Growing up I loved the music of the seventies: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, The Who, Pink Floyd, The James Gang, David Bowie, Queen, Badfinger, The Clash and The Jam were all favorites, along with a host of lesser known bands that all flitted in and out of my stereo. There was other music as well. U2, The Cars, Adam and The Ants were all integral to my youth. But the seventies were my era. I even love a lot of disco!
I suppose it’s because it was music my entire family could agree on, despite having disparate tastes. My father loved country music, my mother listened to a lot of female artists – which thankfully included a lot of Diana Ross and The Supremes. My sister preferred heavy metal and my brother closely followed the current trends in black music, from Michael Jackson to Grand Master Flash and The Sugarhill Gang. There was a lot of variety for me to choose from. And, of course, both MTV and my friends exposed me to lots of other styles of music. Most all of which I still love today.
Despite being a fan of all the aforementioned genres, the 70’s held fast as my favorite era. The 60’s were groovy, and the 80’s had their charm, but it was the 70’s I knew best and found a deep vein to mine, from Power Pop to hard rock, from punk to glam.
I like the fashion, the music, the culture of the 70’s. I can’t say that about any other era of music. I’ve always believed if I were ten years older I’d have been a mod during the 70’s, Vespa and all.
But a few weeks back I had to admit this wasn’t actually the case. This revelation came in a few stages. The first was the rebuilding of my vinyl record collection. There’s music representative of every era, from the 1950’s through the 2010’s. There’s heavy metal, Motown, punk, classic rock, indie-pop, new wave, country and Americana. But upon a deeper look, my collection isn’t primarily from the 70’s, but rather it’s overwhelmingly from another decade.
The ironic thing (or pathetic, depending on how you look at it) is my girlfriend constantly pointing out this fact. And for my part, I constantly disagree and argue the fact, convinced my era was the 70’s. But the facts didn’t support that argument. Not by a long shot.
Instead they testify to the fact that my favorite musical era is the 90’s. While those who know me may not find this news, I have to admit it was a shock to discover. After all, my hair is half the length it was back then. I have half the facial hair I had then, and I wouldn’t be caught dead out in public wearing a pair of shorts atop long underwear. Seriously, no chance. And I doubt I’d still have a girlfriend if I did. Emotionally and psychologically I couldn’t be further away from the 90’s. It’s fashion and culture have never held sway over me the way that of the seventies did. So how can this be?
Despite listening to a wide variety of music throughout my life, despite my connection to the seventies, the nineties is when my relationship to music changed and was cemented. Living in Seattle in the 90’s I had friends in bands, began photographing and directing videos for local artists and spent three nights a week minimum out at clubs seeing live music. I picked up the guitar again, after 8 years, after listening to Temple Of The Dog. The music of the era, whether from Seattle or not, was much more personal to me. I was connected to it, unlike I’d ever been before. I was in the middle of a movement as it was happening. It was the soundtrack of my life in a way the music of the 70’s couldn’t be. I might wish I had been a mod in the 70’s, but I never would be.
The nineties, however, I have a tangible connection to. I was a part of a community, watching friends and people I knew get signed, record albums, tour and sometimes even appear on Letterman. I didn’t read about it years later, or watched it from the sidelines on MTV. I was in the thick of it with all my friends, experiencing it in real time. I saw bands in small clubs, not vast arenas. Sometimes other local musicians were at the same shows, checking out the same band I was. Sometimes I saw a band before they had an audience or a record deal. And while I may no longer connect to the fashion or culture of the nineties, the musical connection will never go away. In fact, it’s likely to grow stronger with nostalgia the older I get.
Case in point: Despite being roughly the same age and living mere blocks from one another in high school, my girlfriend does not have the same connection to the 90’s as I do. She, on the other hand, loves 80’s music. Especially dance music. In her teens during the 80’s she was out most nights at dance clubs. So she formed her ultimate connection to her music in the 80’s. That is the place she always returns to.
Our favorite music is often tied to a certain time period of our life. When we experienced music first hand as it was created, as a community. When the music the bands were producing echoed the experiences we were going through simultaneously. The politics, the culture, the trends which we know all too well. They are an authentic voice to our thoughts. It wasn’t music of the time, it was music of our communal time. It’s music that we connect to not just emotionally, but spiritually. The music that is literally a soundtrack to you and your friends lives.