Boomer Rock

A very interesting cover story in the most recent Syracuse New Times called In The Groove analyzes why the Baby Boomers taste in music still influences things such as local radio playlists and concerts. Molly English-Bowers mentions all the local festivals popping up featuring acts like Eddie Money, Asia and Loverboy and interviews folks like DJ Dave Frisina whose station bills itself as Classic Rock TK-99.

Although I had to shudder at the following quote from concert promoter and Syracuse U. instructor Dave Rezak:

There are musicians whose contributions were artistically important, but they’re all mixed in with artists that were one-hit wonders. The Clash can now be considered classic rock even though they will forever be connected with the movement that we’ll know for the Adam Ants of the world.

No Dave–The Clash will always be punk (not classic rock) and they were never in the same “movement” as Adam Ant. Classic rock stations may play “Rock The Casbah”, but let me know when they start playing “Straight To Hell” from the same album–an anti-war song that most recently has been sampled by Sri Lankan exile M.I.A. for her song “Paper Planes” and featured in “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Dave Frisina got it better:

I think it’s a sound, not an era. A band like the Black Crowes, which was popular in the early 1990s, they sound like classic rock, and we’ll play them. But a band like A Flock of Seagulls, even though they came out during the era of classic rock, would not be classic rock. It’s really all about the sound, a compatibility of sound rather than a specific date.

I do have a major complaint about Boomer rock. I love the good stuff. As I type this I’m wearing a Led Zep T-Shirt. Hell, I named this blog after (and obsess over the music of) Bruce Springsteen. Be it Who, Stones, Creedence, Doors–rock on!

But why don’t Baby Boomers (and the radio stations and concert promoters) lock on to the groups that are up and coming that surely have been influenced by classic rock? Does it have to have been recorded in the 60’s 70’s or early 80’s to be considered?

The Hold Steady, Marah, Alejandro Escovedo, Gaslight Anthem, Arcade Fire, Jesse Malin–all bands that have played with or appeared on his songs, had Bruce sing on their songs or just generally acknowledge their Bruce influences. Why aren’t any of these bands played on the radio? Bruce Springsteen.net has a beautiful series of videos by up and coming bands doing Bruce songs–called Hanging Out On E Street. These bands should be embraced by a wider range of folks my age. The article mentions a couple of reasons why we don’t:

1) Boomer parents want music they can bond with their kids over. Angsty and edgy need not apply. The classic rock of our day that seemed so outre, not so frightening after millions of plays and possible use in ad campaigns.

2) We have other interests and more disposable income–so our music is marketed to us differently:

The classic rock shows at Turning Stone seem to hit the baby boomers where they want to spend their discretionary income anyway. So instead of buying a Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes T-shirt after a Showroom show, they’re more likely to hit the gambling floor instead.
“Classic rock is a good demographic for our area,” Torrey says. “We get a lot of locals that will come out. If we do three in a short period of time, all three will sell out. Before and after the show, the gaming floor does well, the hotel sells out, we all do well.”

3) We are the pig in the python, as I’ve written before:

Boomers have come to expect everything to be all about us and our numbers usually made it so–a huge bulge sliding through an otherwise narrow age distribution.

So I admit it. I’m a baby boomer. I love classic rock. But I’m still more in touch with my hipster, “music police” past than the rest of my Boomer cohort. I love finding new bands. I download music (although I still mostly buy discs) and haunt mp3 blogs. Classic rock is great–but it should be the start of your journey–not the end.

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2 thoughts on “Boomer Rock

  1. Well said!! We recently launched boomitude and are finding that boomers ( and anyone with an appreciation for good music) are interested in classic acts…like Peter Frampton for example, and what’s going on with him today. It’s not so much about living in the past. So they are equally interested in young rising stars like Cory Chisel, Tift Merritt, etc. It’s really about good music and knowing where to find it!!

    Bruce rules!!

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  2. Surely one of the most wonderful things about the internet is the fact that you wrote this 2 1/2 years ago and I’m able to comment today, and maybe 2 years from now someone will read my post and reply to IT. Awesome!

    I’m right there with you. Baby boomer, musician, songwriter, grew up in the Led Zep, Skynard, ZZ days and loved it. A little later came Steely Dan, Yes, The Doobies and others in that vein that I got caught up in. So its no wonder that as I continue to write and record my own music, those flavors all seem to live in my songs. Seems like nearly everybody who hears it says it bears a strong resemblance to Steely Dan although I had no intention of it turning out that way. I can’t say I’m insulted by the reference though.

    I recently finished my CD entitled Pierce My Heart by The Paul Pierce Project, scheduled for release on February 3, 2013. As I spend time online trying to figure out how to get this music into the public ear it occurs to me my target audience is Baby Boomers so how do I find that specific market? Then I ran across your blog and here we are.

    It gives me great encouragement to know there are people like yourself out there who not only enjoy the music we grew up with, but like to find new music that may be in that same vein. Thank you for writing this! Please give me a listen (2 years from now when you read this) and let me know what you think! Or pass it along.

    Best!

    Paul Pierce
    The Paul Pierce Project
    paulpierceproject@gmail.com

    Like

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