On Pop Music With Tips from the Kids

by John Mark Reynolds

[Greg’s Note: This essay made me wonder what kind of music my son will introduce me to. So far, The Wiggles are just not cutting it. My wife introduced him to the Beatles, and I have introduced him to U2. Whenever I play their latest cd in the car, he always wants to hear, Put On Your Boots, again and again, which is, unfortunately, one of my least favorite tracks on the album. I had to laugh to myself when early into this article, the author states that, “If U2 is the best music in your collection at 50, then you are no gentleman.” Well, at 46, I’m not quite 50, but that did sting a little bit as I will probably go to my grave proclaiming U2 as my favorite band of all time. I never had much luck introducing my parents to music past their generation (my dad says he quit listening to popular music when the Beatles became popular, and my mom nearly quit church over them bringing drums into the building), but I cut my ‘pop chops’ listening to their old Elvis and Ricky Nelson 45s before I began to be able to purchase my own records and broaden my own musical tastes. At least my folks and I can all enjoy a Johnny Cash song or two together. Oh well, here’s to broadening one’s horizons…]

Breathes there a man with a soul so dead that he only listens to music heard first when he was in high school?

Evidently, yes, if my experience is any guide. Give me a phone or IPod and I can tell you the age of the owner with more accuracy than Sherlock Holmes granted a walking stick.

There are more grievous problems in the world, but few limitations more stupid. It is self-imposed, because the same technology that lets my download Styx and “Come Sail Away” could be used to broaden my musical world.

It is pitiable when a man’s musical taste has not grown past that he achieved at eighteen. While he might enjoy for nostalgia’s sake the stuff he consumed in youth by middle age, he should have added other fare to the musical menu.

If Peanut Butter Crunch is still your favorite food at 40, then you have pathetic food life. If U2 is the best music in your collection at 50, then you are no gentleman.

This is not to encourage snobbery. Simple music can be profound and complex music worrisomely empty of any meaning other than pretentiousness. Even in popular music there lurks more than a suspicion in me that what I am hearing is not the genuine product of a people, but marketed stuff that deserves to die.

The good news is that technology has set us free, absolutely free, with a small amount of money to enjoy (nearly!) every kind of music ever made.

This is good news, but just as literacy is not great gift if you never read, so endless possibilities only condemn us if we stay with the safe and the sane.

Learning what was lovable in each generation of pop music is a great introduction to what marketing companies thought they could sell. Hearing Pop’s pop is a decent education on what moved Dad back in the day. Disconcerting? Of course, but also illuminating. The cultural corner of history in which time has dumped us can be escaped, even if only for a moment, by other people’s music.

I have also found genuine treasures by breaking free of my own time. This is not just a nostalgic visit to the past, but also a trip forward from my past to now. My children push me to try new things as well and have educated me in many ways.

Oddly, my children, products of an age of endless choices, have often broadened my taste in past pop…


On Pop Music With Tips from the Kids | The Scriptorium Daily: Middlebrow

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