Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Worstest Generation: Hope They Die Before I Get Old!

Sorry. I didn't intend for this to become a post. It was just a passing thought that kept going on and on until I ran out of time....

***

On a completely unrelated topic, one of the most annoying things about the most self-regarding generation in human history -- the dreaded Baby Boomers -- is that they are constantly taking credit for things of which they played no part whatsoever. For example, at the time of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the oldest baby boomer would have turned just 18 that year, and couldn't even have voted until 1967. Indeed, a greater percentage of those old racist Republicans voted for it than did idealistic Democrats.

Those cool Boomers who discovered coolness are often seen as the generation that invented rock music, but this is clearly untrue. Rather, they are the ones who wrecked it for everyone else. The vast majority of the truly great rock artists are all pre-boomer. Obviously, the Founding Fathers were all born before 1946: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, the Everlys, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, not to mention all the blues immortals: Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker.

But the next generation of rockers -- the one most identified with, and idealized by, the Boomers -- was also pre-Boomer. Let's begin with the British Invasion. A short list of consensus all-time greats would include Lennon-McCartney (1940, 1942), Jagger-Richards (1943), Pete Townshend (1945), Ray Davies (1944), and Van Morrison (1945). The body of work laid down by these five -- Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Morrison -- is still the gold standard for British pop music. And if one is a fan of guitar gods, one could add Jimmy Page (1944), Eric Clapton (1945), and Jeff Beck (1944) to the list.

The same is true of America, where the most important artists were all pre-Boomers, e.g., Dylan (1940), Brian Wilson (1942), Hendrix (1942). In addition to the Beach Boys, the most important and influential groups included the Byrds (Roger McGuinn, 1942), Buffalo Springfield (Stills, 1945, Young, 1945), the Doors (Morrison 1943), Velvet Underground (Lou Reed, 1942). Other important songwriters were Paul Simon (1941) and Leonard Cohen (1934!), but one could name many more.

I wouldn't even be surprised if none of the performers at Woodstock were Boomers. Just checked: there was Tim Hardin (1941), Creedence (Fogerty, 1945), Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick, 1939), Janis Joplin (1943), and Joe Cocker (1944). Only Carlos Santana makes the cut, at 1947, but he's probably lying about his age.

Finally, none of the greatest soul artists were Boomers: Ray Charles (1930), James Brown (1933), Aretha (1942), Mavis Staples (1939), Marvin Gaye (1939), Smokey Robinson (1940), Sly Stone (1943), and countless others.

In reality, rock music only began to deteriorate after my generation got ahold of it. If one has only the above artists in one's collection -- and no serious collection is complete without them -- one would have a pretty good idea of what rock music is all about.

I can't think of any important or truly novel (in a good way) developments that have occurred in the genre after 1973 or so, since which time it's all been recycling and posturing, combined with a kind of ridiculous exaggeration of certain elements of the music: "rebellion," "non-conformity," "authenticity" -- meaning hollow and self-aggrandizing caricatures thereof, to be exact. Frankly, rock music has become about itself, in a way that it couldn't have been for its originators. At some point along the line it became simply a derivative, reactionary, and inbred lifestyle -- really, just a silly attitude of perpetual adolescence, and the juvenile politics to go along with it.

Obviously, the first generation of rock musicians couldn't have been influenced by rock, since it didn't exist. So what were their influences? Pretty much everything. Their ears were wide open to a host of influences, including a form of R & B that hadn't yet completely detached from jazz, and therefore had not just elements of swing, but of actual musicianship. Most of those guys who played on Atlantic and Motown sessions had some serious jazz chops.

The Beatles and Kinks were influenced by British music hall and other genres (the Beatles' first two albums included the Broadway show tunes A Taste of Honey and 'Til There Was You, while Brian Wilson's harmonies would be inconceivable without the Four Freshmen). Chuck Berry's guitar style was developed as a way to mimic the call-and-response sound of big band horn sections, as were the doo-wop harmonies of Dion and the Belmonts.

So what happened to the Boomer generation? Why do they, you know, suck? I think it is because they did the same thing with music that they did with everything else that preceded them: they tossed it all aside as being hopelessly outdated. For them, pretty much everything started in around 1964, or shortly after JFK was assassinated. And then they simply took credit for whatever they liked about the past. What they don't like is projected into contemporary conservatives in a transparently childish manner. But we are not the ones who were in bed with those southern racists for all those years. (Cue troll bearing the mythic "southern strategy.")

