Friday, February 22, 2013

Rediscovering My Rock & Roll Roots

They say that everything popular gets recycled, and over my relatively short 30 years on this Earth, I've seen evidence of that. As I've gotten older I've become increasingly aware of the possibility that I could become an old fogey. I've been seeing some signs of it already: my plummeting disinterest in popular culture combined with my constant fascination with "intellectual" things like science and philosophy. It's not that these things aren't or cannot be cool, it's just that they aren't typically associated with things that "cool" people do. But "cool" is an extremely relative term, impossible to pinpoint. I think today because of the internet, it is easier than ever to stay "cool" so to speak, by knowing what's going on. Therefore I don't think that my generation as it gets older, will follow in the footsteps of previous generations that quickly shed their youthful coolness in favor of old fogey-dom once they settled down and had kids.

Back in the early 2000s there was a cultural explosion of a rediscovery of the old school and seemingly forgotten garage and indie rock that had been bubbling under the surface for so many years. It was in response to the nauseous commercial rock and rap metal that seemed to be hammering the final nail into the coffin of traditional rock. Grunge had run its course and devolved into the whiny alternative and anger metal that so permeated everyday life. At this time, I felt like an outcast not quite being able to identify with the culture around me. But when garage rock came back into style along with a renewed interest in 70s rock and punk, I found a bandwagon I could jump on. I had already been into many 60s and 70s rock acts like The Doors and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and so the culture around me seemed to be mirroring my interests. It was in a sense, perfect timing.

I remember the summer of 2002 quite vividly working part time at my sister's store on first street in the East Village. The hipster culture was exploding around me. Everyone cool looked like a 70s rock star or an Andy Warhol groupie. I grew my hair out long for the first time in my life because I remember at the time wanting to look just like Jimmy Page. I had discovered rock and roll and it seemed there was no going back. (If only I had actually learned how to play guitar back then instead of waiting years later.) But now a decade later this discovery seems to have faded a bit and I've been somewhat rediscovering my rock and roll roots, perhaps in an embarrassing attempt to stay "cool". But nonetheless, if Iggy Pop and Jimmy Page can still rock on while in their sixties, I think I can too considering I'm only half their age.

Pop culture doesn't entirely disinterest me, just parts of it. The Gangnam Style K-pop phenomenon of last year I feel like I saw from the perspective of a 45 year old dad whose teenage daughter forces him to listen to it on TV - that is to say, I took one glance at it, and then kept reading the newspaper. I've gotten into newer musical acts like The Black Keys and LDC Soundsystem, but it seems my heart belongs to 60s and 70s rock and roll. It's funny how I should so strongly identify with the music of my parent's generation, but even my mom and dad weren't cool enough at that time to listen to the popular music of the day. I've discovered that every decade has music I could like; every decade had its "cool". And although musically I'm very nostalgic, I do prefer the times we are living in. I wouldn't really want to go back to any of these bygone eras, not permanently at least.

The past remains alive in the music it produced, as will the music of today for future generations. So as I enter my thirties I enter a new era in which being "cool" never fades - it just gets cooler. Now you can be cooler in your thirties and forties than you were whilst a teenager - as long as you got your shit together. So for me rediscovering my rock and roll roots is in a sense, rediscovering cool. There's nothing wrong with being into nerdy and scholarly things like science and philosophy while simultaneously staying threaded to all the other cool things our free society has allowed us to produce.

They're both worth fighting for.

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