I really am getting old

Just read a review in The Guardian of the reunion of a pop band. McFly? McBusted? Busted? Some combination of those.

That I’ve never knowingly heard the music of any of these is fine: in my 50s I’m hardly the prime market for pop music. But the G tells me that this is actually the resurrection of careers that died out a decade ago, meaning that my complete and total lack of knowledge must extend back longer than that, to when they were having their first careers.

I guess this is what they mean by the consolations of age.

30 comments on “I really am getting old

  1. There is no reason to feel too bad or too good. There is another factor at work – the fragmenting of British society. In the good old days British people pretty much shared a single culture. A popular song in Victorian times was known to all from the Highest to the Lowest. That survived until the Beatles when a judge could be mocked for not hearing of them.

    Since then, technology has fragmented the supply side, and the music industry has sought niches. Where there was popular music and, err classical music, now there are dozens of genres. Supplied by radio, TV, on-line streaming, i-Tunes and so on.

    What this means is that even when McFly was at their height, to have a Number One they might need to shift a trivial number of sales per week. Maybe as low as 5,000. So basically no one heard of them. Even when they were at their peak. Everyone else was listening to classical music or country or jazz or urban or Banghra or something else.

  2. They are just a past, disposable, boy band. They last a few years at best then get replaced by the next lot, all with roughly the same output. Unless you have early teen girls in the household, or are a regular reader of Seventeen, they barely raise a flicker for most people.

    The days of everyone knowing the top 10 etc. are long gone now.

  3. Further to SMFS, bear in mind that the Rock’n’Roll era has been over for some time now, and we’ve reverted to something more akin to “variety”. Like Jazz, Rock lives on and has many listeners, but it’s no longer culturally hegemonic.

    “Pop music” was basically the primary cultural articulation of two generations; the Boomers and Generation X (mine), with a rather clear transition between the two generations with the Punk transition that sort of declared everything before it (Rock’n’roll to Progressive Rock) as stuff your mum and dad listened to. But after that second generation, pop ceased to be the primary identity of youngsters; the internet really took over and nowadays they Twatter to their Facebook, or whatever they do.

    So what we’ve gone back to is variety acts in the mainstream, and they are far less culturally significant than Elvis, the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, etc, so are just not as famous as those names, who shook the world, culturally.

  4. I like pop music 🙁

    Anyway, I feel I must be getting on a bit too, because I find myself surprised and a little disturbed to see that not only are policemen getting younger, but some of them are sporting full arm sleeve tattoos.

    Only criminals and sailors had tattoos when I was a boy. When did it become acceptable for coppers?

  5. Ian B – You’re damn right.

    In the trustability stakes I’d put them somewhere between talking serpents and swarthy Italian men who want to give your wife free yoga lessons.

  6. I seem to remember reading somewhere years ago that there is an actually physical change that happens to middle aged people’s hearing, which accounts for the drop in interest in pop music for the middle aged. As 43 yo I’ve noticed that I no longer listen to current pop music any more, despite having had big interest in music all my life. It all just seems bland and uninteresting nowadays. Just the way of things it seems.

  7. @BiF

    “Middle aged man listens to pop music. How sad.”

    Please elaborate. Why is individual taste in music that differs from your own “sad”? Or was that meant to be just a random attack on someone you’ve never met?

  8. What SMFS says. With multi-channel TV, Internet, etc., all cultures are fragmenting. It’s not uniquely a British phenomenon.

  9. Justin
    Others have already elaborated.
    It’s like you mum and dad getting on the floor at the school disco. Even if they are good dancers, it’s just not age appropriate.

  10. Ian B,

    the problem is that everyone looks, sounds and acts like someone that’s gone before now. I grew up hearing Being Boiled by the Human League, seeing Bauhaus and Madonna burning a cross in a video. All of it was “this is new”.

    After the early 90s (and the acid house era) everything is copying something else. Britpop was just retro-60s/70s music. Amy Winehouse was Dusty Springfield and Sarah Vaughn. The biggest selling record last year was Daft Punk making what sounded like a Chic record (and featured Nile Rodgers). The biggest ever download sounds suspiciously like a Marvin Gaye record (and no, naked chicks in videos isn’t new either, Duran Duran did it 30-odd years ago).

    It’s why music festivals are full of middle-class, middle-aged people. This generation just don’t identify with a music of their era like older people did.

  11. Further to what The Stigler said, it was Mark Steyn who pointed out that half the Occupy movement were dressed like the Sex Pistols of 40 years hence. In context, this would be like the Sex Pistols dressing like the Andrews Sisters.

  12. It’s an inevitable fact of time. In 1960 there was Elvis. In 1970 there was Elvis and The Beatles. In 1980 there was Elvis, The Beatles and The Clash. In 1990…

    In other words, just because someone formed Steps, the music of John Lee Hooker, Led Zeppelin and The Jam didn’t cease to exist. There’s not the time to listen to everything new when you still have four decades of stuff to discover.

    When you factor in that there are really only three chords, the cream remains.

    This reunion is a cash in for the girls who liked them 10 years ago and now have the cash to pay to see them at Wembley. But it’s musically insignificant because they were. No one will remember Busted but The Beach Boys will be listened to as long as people have ears, in the same way that we still listen to Beethoven but not Steibelt.