For example, they even decided that JFK was one of them, even though, if one actually reads his speeches, he was far closer to Ronald Reagan than to Barack Obama, whom he would have undoubtedly despised. Back then, not only was there a sharp distinction between liberal and left, but Democrats were just as anti-left as Republicans. I just finished McCollough's celebrated biography of Harry Truman, and he would have vomited at the thought that the party has been hijacked by people such as Reid, Pelosi, and Frank.

But that is what happened after the Boomers came of age. They tried to get their way by rioting in 1968, but eventually succeeded in nominating their man, McGovern, in 1972. Obama is simply the final fruition of that retrograde impulse. If he prevails in 2012, it certainly won't be a result of the post-boomers whom he treats as his personal piggy bank. Rather, he'll need widespread support of the greedy and entitled Worstest Generation.

It would be crossing the line to agree with Pete Townshend that we hope they transition from AARP to harp before they bankrupt us. But it may be our only hope.

38 Comments:

Blogger robinstarfish said...

Obviously, the first generation of rock musicians couldn't have been influenced by rock, since it didn't exist. So what were their influences? Pretty much everything.

Hear hear! Listening is as a forgotten art as seeing.

7/28/2011 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

Born December 1945, I have but one thing to say to all of you and yours:

"Fuck you. Pay me."

Yours truly,
Gerard Van der Leun
Founding Member of The Not-So-Great Generation.

7/28/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

What can I say? That's just "how we roll."

7/28/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

I wonder how this compares to previous similar so-called Prohpet generations.

7/28/2011 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"At some point along the line it became simply a derivative, reactionary, and inbred lifestyle -- really, just a silly attitude of perpetual adolescence, and the juvenile politics to go along with it. "

About the time I began to notice that... it started to become really difficult to put on my eyeliner & pirate boots.

Got out, got a wife & got a life not long after.

7/28/2011 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I can't speak to music so much, but I do remember that as a kid, my brother and I were big cartoon snobs. We loved anything produced prior to the mid-60s (to the point where we learned to decipher the Roman numerals at the bottom of the title screens to see if it would be a good one); anything after that just stunk. The quality, the creativity, everything; after the mid-60s it was so transparently bad that we hated it and wondered how they could have gone from such greatness to such total crap. The 70s were right out.

7/28/2011 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"It would be crossing the line to agree with Pete Townshend that we hope they transition from AARP to harp before they bankrupt us. But it may be our only hope."

Lol. It may be, it just may be.

That and the younger generation's ability (thanks boomers) to realize that the geezer generation are all idiots.

They laugh at the greenie meanies.

7/28/2011 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I can't think of any important or truly novel (in a good way) developments that have occurred in the genre after 1973 or so, since which time it's all been recycling and posturing, combined with a kind of ridiculous exaggeration of certain elements of the music: "rebellion," "non-conformity," "authenticity" -- meaning hollow and self-aggrandizing caricatures thereof, to be exact.

I'm reminded of how it went with Roman art. There was a period of a few centuries where there was high art based in part on the best of Hellenistic Greek art, and there was art for the poorer classes which tended to be more simplistic, stylized and utilitarian. By the days of the Tetrarchs, most art was stylized and utilitarian; as I understood it, the leadership wanted to express solidarity with the working classes. And we all know how it went from there...

7/28/2011 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "The quality, the creativity, everything; after the mid-60s it was so transparently bad that we hated it and wondered how they could have gone from such greatness to such total crap. The 70s were right out."

My brother & I thought the same. Even when the cartoon went by the same name, you could tell within just a few frames, whether or not it was new or vintage, and so whether it'd be worth watching or whether we should go out and get a good dirt clod fight going.

7/28/2011 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

This plays into my theory that the USA peaked in 1966.

The latest bit of evidence in support of this theory was Jay Leno saying that 1966 was the last year that the government was not involved in automobile design.

Many factors contributed to our demise but I think a major, overlooked factor was the reduction in nicotene use. Think of all those smoking engineers in crew cuts, white shirts, and ties manipulating their slide rules, building P-38s, Cadillacs, Moon Landers.

I'm only half kidding.

7/28/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

True dat. If you can't smoke you can't think.

7/28/2011 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I agree about the cars, although there was some slippage in some cases after about 1962. My dad traded about every three years for quite a while and always regretted swapping away his '60 Chevy pickup. Obviously, though, the GTO's, the mid-60's Cutlasses, Chevelles, Camaros, etc., were very good and very cool.

