Time is weird and messes with your head. Of course, anyone can tell you that.
For example: while I was recently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of when I started working at the record store, I started thinking about some of the music I was listening to in 1996: Failure’s Fantastic Planet, DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, Tricky’s Pre-Millennium Tension, Sneaker Pimps’ Becoming X, Kula Shaker’s K, and so on. It seems a good long time ago; I was 25 and broke but I was happy because I had a job I truly loved and I had my writing.
And you know me: I’ll still listen to stuff from my youth: the classic rock of the 70s, the synthy pop of the 80s, the grunge and Britpop of the 90s.
So…many years later, and I’m going through my old mixtapes from the early 80s, compiling some of the tracks for a digital version for my mp3 collection. I think of myself back then in 1986, a spotty kid at 15 with big dreams of being a writer and a consummate music collector (heh). They’re a mix of old and new rock songs taken from one of the few stations I’d be listening to while doing my homework. They’d have two-fer Tuesdays (and three-fer Thursdays!), album sides, and ‘wayback machine’ tracks.
And one of the songs is The Beatles’ “Rain”. One of my favorite tracks of theirs, recorded in mid-1966 in tandem with their Revolver album, both of which would be released the summer of that year.
And it dawns on me:
It was 1986, and I was listening to a song that was only twenty years old at the time.
So for someone of my parents’ age, “Rain” would have been considered a sort-of recent song in their memory, just like “Midnight in a Perfect World” is to me.
In fact, I was on the phone with my mom the other day and she says she remembers hearing “Hey Jude” on the radio when it came out, and being blown away by how long it was. Radio rarely ever played any songs over four minutes long (and even that was stretching it), so hearing a hit single that’s seven minutes eleven seconds long was indeed unprecedented. [I believe the only other pop song of similar length that got as much rotation was probably Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park”, which was released that same month.]
The upside of this? Once more, chronology puts things into a clearer perspective for me. In my youth when I’d hear Elvis singing “Heartbreak Hotel”, I’d think man, that song is so ancient. Now, however? The song might have been released sixty years ago, but in the general scheme of things, it’s not that far back. Rock music as we know it is still a relatively new genre. Just like FM radio (1978), hip-hop (late 70s), techno (80s-90s), music videos (mainstream 1981), and so on. And we know people who were alive and aware of it all when it was new.
It’s all a bit mind-blowing. But fascinating.