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Music To My Years: A Baby Boomer’s Musical Memories

I suppose every generation has a genre of music that it most identifies with. The baby boom generation was defined by rock ‘n’ roll. We didn’t invent it but we were the first to be raised on it and influenced by it. It was practically part of our genetic make-up.

Regardless of what kind of music you love most, I’ll bet you never loved it more than when you were a kid. There’s just something about the way music moves you when you’re young. We may enjoy listening to our favorite music now, but it’s nothing like the way we enjoyed it back then.

Remember waiting with eager anticipation for the new record to come out from your favorite band? (We used to call them groups.) We would completely immerse ourselves in the latest album and would devour each song. We didn’t just listen and dance to them, we studied them and searched for hidden meanings so we could analyze them with our friends. The singles that were released off each album were rarely our favorite cuts because those were played to death on the radio. Discovering the lesser known but much cooler songs was the sign of a true fan and a teenager who had way too much time on their hands. 

Did you ever spend hours in a record store thumbing through the albums? 

It wasn’t even about listening to the music. It was about being in the environment and being part of the culture. We would comb through hundreds of records, typically not knowing what we were looking for until we found it. Since we were so on top of what was current, we were usually searching for older and lesser known gems that we could add to our collection. Sometimes we would discover a great old album or new anthology that could change our lives. It was like going on a magical-musical-mystery scavenger hunt. They still have some retro record stores around but mostly they have gone the way of the bookstore, the full service gas station and the peep show. 

As much as there was music we loved, there was music we hated.

Kids have a way of being particularly snobby about what they like and putting down what they don’t. There were several terrible songs during my youth that became big hits in spite of the fact that absolutely everybody hated them. Some of my personal least favorite songs and most annoying earworms were, Feelings by Morris Albert, One Bad Apple by Donny Osmond, Have You Never Been Mellow by Olivia Newton John, MacArthur Park by Richard Harris, Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree by Tony Orlando and Dawn and pretty much every disco song ever.

However, I’m probably not one to judge. I have to confess that I’ve always had a personal passion for Broadway and movie musicals. And I’ve taken a lot of shit for this my whole life. (Although, even I hated Cats.) But, in my defense, I was raised in New York where my parents took me regularly to see Broadway shows. The first one I can remember was an almost entirely forgotten musical version of Superman. I loved it. It’s still one of my favorites. I have the soundtrack on my iPod and I often sing along with the songs in my car. After that, I was fortunate enough to see the original Broadway cast performances of Hair and Jesus Christ, Superstar along with many other highly enjoyable but less iconic shows. So you see, I was indoctrinated at a very early age. If I were gay, people would have accepted my love of musical theater. But I had to keep it hidden. I am just now coming out to all of you.

I think most people probably have some musical guilty pleasure and secret song shame. Maybe you’re a straight man who enjoys Barry Manilow songs. Maybe you’re into Taylor Swift a little more than you should be. Or maybe, like me, you like some Christmas music even though you’re Jewish. There’s enough guilt to go around here.

I don’t go to concerts anymore.

I have seen some great and unforgettable concerts in the past (The Stones, The Who, The Boss), but these days you couldn’t drag me see a show in a stadium or any large venue. As they like to say in all those old cop movies, “I’m getting too old for this shit.” I can’t think of any artist performing today that would motivate me to go through the hassles of parking and fighting the crowd to see them. And I hate when the people sitting in front of me are moved to stand on their feet. You do realize that you are forcing me to stand up now to see the show. Which is causing a chain reaction of people behind us who will all have to stand up to see the show. I paid for this seat! I’m a tired old man!! Sit the fuck down!!!

Most of us still prefer the songs we loved when we were young.

Having a relationship with your favorite music is like being in a good marriage. It starts out all hot and heavy and full of passion. You go out dancing and partying but you also love being alone together. Oh sure, you may be tempted by others over the years, but you always remain faithful. In the end, you have a lot of memories together and you realize that you have always been happiest with your true love. That’s why you still listen to them.

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Richard Basis
Richard Basis
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