Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reasons to be cheerful - pleading the fifth

You know I really hate those old guys who say, “back in my day…” or “kids today have got it easy” but you know what?  I’ve become one of those old guys and let me tell you, “kids today HAVE got it easy!” This blog itself is proof of that.  We’re giving them the knowledge, we’re sharing the music, the meaning, we’re helping the ungrateful little buggers out and they don’t even have to leave their chair!  It’s all at their fingertips now, the music, the words, they can download songs, albums, movies, books, without even having to get off their arses. 

But it’s not just online either, the whole culture of “underground” is disappearing, long usurped by marketing managers, advertising and the quick buck chase of corporate shysters.  I mean John Waters does speaking tours now, people line up for their photo opportunity and his movies are mainstream. Burroughs and Ginsberg and Kerouac are t-shirt idols and bumper stickers, punk rock is just another genre now, marketed to the kids along with tattoos, body piercing and coloured hair, no longer for outsiders or outlaws, every 20 something schmuck has a full sleeve tattoo, bluebirds on their neck and mama across their back.  How do you rebel now?  There are no more discoveries for the kids, no more moments of “wow, who the hell are they?” it’s all marketed to them now, by demographic and location, the full back catalogue available online.  They are fooled into thinking they are individuals just like the other 1000 “friends” they have online who “liked” the same page. They think they are making great discoveries without realising they’re being manipulated, marketed to and pushed into the right boxes.  Anarchy until lunchtime when they use that voucher they got with the download to buy lunch at that cool new “underground” café in the mall.  So yeah, they have got it easy but it’s kind of sad as well.

 In a world where garage sale bargains rarely exist anymore because people think e-bay counts as a legitimate price guide, the thrill of making their own discoveries, of finding some obscure album that looks kind of cool just because of the cover or finding old paperbacks for a buck at a junk shop or uncovering old Crawdaddy mags in a box of crap, taking a chance on a 45 ‘cos the label looks interesting, those joys, that fun is fast disappearing for today’s kids.   
 They just go online, check to see if it’s ‘hip’ to like this band or author, make sure the cool points add up for owning a copy of the album or the book and walk away from the chance to develop their own taste, the chance to make their own discoveries, their own mistakes.  
 I grew up in a town of 500 or so people, depending on how the football team was going, two tv channels, am radio, no computers, no internet, (hell computers were a mythical machine that were bigger than your bedroom and only seen on science programs) – I found out about music by sticking one ear to the radio, by pouring through the few rock mags I could get my hands on, by going through my parents’ record collection  and their friends and my friends’ older brother’s and sister’s collections, by hanging around the edges at parties and listening to conversation, by scouring liner notes, finding things by pure luck and good fortune, by taking chances, stumbling onto songs, writers, ideas, searching for touchstones and gateways that would lead to other places, other songs and sure that leaves gaps in your musical education but sooner or later you find the things YOU need, the songs that mean something to YOU, the riff that sends a shiver down yr spine, the tune that takes you somewhere else, away from the shitty little box bedroom and out there somewhere else and when that happens you don’t care who their guitar teacher was or when the lead singer was first potty trained, you just care that the song means something to YOU and you alone. I didn’t wait for the t-shirt, I bought the records, I bluffed my way through, gradually building up knowledge, trusting my own instincts, enjoying the trash amongst the treasure.  I wasn’t worried about ‘cool’ – hell I was never gonna be cool, I was a skinny, redheaded mongrel kid who couldn’t play sports or fight, who lived in a dream world of comics and music and books, cool was never an option but I didn’t care cos I had songs, records, music pounding out of the shitty little cassette player in my room, the plastic record player on the bookshelf, I found my own way out.   
Sadly the kids today ain’t ever gonna find their own way… unless of course we help them.   I’m still not sure if I’m doing the right thing or the wrong thing here, it does seem a little hypocritical since they’re still in their bloody chairs looking at a screen but hell, if they find the Deans Of Discipline on line they’re doing good anyway!  I found my copy in a record shop in New Zealand over a dozen years ago and I ain’t ever seen another!  Get out of the house kids, go searching at your local op shop,  take a chance on a beat up record with a name you don’t recognise, buy a book, ask your parents if they still have their records out in the shed, do something but don’t get complacent.  We ain’t gonna always be here to tell you what’s what. 

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