June 04, 2008
Our bummer song lists
I've been taking guitar class for several sessions running, as noted before. Although members come and go, over the course of these sessions the median age of the participants just hasn't gone down much, so our jocular appellation for the class ("Old Guy Rock") these days is less humor and more just, you know, fact.
And as it turns out, left to our own devices, we always end up selecting songs that are not the, you know, sunniest pop songs. Let's see ... we've had suicide ("Fire and Rain"), regret ("Best of My Love"), regret ("Brown Eyed Girl"), regret ("Can't You See"), regret ("Layla"), regret ("Wish You Were Here"), depression ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"), resignation ("Flake"), despair ("Cold, Cold, Heart"), existential ennui ("Norwegian Wood"), prison ("Folsom Prison Blues"), death ("Gravedigger"), suicidal depression and regret ("Hurt"), and, um, who knows ("Ripple"). As a sample.
Well, it turns out there's a reason. I dug up an old, old quote tonight, and golly, maybe this is relevant.
Rock and roll has outlived its usefulness to most of us who grew up with it. The current hits aren't about us anymore, but that's all right--we're no longer crowding the clubs and record stores. Pop has always existed primarily for the young, the only ones who have time for it. The source of disenchantment is in realizing that the favorite songs of our high school and college years are no longer about us either--they reflect where we were in our lives then, not where we are now. This may be why so many of my friends have developed a sudden interest in country, a style of pop whose subject matter is less often adolescent sensuality than adult wreckage.Johnny Cash, anyone?
-- Francis Davis
The Atlantic Monthly, October 1993