Music that defined a generation now sells lots of Pepsi

February 13, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

My youth haunts me. My youth will not go away. I am a child of the '60s. And I need release.

Instead, they're taking the seminal rock musical "Hair," which was never meant to be seen by middle-aged men who don't have any, back on the road.

I challenge anyone to actually listen to six consecutive bars of "The Age of Aquarius" today without laughing.

It's not just "Hair."

This summer, they're holding a 25th anniversary concert on the hallowed grounds of Woodstock. Tickets are set at $150. Geritol is extra.

It should be great. Look for Country Joe and the Fish to sing "My Way."

Ideally, your youth should belong to memory. You should be able to tuck it into a closet, along with your high school yearbook and your bell-bottoms. You should be able to take it out only when you get up the nerve or when your kids ask, "Daddy, what did you do during the war?"

No such luck.

Turn on your radio. What do you have on? I'm listening to something called classic rock.

Try to wrap your tongue around that one. Classic. Rock.

It sounds like Shostakovich should be playing "Stairway to Heaven." Or at least Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven."

Classic rock is not as weird as soft rock, which is an oxymoron, like honest government. Soft or lite rock (also known as music for the brain dead) is the hot concept in adult listening. The way I understand it, the idea is for the music to be so quiet you don't know it's even on. Which is just as well if they're going to insist on playing Barry Manilow.

To listen to classic rock is to be trapped in a time warp.

Your life might as well be a research project entitled: "How many times is it possible to listen to 'Love Me Two Times' before your head explodes?"

Let's define our terms here. Classic rock is a subset of the oldies genre that is based in the late '60s and early '70s -- post-Beach Boys and pre-punk. It's basically the Stones, Beatles, Clapton, Zeppelin, Doors and all the white guys who played at Woodstock.

The only black voices are Hendrix and Sly. The only women are Stevie Nicks and Janis.

But what's worse is the playlist includes about 50 songs, heard over and over and over and, well, you get the idea. Do we really need to hear "Sweet Home Alabama" ever again, much less twice a day?

Two kinds of people listen to classic rock. There are teen-age boys who think Jim Morrison is the poet of death and find in Zeppelin a reason to live. These are basically good kids who do, however, occasionally participate in blood rituals.

The other kind of person is me, who is confused by hip hop, new age, adult contemporary, album rock, gangsta rap, new rock, new adult contemporary and creeps safely back into the familiar.

The thing is, you're not safe anywhere. Because the ad boys have decided classic rock is the way to reach the boomers.

I'm watching the Super Bowl. The Bills are choking, but not as badly as I am. Not after I see the Band playing "The Weight" for a Diet Coke commercial. The Band is selling soda?

It was Pepsi, I think, that followed with "For What It's Worth." Yes, something is happenin' here.

If the '60s can be trivialized, this would be the way to do it. The anti-establishment songs of the day are co-opted by soft-drink companies.

Meanwhile, Camaros are sold to nasty Hendrix guitar licks. "From the country that invented rock and roll."

This trend began when Nike tried to use "Revolution" to sell sneakers. That was a few years ago. And we weren't prepared.

How could we be?

Sample lyric: "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you're not gonna make it with anyone anyhow."

Now, as we know, Mao basically wore sandals. Besides, somehow it seemed wrong to use poor, dead John Lennon's views on protest to sell Air Jordans.

The outrage didn't take. And so Clapton can do beer commercials. Meaning, anything can happen. And it has.

Dylan -- yes, Dylan -- has allowed a Richie Havens version of "The Times They Are A-Changin' " to be used in a commercial for a Boston accounting firm.

Is this one of Bob's little jokes, like when he sings "Masters of War" in 54 seconds?

We'll know soon, if American Airlines comes out with "Stuck Here in Mobile With Those Memphis Blues Again."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.