    Justin, I still listen to music (pop included) and there’s nothing wrong with so doing. The thing to avoid is taking it seriously (particularly the lyrics of the politically minded ‘artists) – that is embarrassing, but it always was.

  13. I stopped listening to pop music long before I stopped looking at those Swedish girls from Abba.

  14. bloke in france – “Middle aged man listens to pop music. How sad.”

    I listen to good music. No matter who wrote it, how long ago they wrote it, or in what genre they wrote it. That does not mean a lot of pop music, but it does mean some.

    The real criticism of TW’s music choices is not that he listens to some pop music but that his taste is so bad. I mean, David Bowie? I swear I can remember him defending Genesis.

    Jim – “I seem to remember reading somewhere years ago that there is an actually physical change that happens to middle aged people’s hearing, which accounts for the drop in interest in pop music for the middle aged.”

    People do have these high frequency emitters which are supposedly such that only the young can hear them. They deter the vile louts from hanging around shopping centres and the like. Although as many other people have found, Sinatra works just as well. I believe that the Human Rights industry tried to get them banned in the UK.

    “As 43 yo I’ve noticed that I no longer listen to current pop music any more, despite having had big interest in music all my life. It all just seems bland and uninteresting nowadays. Just the way of things it seems.”

    I don’t think it is listening. I think it is hormones and, well, sympathy. As people get older, they get less angry. You would think they would be less interested in music that expresses that anger. Also pretty much all pop music is about how unfair life is because the singer can’t get laid. Which becomes old pretty quickly.

  15. I’m 44. I have a thing for good female voices. People I’ve discovered in the last year or so: Grace Potter, Birdy, Lorde, Christina Perri. Remember Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. It was as true fifty years ago as it is today. I mean, let’s face it: The Dave Clark Five were shite then and they’re still shite by comparison with a lot of today’s music.

  16. Interested: …there are really only three chords…

    Respectfully, candidly, piffle.

  17. Bloke in Costa Rica – “Remember Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. It was as true fifty years ago as it is today. I mean, let’s face it: The Dave Clark Five were shite then and they’re still shite by comparison with a lot of today’s music.”

    David Bowie’s Life on Mars was released when? 1971? What other hits came from that year?

    “My Sweet Lord” – George Harrison 890,000
    “Maggie May/Reason to Believe” – Rod Stewart 615,000 in total
    “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” – Middle of the Road 614,000 in total
    “Knock Three Times” – Dawn 531,500
    “Hot Love” – T. Rex 530,000
    “The Pushbike Song” – The Mixtures500,000
    “Never Ending Song of Love” – The New Seekers421,000
    “I’m Still Waiting” – Diana Ross 420,000
    “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” – The Tams 415,000
    “Get It On” – T-Rex 413,000
    “Coz I Luv You” – Slade410,000
    “Amazing Grace” – Judy Collins 405,000
    “Grandad” – Clive Dunn 400,000
    “Double Barrel” – Dave and Ansil Collins395,000
    “Rose Garden” – Lynn Anderson 394,000
    “Baby Jump” – Mungo Jerry 388,000
    “Did You Ever” – Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood 370,000
    “For All We Know” – Shirley Bassey362,000
    “Brown Sugar” – The Rolling Stones360,000
    “Stoned Love” – The Supremes 355,000

    Only one of those songs is good. Two are listenable. That is about it. The great thing about old music is that we can discard the dross. If it wasn’t for that murder thing, who would have heard of Salieri?

  18. TMB I was exaggerating for comic effect. ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ might have been better.

  19. Interested: I was using ‘respectfully’ (© R Murphy) and ‘candidly’ (© R Murphy) for comic effect too.

  20. You lose interest in a lot of music as you get older simply because you’ve heard it done before. A bunch of nineteen-year-olds discover how to do something raucus with guitars, and, when you’re fifteen, you think “Wow!” Twenty years later, another bunch of nineteen-year-olds discover how to do something raucus with guitars, and you think “This is just what that bunch of nineteen-year-olds did when I was fifteen. Boring.” I’m sure the same applies to other art forms too. It certainly applies to screenplays.

    For me, part of the interest in being an aging music fan is discovering the difference in quality between records which all sounded roughly as good as each other ten or twenty years ago but some of which I can still listen to repeatedly whilst others have aged and got boring.

    BT, Alpha, Lamb, Mansun, The Beatles, Zero 7: all incredible. That stuff never gets old.

    Nowt wrong with boy bands, and McFly were a pretty good example of the species. They are responsible for one of my favourite lyrics:

    She’s got a boyfriend
    He drives her round the bend
    But he’s twenty-three
    He’s in the marines
    He’d kill me

  21. Ian B

    Is Rolling Stone normally a standard bearer for soppy middle class shite? Maggie May is number 131 of their 500 greatest songs of all time.

  22. > Is Rolling Stone normally a standard bearer for soppy middle class shite?

    I find it a good rule of thumb to ignore any comment in which the term “middle-class” is used as an insult.

    Berlioz was decidedly middle-class, and wrote one of the greatest pieces of music in history.

  23. I said middle of the road, not middle class. I really wouldn’t know where to begin placing Rod Stewart in the class system, but he did screw 1970s Britt Ekland, and that’s class if anything is.

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