Sunday, 21 June 2009

For the Love of Pop

I know I keep harping on about this, but just why is it that my generation and those closely aligned to it (that is, those born in the post-war period up to say the 1970s) hold popular music so close to their heart? The more I meet people who match the age criteria the more I am convinced that this is the case. Somehow, with a few exceptions, later generations just don’t get it. In an effort to get to the bottom of this conundrum I have compiled a list of three possible reasons. These are personal to my own experience but may hit a common chord - let the debate begin!

1. In the twenty year stretch between 1955 and 1975, pop music could be construed as ‘new’. Those of us growing up during this period were experiencing something that had not occurred before and therefore, more importantly, our parents had no previous experience of it. The music was fresh and inventive, nobody knew where it was going and it belonged to the young. The musical generation gap had been born and it was important.

2. During the same period, there was very little else to divert attention. There were no computers, video games, DVD players, gameboys, theme parks, paintballing or virtual reality games and so on. Apart from radio, films (which meant going to the cinema) and television (limited to 3 channels in the UK) there was not much else to talk about. Also, radio, TV and films were still largely in the grip of the older generation, at least initially. Music wasn’t.

3. But crucially, there was a sense of community. When pop music first became a marketable product in the 1950s and 1960s, the numbers of single and LP releases were small compared to today. By watching a weekly music TV programme, like Top of the Pops, a viewer became conscious of a good percentage of what was available to buy that week. The number of artists active was relatively small and anyone with an interest could be aware of the majority of them. Hence, the entire country was in the same position of knowledge and there was a feeling of ‘community’. These days there is so much music available across countless genres that the populous as a whole has no chance whatsoever of having a common footing. The singles charts barely exist and change wholesale from week to week and even those still interested cannot know about everything that goes on. There is no touchstone that a whole generation can refer to.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that reason 3 holds the key to why a whole generation or two have such a soft spot for music, it was the glue that bound us together and to a large degree still does.


Jayne said...

I really enjoyed reading this, and I think all three of your reasons hit the nail on the head. This post made me really nostalgic, and I just fall out of your age range. I guess my experience of the ‘community’ aspect would be watching television – growing up with three channels, then four – and everyone pretty much watching the same things – it really united people in the playground. This really came home on Christmas Day – everyone inside, captive with family, and collectively as a nation waiting for the breath of fresh air that was the TotP Christmas special. Nowadays there are so many zillions of channels, and catch up TV, and on demand, that the chances of watching the same as someone else in the vicinity are slim to say the least. I wish I had that experience of when music was ‘new’ – how exciting. No wonder people thought everything was possible in the sixties – for a time, they were right.

I have been watching some programmes I think you may like recently – Video Jukebox Omnibus (BBC documentary with John Peel and John Walters, circa 1986 I think), and The Rock N Roll Years (again BBC). I’ll do a post about them soon, but they really capture everything I love about popular music. Probably because all the music I love is from that time!

musicobsessive said...

Jayne - thank you for your nice comment! I must admit I do pine for the days when the whole nation would be asking, 'Did you hear the new Beatles record last night?' with the ensuing discussion that it wasn't as good as the last one etc...I can't imagine his happening when Pixie Lott released her recent single. Who knew, who cares?

Charlie said...

Wow Martin, your article is similar to one I wrote almost 3 years ago on the same subject. Some of my reasons are different but your article supports my theory that rock music was more important to past generations. NICE JOB!

Here is my article!

musicobsessive said...

Hi Charlie - I'm sure this happens all the time in BlogWorld, but at least we agree fundamentally without collusion!

I've read your post and wholeheartedly agree with you. I'm so glad that I am part of the generation that enjoyed this period. I really can't imagine what it would be like to be a teenager today but I'm sure each generation will have their memories.