There's a disease spreading through our generation of 20- and 30-year-olds. We inherited this malady from our parents, and it's rendering us culturally stagnant. It's sapping our identity. Perhaps most tragically, we are welcoming this plague into our homes, cars, and iPods — even into our karaoke parties. This cancer is called classic rock, and it needs to be stopped.
Back when your folks were young, do you think they were listening to their dads' Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller records? Hell, no. They were forging their individualism through their Janis Joplin and Beatles records, their Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones albums. As they grew up, though, they still liked to party, picking up AC/DC and Rush LPs, maybe a little Electric Light Orchestra when they got high on the weekends.
But hippie, prog, and arena rock somehow still dominate the guitar-based and noncountry airwaves all these years later. There are 485 classic rock stations in the country, more than any other strain (modern, alternative, etc.) of rock 'n' roll, according to recent figures from Inside Radio, a New Hampshire–based trade publication. Meanwhile, the top-grossing concert acts of 2008 were dominated by moldy old-timers like Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, and Neil Diamond.
Young people who subsist on classic rock are traitors to their contemporaries. The flower children had their time in the sun, and it's frankly rather sick that we're still worshipping their musical icons. We can't go blaming Clear Channel for people's shitty taste, either, as so many stoned media studies majors are wont to. "If only the corporate radio suits would stray from the formula," they cry, their American Spirit cigarettes ashing onto their ironic beards, "then the American cultural landscape would radically transform — overnight! – into a diverse mecca of sounds and styles."
The fault lies with lazy listeners. As our baby boomer parents head into retirement, we're taking over as the dominant consumers of media, and we're listening to the same crap they did. Our age group is an essential slice of classic rock radio's target demographic, according to Cathy Devine, vice president of research for Inside Radio. She adds that, anecdotally, we appear to constitute a significant percentage of its concert attendees as well.
This sad story speaks to a lack of imagination among our generation. Don't get me wrong: Anyone without a working knowledge of Blonde on Blonde and Rumours is missing out. But the 1,500th listen to "Start Me Up" really should involve some grown men crying. Think of it this way — probably every other person sharing your Wi-Fi connection at the coffeeshop right now knows the lyrics to "You Shook Me All Night Long," but how many can sing along with a single song by My Morning Jacket, TV on the Radio, Joanna Newsom, Of Montreal, or any of the other best rock artists of our era?
There are plenty of places to find cutting-edge music —often for free. Besides left-of-the-dial stations, there are Web-based and satellite radio stations, and MP3 sites, among other outlets. Members of the so-called Internet Age have no excuse for listening to classic rock other than sheer apathy. Shelling out $100 for Neil Young tickets is making us broke, and meanwhile, compelling local bands are playing at venues down the street for the cost of a pint of Anchor Steam.
This is generational warfare, and we're losing, people. So let's fight back. Turn off the Jethro Tull. Walk out of dinner parties where the hosts put Heart on the stereo. Bolt at the mere mention of foxy ladies. Huey Lewis be damned: Let's drive a stake through the heart of classic rock 'n' roll until it is no longer beating. Stop kickin' down the cobblestones and, for god's sake, stop feeling groovy.