Friday, 13 April 2012

Music and the Loss of Community

One of the inevitable consequences of age is that reflection follows.  Now that the popular music genre we call Rock ‘n’ Roll has staggered past its fiftieth birthday, television is awash with retrospective documentaries about this band and that time and so on.  In particular I have just watched a three part documentary tucked away on BBC4 about the attempts of British bands to crack the vast American market from Beatles in 1964 to the New Romantics of the 1980s.  All fascinating stuff, especially the bits where you try to work out who is being interviewed by matching up the fresh faced youths in the archive film to the ravaged face of the interviewee.

But more than anything else, I came away with a sense of loss for a musical community that seemed to exist in the 60s and 70s and has now dissipated.  Admittedly, because of the nature of the programme subject matter, most of the band names were British but the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the Animals in the 60s together with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, ELP, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd in the 70s are known to a generation of music lovers on a global scale.  Throw in the American contributions such as Neil Young, The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and so on and you have a community of musicians that is part of the life of everyone of a certain age.

When I converse with my Blogosphere Buddies throughout the world, it is obvious that those of us of a similar age have much in common whether we live in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada or even the non-English speaking countries in Europe and beyond.  For those of us born in the 50s and 60s when the musical community was much smaller than it is today, there are common touchstones that allow us to converse easily and understand each other.

I’m not convinced that this sense of commonality exits today.  Having rashly opined that many of my fellow bloggers have a common past, when it comes to today’s music, we have very little in common.  When I read blogs containing reviews of recently released music, I very rarely know of the artist, let alone the album itself.

Music today is a vast industry comprising numerous genres and sub-markets.  Unless you are Lady Gaga or Adele or similar there is no real global connection.  Most artists today work in a niche of hardcore fans, despite the efforts of the internet.  The singles chart, such as it is, is an irrelevance, changing almost wholesale week by week.  There’s no (adopts slightly nasal Fluff Freeman voice), ‘ and … moves up 6 places to number 27’ type jostling for position over several weeks – you get in, shine for a week and are gone.

I wonder whether today’s generation will be able to reminisce about the music of their youth en masse like we can?  I rather suspect not.


Charlie Ricci said...


Nice piece. I feel a lot like you do. You might like this very different article from my blog that basically says the same things. If you haven't seen it yet you may find it interesting. You can find it HERE.

music obsessive said...

Thanks Charlie - I missed your piece as it was posted a year before I started blogging so I've just been over to read it. As you say, a different slant but essentially the same message.

I still buy and enjoy today's music, but I can't talk about it with others in the same way that I did 40 years ago - there is no connection.

Just count ourselves lucky, I guess?