I’ve reached the age where I’ve noticed the lying about one’s youth really begins. I’ve played a lot of crappy sideman gigs over the past two years trying to get my chops back together and boy to hear people my age talk!
Prog Caused Punk. Punk Killed Prog
First of all, I wanna dispel a very common myth. Prog did not cause punk. Prog was self-destructing in ’77 when punk happened. In fact, I got into punk because it was the only alternative to the prevailing pop music of the era, which was awful. What was the biggest selling group back then? Abba. Punk was simply the body’s natural reaction to being suffocated to death. In such situations, you begin thrashing about just to survive that feeling. And Abba? Elton John? I’m having trouble breathin’ just thinking about that crap.
Because Abba was never cool. You’d get yer ass kicked for liking Abba. And Elton. And all those totally gay, over-produced, late ’70’s pop groups.
Prog was already dying by the time ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ came out. In typical fashion, after doing a very cool album, Yes immediately separated. ELP had gone broke running an orchestra around the country. Gabriel had left Genesis. All these bands had personality issues that could barely survive success, let alone changing winds.
Dead As Disco
Third, there was plenty of disco at the time and it was all crap. The good disco came later—basically after The Sex Pistols. Chic was really happening just about the time of all the anti-disco rallies. And ya know? THANK GOD FOR CHIC! Because frankly? White people hated good music for a good while, which is to say, black music. Hip people dug Steely Dan—white guys channeling jazz and R&B. But Chic really brought people together in a way that The Bee Gees sure did not. You go to a dance now and see all the fifty-somethings going on about how much they dug ‘Motown’? Rubbish. Didn’t happen.
I Dug Country When…
And all these guys my age who luuuuuv Country music? They laughed out loud at Urban Cowboy in ’81. And I mean guys who lived in the country. They dug Ted Nugent or Bob Seger, but definitely not Grand Ol’ Opry. Now? One of the few genres that still moves CDs? All these Rick Rubin-style productions of Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard.
OK, There’s A Point, Right?
I’m only saying all this because the idea of ‘inventing the past’ is kinda what people do more and more. It used to drive me nuts that so many of the ‘normal’ people I went to school with, who smoked dope, were pro environment or feminist or whatever ‘leftie’ deal it might be, became gun-totin’ Reagan voters. It took me playin’ all these stupid disco/blues/wedding band gigs to figure it out:
Peer pressure. When most of us were in high school, college, we dug what was ‘in the air’. So in college maybe we were all ‘hip’ and listened to reggae and protested Apartheid. When we got real jobs, we just went with the flow and started digging whatever the next group of people we associate with are into. And if it was cool to say, ‘Oh yeah, I loved Chic!’… hey, we loved us some Chic… er… right there along with Starland Vocal Band!
OK, it’s harmless.
But here’s the thing: It’s also just as easy to say, ‘Yeah, I used to hate Chic. I’m embarrassed to say how much I dug Bananarama. But now I’m older and I’ve grown a bit.” To me, that makes more sense: I got a bit wiser with the years.
See if you gotta reinvent even stuff like that, which doesn’t matter, imagine how easy it is to reinvent ‘the way it was’ on big issues. It doesn’t bother me if someone says, “I used to feel such a way about issue X back when I was 25 and now I see things differently.” But if you say instead, “Oh you misunderstand me, Dear Fellow. That isn’t what I meant at all!”
I’m thinkin’ that’s not only one reason why music in general has gotten so stale, but also why politics has gone so far off the rails. It’s just easier to try to revise history than to admit that we change.