My friend Joe likes to stir up complicated discussions on Facebook — he’s a lawyer, so he’s pretty good at it. It’s usually politics and religion with Joe, but occasionally he’ll throw music into the mix. Just before I headed out for a ride the other day, I saw this on Joe’s feed…

I was just curious if any of my Facebook friends want to make a case that popular music is even close to what it was 30-years ago and before…

Occasionally, Joe swings and misses, but he has the ability to hit one out of the park. This particular discussion didn’t disappoint. It also got me thinking…

…Joe is 100% right on this one. I spent much of my riding time that day formulating why that’s the case. It’s a discussion I’ve had with my music friends many times over. This was my reply to Joe’s question…

The simple answer is this…

From the early 1950s through the mid-1990s, every genre of music evolved organically into its own — for the very first time. Every category of music was new. 

Sock-hop rock, British Invasion, bubble gum, British blues, psychedelic rock, country rock, disco, yacht rock, soul, funk, heavy metal, hair metal, punk, new wave, grunge, rap, hip-hop, gangsta rap — et all, had never been done before. 

What an extraordinary time in popular music

People took risks, tried new methods, participated in unlikely collaborations, took drugs that had never been taken before, evolved with ever-changing social norms, and through all of this, recording technology changed at an exponential rate. It was inarguably the most fertile time in popular music history.

The Big Bang of rock ‘n’ roll came in 1951, and it’s been expanding ever since. And like the Big Bang of the universe, the more it expands, the more complex it becomes. But the stuff that happened just after the Big Bang — those first 40 years of music, that’s when all the elements were formed. 

I let my answer with Joe end there, but I’ll expand on it a little bit more here…

The reason music from the 1950s through the 1990s is a cut above everything since, is because it was fresh. Notwithstanding there was less of it and there were fewer platforms to learn about it. We allowed ourselves to get more familiar with it. The playing field is theoretically better today — more artists, more music, and better platforms improve things for everyone. But with all the artists out there today, and all that music, we only become partially intimate with portions of it. 

I attempt to listen to new artists and new music, but the last time I discovered an artist who compelled me buy their entire catalog was probably 20-years ago. There’s just too much opportunity to jump around and try something else. We don’t just want to know what music is out there, we want to know what else is out there.

Though I missed the sock-hop stuff and the early British invasion, I’ve been around for everything since. My tastes have waxed and waned through the years. I’ve been a punk, a hick, a rocker, and from 1974 to 1978 I thought I was black. I rode the New Wave, couldn’t have been more excited to get the latest Pablo Cruise LP, and once walked 6-miles in the snow to see Molly Hatchet. Somewhere in-between I grew my hair out and got it permed so I’d look like Peter Frampton. I’d let a stranger into my house and walk away with all my bikes before I’d let him take my Steely Dan catalog.

It’s not that music isn’t good now. It’s that, in popular music anyway, it’s all been done before. The metaphor I’ll close with is this…

In 1977 if I recorded an album onto a cassette, it sounded good. But if I took that cassette and made a recording of it on another cassette, the sound was slightly diminished. And if I took the most recent cassette and recorded it onto another tape, it would be diminished that much more. Essentially that’s what’s been happening with popular music since the 1990s. Each time a genre gets copied, it gets diminished. It’s still music, but it’s not new — and there’s too much of it to get familiar with. That’s my take, and I’m stickin’ to it. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 178

Climbing: 7,900’

Mph Avg: 15.1

Calories: 10,100

Seat Time: 11 hours 51 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Otis Rush. Enjoy…

3 thoughts on “Chasing Joe’s Musical Argument…

  1. I sure agree! For me, the only area that keeps putting out good songs is Country. (Not Western – that’s totally different) A lot of people put off country without even listening to it. That’s their problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know a lot of “borrowing” occurred in early rock/pop, but as you said each era had its innovations and continuing influences. Rockabilly, Rock, the several British invasions Prog Rock, we could go on for a week. Sampling and remixing have produced some good music but like copying a copy the quality diminishes each time and the history of the sample is lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I hear old school music, it takes me back to my wonder years . I flashback to a time and place,an event, a crush. All the memories good or bad. Overall music soothes my soul.

    Liked by 1 person

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