senior Depeche Mode fans. Although I will agree they probably do not make up the majority of their fan base, I’m sure there are some. But the funny thing was why I found myself understanding his lament. Especially after all I had been through.

You’d think I would have learned.

I grew up listening to rock music, like many of you. Over the decades it has certainly changed. It had its childhood in the ‘50s, grew into a rebellious teen during the ‘60s, tried to find itself….and got totally lost…during the disco era of the ‘70s, got angry and loud during the metallic ‘80s, and then branched into the various forms of the genre today. Wikipedia lists over 30 different styles of rock music, most of which I have never even heard of. So why shouldn’t we seniors like some of its various forms?

The answer is of course, there is no reason why we shouldn’t. But for me, at least, I had a rough journey allowing myself to realize that.

When my parents were young, they listened to the music of Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters. Decades later, after I came along, their music evolved into the stylings of Jim Nabors, Don Ho and Doris Day.

I, on the other hand, enjoyed far more sensible music like The Monkees or The Royal Guardsmen. (Who can forget the immortal “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron?”) Yes, my parents were stuck in the past, but I was young and living in the now.

Things were going along just fine for me as a youngster music-wise. I appropriately liked the type of music I was expected to like. But then I did something unusual and out of character when I got to high school. I joined my school’s drama department. Suddenly, a whole new kind of music was presented to me: the show tune. And I loved it. It was the first true offshoot in my musical tastes, and once tasted, I wanted more.

But it wasn’t really cool, though. Still, my desire to listen to the music outweighed by desire to always look cool, so when enough nerve was worked up, I took myself to the local Tower Records to buy my first musical soundtrack, “My Fair Lady.” I remember how I felt when I approached the cashier to purchase the Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn classic. Picture me – long hair, jeans, T-shirt with a flannel over-shirt, going up to the concert-tee clad peer at the cash register…with “My Fair Lady” in hand. I could feel my face beaming red. But I persevered, so strong was my love for this “new” music.

So the decades rolled by. I still loved everything that I had always loved, including the bubble-gum rock of the ‘60s, the classic rock of the ‘70s, the metal sound of the ‘80s….and show tunes. My jeans and flannel shirt were replaced with dress casual, and my long hair, a distant memory. And what happens? I hear a song on the radio from some modern band that the kids were listening to those days…and wanted more.

So here I go again, back to that same (soon to be terminal) Tower Records where what could have been the same unaged cashier in a concert-tee was waiting for me to purchase an album that didn’t quite fit with the mature business casual appearance that I portrayed. I imagined him thinking, “What’s this old guy doing listening to this? Shouldn’t you be buying a Don Ho record somewhere?” But again, with a red face I persevered because I liked what I heard and wanted more.

Another couple of decades roll by. A son is born and grows up listening to the music of the ‘90s, 2000s, and 2010s. Apparently our music tastes are an inherited trait as he loves much of the same music that I do. But as it turned out, I enjoyed some of his music as well.

But now Tower Records is replaced by Amazon and a face-to-face with a judgmental cashier is no longer necessary. So when I discover that I now enjoy a new genre of rock music – Goth – I don’t have to feel a bit shy about clicking the necessary options to purchase, or download, my latest musical obsession.

So you’d think the story ends there. But it doesn’t. One day my son asks if I would like to go with him to a concert at a local club for a Goth band that we both enjoy.

Imagine my horror…and happiness. I was happy because my son actually didn’t mind being seen with me in a club filled with his peers. But, what on Earth would I have in common with those fans? I immediately pictured a room filled with leather clad youths wearing Doc Martens. I was sure to be the unwelcome parental figure in a club filled with rebellious, sullen youths.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. The crowd was friendly, diverse and accepting. Furthermore, I wasn’t the most senior senior there (although I was in the running). If the young people resented the presence of parental or grandparental figures, they didn’t show it at all.
After the show, the band mingled for photos, autographs, and conversations with their fans. When I got the ear of the lead singer, I told her my misgivings for coming to the show. She looked at me, puzzled and said, “If you like the music, then just enjoy it. Life is too short to limit yourself.”

Her words stuck with me.

I had mentioned the music from my parents’ youth. There is a traveling musical revue show that comes to my city every year. They play the popular tunes of the 1940s. My wife and I go religiously even though we end up being the youngsters in the audience.

And no one cares.

In fact, no one has ever cared. Not the Tower Records cashier, not the fans at a Goth concert and not the audience for the music of “The Greatest Generation.”

The hangup is, and always was, mine. And it’s about time that I learn that.


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