Somewhere along the line, hit music became crossed with good music. It wasn’t good unless it was on the Top Forty, unless it sold.
It wasn’t like this when I grew up. Your record collection was a badge of your identity. Each record hand-picked, you could divine where someone was coming from based on perusal of the spines of their albums. They might have a comedy record, Allan Sherman or "First Family", a couple of Beatle records, then what?
I was on the 405 long after midnight, sliding up the XM dial. And when I got to the folk channel, there was this specialty program entitled "River City Folk". They were interviewing someone I’d never heard of and this gentleman was going to play a record by someone equally unknown to me. I figured I’d stay tuned in, just to hear how awful this obscurity was.
But it wasn’t. Chris Rosser’s "Archaeology" was good.
My music addiction began in my parents’ living room, listening to show tunes emanating from the speakers of the Columbia stereo.
And from there, I discovered folk music. At summer camp. There was always a counselor with a guitar. And we’d sing songs they probably still sing at camps today. "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore". "Blowin’ In The Wind". There was a joy in singing along. A feeling that you were part of something. Of this mass of humanity. Assembled around the flagpole.
They say we used to live in a smaller world. We didn’t have contact on the Internet with those states away. And, my parents, for one, wouldn’t allow us to make long distance calls. Long before Sprint and Verizon allowed you to dial anywhere in the country for one flat fee.
When I sang those songs, I felt bonded not only with the assembled multitude, but the earth and the sky. I felt not only that I counted, but that I was part of something bigger. I was aware someone wrote these tunes, but who they were was far less important than their work.
We went on to sing Beatle songs.
And maybe today’s youth sit around at parties and sing along to the strummings of a Gibson. But all I read about is people bumping bodies to bass-driven records. There’s nothing wrong with beats, but a certain warmth is lacking. And an inherent singability.
Yes, it’s fun to sing. It makes one feel alive. When you’re driving in the car and a favorite song comes over the radio and you turn it up and belt along you feel like being alive is the greatest gift one could ever know, to be able to feel this joy.
And so many of those songs we sang along with in the days of yore had a feel, a meaning.
Now the same three guys create all the records. They all sound alike. They’re engineered to fit a narrow paradigm. Creativity is within prescribed parameters. The artist is just a cog in the wheel, oftentimes a veritable ghost in the machine. But when you see someone live, alone with their guitar, you feel alive in the same way you did as a little kid. When I listen to "Archaeology" I feel like I’m in high school. Or maybe college. It wasn’t important that the music I listened to be on hit radio. Wasn’t important that it was spun on the FM either. It was all right if the people next door had never heard of it. I knew when I went to the gig, I’d find a bunch of like-minded people. I felt if I could engage them in conversation, I’d discover they were just like me.
"Archaeology" feels like the lyrics. Returning to one’s hometown after leaving to find your way in the world, before you’ve discovered your niche. Everything is the same, but you’re not. You’re an adult now. Time is passing you by. Will you grab hold of life, or will this empty feeling prohibit you from moving forward.
And maybe we never make peace with the past. We just shrug our shoulders and move forward.
Although it was ten years old, "Archaeology" sounded brand new. Sans the production of the moment, it was timeless. Not that I found it was a decade old until I Googled the musician and the song and it popped right up.
Go to: Archaeology Click on "MP3" to hear it (to download it on a Mac, hold down the Option key while you click).
You’ll be reminded of a time when your life had not yet become set in stone, before you became calcified, before you became who you are.
Do you like who you are? Did you turn out the way you wanted to be? When you look in the mirror, are you surprised? Do you have more questions than answers?
How do you cope? How do you get through?
The reason baby boomers still buy music is they recall a time when music was soothing, when it had the answers, when it made life so much more pleasurable. If you want to know what it was like, listen to "Archaeology".