Somehow I fell down another retro rabbit hole and have been listening to the Sirius XM Classic Rock Party station over the last few days. I’m fifteen again and listening to WAAF and WAQY in my messy bedroom, cranking up the 80s stylings of Twisted Sister, Billy Idol and Whitesnake alongside the classic 60s/70s hits of the Stones, Yes, and BROOOCE.
This was the music I grew up with. I was too young to understand punk and post-punk back in the early 80s (at least not until that fateful evening in early 1986), and as much as I enjoyed the pop of American Top 40 and American Bandstand, it was the music of rock stations that stuck with me most. I was a nerdy, spotty kid that was completely obsessed with music and radio and would be just as happy sitting alone in front of my boombox as I would be outside roaming the neighborhood on my BMX with my buddies. This was Diver Down and Pyromania playing on my sister’s boombox while we played touch football in the backyard. This was me completely blown away by 90125 and Synchronicity and So. This was my growing obsessions with other bands aside from the Beatles. This was our state capital’s own honored rockers in the forms of Aerosmith, the J Geils Band and Boston. This was where I learned to appreciate bands before my time like Jimi Hendrix and Cream and The Rolling Stones.
Decades later and here I am, hitting middle age and living on the opposite coast, listening to the still-epic “Born to Run”, still impressed by the guitar solo freakout of the back half of “Freebird”, still feel that “Layla” is a decent song but is about 3 minutes too long. Living in a city where Janis and Jerry lived, where Steve Miller recorded the sound of the foghorn going past the Marina for the opening of his Sailor album, where the classic Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded just three miles away at a long-departed ballroom in Japantown. Where Journey the Doobies and the Dead and the Airplane lived and recorded and became local heroes.
The playlist has its moments of amusing embarrassment. All that LA glam metal of the 80s is still goofy, doofy, simplistic fun, just like I remember it. All the prog rock of the 70s is still full of nerdy math and fantastical imagery. All the arena rock bands are still full of that bombast. Some of it’s kind of corny now, but you can’t help but have fun listening to it. The playlist is also going to be a lot of the same heavy-rotation classics that you can’t escape, even after all these years. It may even have its share of “oh, that song!” moments.
Sure, most of it’s a good three or four decades old now, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun to listen to.