Welcome to Rock of Agers

Welcome to Rock of Agers

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

From Herman's Hermits to Taylor Swift, Let the Music Play

This article 1st appeared in Sprinkling Stardust


When rock poet laureate Bob Dylan 1st came up with his classic protest song "The Times, They Are a-Changin," in the early 1960s, he was writing about an America that was deeply divided and defined by issues of war, racism, and an immense generation gap.


And while today the issues of war and racism still plague us, something has definitely changed when it comes to the generation gap. That gap, once so wide as to appear unbreachable, has narrowed, in some cases so much so as to become almost invisible.

Take the music industry, which Dylan has been a part of now for 50 years. His music is no longer the sole province of the hip, socially-aware set. It's everywhere. You could walk down any busy street in America and hear people from 9 to 90 humming a Dylan tune. In fact, in what Dylan himself would have once thought was a complete sellout, his songs have been used in recent days to sell everything from ladies' underwear to Greek yogurt. Currently, Dylan himself is in heavy videoplay debating language, creativity, and change with IBM computer Watson. 

This music for all ages was definitely not in vogue when Dylan songs 1st hit the AM radio airways and record stores (remember record stores, all stocked and stacked with turntable-playable 45s and LPs). Music was a measure of the generation gap.

I think my family was typical for those times. My father listened to the country and western sounds of artists like Hank Williams, Bob Willis and the Texas Playboys, and Patsy Cline. My mother chose her listening pleasure from her collection of classical standards, religious hymns, and popular show tunes. Meanwhile, I was closeted in my bedroom, digging Dylan, the Beatles, and the Stones.

However, when baby boomers began having their own children, things changed. Most of those kids still had their own music to like. But having been raised on their parents' songs, they often liked those, too. And parents seemed much more accepting of newer songs, at least until hip-hop and rap came to the musical forefront.


David Bowie and Trent Reznor together
Again, I think our family was typical. Our one son, Michael Keith, like most of his early 70s-born contemporaries, for a time idolized Michael Jackson. But I, too, liked Thriller. However, Michael also liked many of my Rolling Stones' songs. Of course, maybe, in that particular case, he had no choice. He was, after all, named after Stones' frontman Mick Jagger and the band's guitar-slinging pirate/outlaw lead player Keith Richards.

As both Michael and I grew older, our musical bonds deepened, often involving trips to see live concerts with artists we both liked. Sometimes those concerts melded musical generations, such as when we braved a driving rain storm to see David Bowie, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson in a triple bill at an outdoor amphitheater. There was the Dead and the Who and Springsteen and Widespread Panic and Phish. We even went to see the aforementioned Mr. Dylan together at Philadelphia's revived Electric Factory.

When Michael and his wife, Shannon, began raising their own family, the intergenerational musical bonding continued. Michael introduced my grandson Owen early to Fishy Band (Phish) and the Dead. But, at 6 years of age, Owen was more interested in Minecraft than music.


But my 17-month-older-than-her-brother granddaughter Audrey is a different story. She has loved music since she was born. When it comes to her musical tastes today, however, she is currently much more her mother than her father. 




Pete Townsend smashes yet another guitar
That got me thinking about the very first live shows I ever saw. The 1st was a summer 1965 Herman Hermits appearance on Atlantic City's famed Steel Pier. I didn't really plan to go to that show, but I was on Steel Pier for the day so I thought I would check it out. I don't remember any of the numbers played (I have never been a fan of Peter Noone and company), but I do remember a whole lot of screaming and 17 young fans (16 boys and 1 girl) passing out from the excitement and being carried back stage by security. I also remember that I paid $2.75 for an entire day at the Pier then. Since big acts typically performed 3 shows a day at the seaside venue, I could have seen the British Invasion group 3 times for less than $1 show.

Interestingly, the 1st major rock concert I ever attended by choice was a strange triple bill (see the poster at the top of this post) again involving Herman's Hermits, who headlined and closed. The Blues Magoos (remember their one psychedelic hit "We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet) opened. But the band I really came to hear was arm-waving, drum-bashing, ear-damaging,  equipment-destroying the Who.

Actually, since we were all too young to drive, my Dad took me and 3 of my bandmates in our band (or combo as it was then called in 1966) The Livin' End to see the show. He went out to get something to eat, but, in a dramatic demonstration of just how much concerts have changed in 50 years, he was able to walk in to Philadelphia's Convention Hall without a ticket just in time to see The Who on stage. He stayed less that a minute and walked back out. After the show he had 2 questions - why was that music so damn loud (it wasn't) and who in Hell was that long-haired fag--- in those tight red pants (it was Who singer Roger Daltrey)? And while he would take me to many baseball games in Philly, he never got near a rock concert again.

I couldn't help but think about the contrasts between Audrey's 1st shows and mine. I was 13 and she was 7. My 1st was in a long-gone dance ballroom that jutted a mile out over the Atlantic Ocean and held at most a few hundred people. Hers was at a massive sold-out football stadium that accommodates 68,700 fans and has 87 luxury suites. At one show, she had one of her grandmothers, along with 2 of her aunts, and at the other her mother. I don't know what the tickets cost at either of her concerts, but I'll bet it was substantially more than $2.75. I'm sure there was a lot of screaming, but I doubt 17 people passed out. I know there were massive stage props and colorful lighting, but I'm certain no one destroyed their equipment and no one would have given a 2nd look if one of the musicians had long hair and red pants. And I'm positive that Herman's Hermits weren't on either bill, although Peter Noone is still out there touring county fairs and small oldies clubs.

So, in the end, what does all this intergenerational music sharing mean? 


I'm not absolutely sure, but I believe it's positive. After all, music is a most powerful form of communication, and all families, no matter where they exist in time, place, or space can use all the good communication they can get.

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