RE: Arts. If you read Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, one of the things that bothers the explorers is the deterioration of the arts of the Elders. At first they attribute it to decadence until they realize that the Shoggoths (a worker race brought into existence by the Elders) have done it as a mockery of the beauty of the Elders' creations.

Kind of prophetic when you realize Lovecraft wrote the story in 1931.

7/28/2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "By the days of the Tetrarchs, most art was stylized and utilitarian; as I understood it, the leadership wanted to express solidarity with the working classes. And we all know how it went from there..."

Yep. Interesting to look at the span of time that marked the Athenian glory, from Aeschylus, to Sophocles to Euripides... is about a single lifetime, and tracks well with out 20th century.

I did a post on it once, no idea which one or when, but about the similarities between how the lives of those three marked a similar span of wars in our time WWI, WWII & Korean War generations, and of the similarity in their outlooks, and those reflected in our periods.

They each wrote plays on Orestes coming back to kill his mother, for having killed his father, Agamemnon, and the differences between how they treat that plot is fascinating, even how they each deal with one particular plot item - how his sister realizes that he has come home, from a clue she finds - a footprint or strand of hair - you can see how their confidence in themselves, is eroding before your eyes – and theirs.

They began with Aeschylus as confident believers, were gradually eroded by cynicism into the hard headed materialists of Sophocles' time, and then though still brilliant with Euripides, you can see the rot of cynicism has corroded away all that he wanted to believe in, but couldn't any longer; and then the spark is gone.

(You can see a sped up version in the "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and it's recent remake)

What followed after them in the Arts was for the most part, not worth paying attention to at all.

7/28/2011 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom, re. The Mountains of Madness, I don't remember that bit. Interesting; I'll have to read it again.

7/28/2011 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

“A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!”

No Boomer aqui. I was 13 years old and had already had my first pair of blue suede loafers re-souled by the time "Don't Knock the Rock" introduced Little Richard's Epistle to mass audiences.

Word from the bird.

7/28/2011 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Julie says:

"I'm reminded of how it went with Roman art. There was a period of a few centuries where there was high art based in part on the best of Hellenistic Greek art, and there was art for the poorer classes which tended to be more simplistic, stylized and utilitarian. By the days of the Tetrarchs, most art was stylized and utilitarian; as I understood it, the leadership wanted to express solidarity with the working classes. And we all know how it went from there..."

Van says:

"I'm reminded of how it went with Roman art. There was a period of a few centuries where there was high art based in part on the best of Hellenistic Greek art, and there was art for the poorer classes which tended to be more simplistic, stylized and utilitarian. By the days of the Tetrarchs, most art was stylized and utilitarian; as I understood it, the leadership wanted to express solidarity with the working classes. And we all know how it went from there..."

It was only once I actually encountered any of Spengler's ideas that I realized that Art History had any value at all.

Of couse it took me awhile to realize that psychology had any value at all, too.

I also want to point out that a major problem with Rome was that Justinian (the Roman emperor) tore apart Italy.

Greece went on and on very well for centuries.

Until the Crusaders tore it apart.

7/28/2011 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Further Townshendisms -
Last May there was an article about him, what he's up to, etc., etc. In it, he seemed ambivalent about carrying-on:

These days Townshend thinks he detects an air of disappointment when they play live. “There’s a sense of being in front of a bunch of fans who really want to see you fight on stage, or scowl at each other, or die. They want to be there when you die.”

7/28/2011 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

JP, not that I mind all that much, it's kind of flattering, but you put Julie's words in my mouth.

"I also want to point out that a major problem with Rome was that Justinian (the Roman emperor) tore apart Italy."

Particular details that don't help all that much as meaningful historical lessons.

"Greece went on and on very well for centuries. Until the Crusaders tore it apart."

Could you define "went on and on very well for centuries"? That's kind of interesting, in light of their history.

BTW, have you read any actual history, or do you pretty much substitute Spengler for that?

7/28/2011 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

On cultural degradation, Lileks nails it today from a different perspective (emphasis mine):

"That said, this business about mainstreaming the effenheimer in political discourse is just juvenile. The whole *f***youwashington hashtag. Please. As satisfying as it may be to vent, to use the naughty words and thrill to the transgressive power of objecting words that make nuns sad into the political discourse, there’s no stopping this. Eventually the failure to use the naughty words becomes a sign of inauthenticity, not restraint. Eventually the politician who unloads an eff-bomb in a public speech is applauded for speaking the Language of the People. Eventually the ante gets upped. Mainstream the effenheimer, and there’s a long line of words itching for a shot in the spotlight."

7/28/2011 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I only use Spenger for the theory of the civilizational waves.

My history I get from history books.

Greece (Eastern Roman Empire) did pretty well during the Dark Ages. However, there was no way that it was going to recover from being sliced and diced by the Fourth Crusade.

7/28/2011 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP, our long running snark around Spengler aside, I apologize for the tone of my last comment. I was sitting here bored while waiting on an install & having a troll battle in another window, and I let it rub off on my last comment, which I didn't realize until I just saw it above.

Sorry about that.

What I had in mind with Greece was that what happened in Corcyra, where fathers murdered their own sons & vice versa during the time of the Peloponnesian wars, was not uncommon across most of Greece after that time. With a pause for the order that the Roman's managed to bring to them for a time, tearing each other apart was more the norm, than the exception, or the sole boon of the Crusades.

7/28/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

I would like to point out that it has been several hours and many comments since my demands for money were issued and I still have NOT GOTTEN one cent into my Paypal account.

Cough up non-boomers, OR ELSE!

7/28/2011 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

On Lovecraft, the description I was thinking of was right before the end of chapter 8, and it is cast a little differently than my memory, but roughly consistent with my summary:

This new and degenerate work was coarse, bold, and wholly lacking in delicacy of detail. ... roughly following the quintile mathematical tradition of the Old Ones, yet seemingly more like a parody than a perpetuation of that tradition. We could not get it out of our minds that some subtly but profoundly alien element had been added to the aesthetic feeling behind the technique - an alien element,...

7/28/2011 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Hah - Promises, shmomises, Gerard... until I see some sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads or something equally awesome, no tip for you!

7/28/2011 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gerard: Not to worry! Dingy Harry's got our back.

7/28/2011 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom - yes, that is quite fitting. Thanks!

7/28/2011 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Yep, the Greeks, as a whole, were always good at shredding each other.

With respect to Italy, it would have done much better throughout the Dark Ages without the Gothic War.

7/28/2011 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "With respect to Italy, it would have done much better throughout the Dark Ages without the Gothic War."

Well, sure, and while I think we can safely say that most regions would have done much better without any of their wars, that's more a comment on the nature of Man, rather than on any particular group of men and their political or artistic bents... isn't it?

7/28/2011 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

TIME Mag [2009]: Are there any musicians or groups of today that excite you?
Van: No, nothing, absolutely nothing. Nothing; nothing...

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1882001,00.html

7/28/2011 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

video of that
Time-Van-terviewt

wv
Santhoo, good name for a child

7/28/2011 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger horatio said...

Gillian welch, old crow medicine show, the avett brothers, Mumford and sons, iron and wine

7/28/2011 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Horatio, i had you pegged for a Belle & Sebastian head

7/28/2011 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

GE said "Van: No, nothing, absolutely nothing. Nothing; nothing..."

Wow... mind reader? How'd you know I'd say that?

(blink)

Oh. That Van.

Well... what does he know. After all, he said this too,

"No. "Brown Eyed Girl" I didn't perform for a long time because for me it was like a throwaway song. I've got about 300 other songs I think are better than that."

"Brown Eyed Girl" a throwaway. Putz.

And just for that, I'll say Yes, yes there is, my Son's band I can't get enough of.

Now if I could just get them out of my basement and into a recording studio....

7/28/2011 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sympathy for the devil: first Lennon, now Jagger.

7/28/2011 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

If this keeps up we are going to find out that Robert Johnson faked his death so he could go to London to study under Hayek.

7/28/2011 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger horatio said...

Thanks, GE!

I am now.

7/28/2011 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

but what to play while Washing Dishes?
-Talking Heads, Throwing Muses, Counting Crows, or Smashing Pumpkins?

7/29/2011 04:16:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"At some point along the line it became simply a derivative, reactionary, and inbred lifestyle -- really, just a silly attitude of perpetual adolescence, and the juvenile politics to go along with it."

Took the boy and his friend to a Rain concert yesterday. Boy requested this for his boythday present. Rain is a Beatlemania! tribute band, for those of you who have forgotten who Beatlemania was. They were on the Ed Sullivan show in like the 80s.

7/29/2011 10:46:00 AM  

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