Classic Rock has been around a lot longer than we've been calling it that. But Classic Rock fans represent more than just aging Baby Boomers – the folks who were teenagers when the Stones, Zeppelin, Queen, and AC/DC came of age. In fact, they may not have a whole lot in common with each other – except for the fact they live and breathe “Classic Rock.”
Today's blog post takes a look at some of those classic stories in the news.
The science of nostalgia – There are now research indicators that fans who are nostalgic may, in fact, be happier. Does that involve the music that makes up their memories? Of course it does.
A recent story in ScienceNews by Sujata Gupta suggests nostalgia – once equated with homesickness – is so powerful it helped people deal with loneliness through the worst days of COVID.
A new study among 3,700 respondents in the U.S., the UK, and China indicate that people who are the least nostalgic are also the least happy. Dr. Tim Wildschut of the University of Southampton in England is the social scientist who headed up the study.
In one test, respondents in one group were asked to write about a special memory. A day or two after, they were asked to recall that nostalgic moment, rating themselves on a 1-7 “happiness” scale. The results for the “nostalgia group” (blue bars) versus those asked to write about an “ordinary memory” (gold bars) are below:
Dr. Wildschut believes one day there may actually be nostalgia therapy for the unhappy. And you have to wonder if some of the treatments might be listening to the music you grew up with.
How powerful is nostalgia? Recalling a conversation with his daughter, he asked her how long nostalgia lasts. And to that she replied, “Forever.” Those memories are always there.
Nostalgia, the holidays, and cars – Christmas music is on hundreds of U.S. radio stations, special holiday cups are at Starbucks, and new seasonal car and trucks ads are hitting televisions near you.
The holiday season is, by definition, nostalgic. By making us think of Christmases past, marketers can conjure up that warm Clydesdales feelings – especially given how anomalous the December holidays turned out last year.
But how to capture that nostalgic feeling, while still conveying a vision of a better future in just 15 seconds? Maybe like this:
Canceling Classic Rock – Several of you sent me an opinion piece printed in the New York Times earlier this month. Written as a guest essay by Jennifer Finney Boylan, “Can We Separate the Art From Artist?” the piece is one of the most absurd criticisms of music to ever appear in a credible publication. (Apparently, it was originally titled “Should Classic Rock Songs Be Toppled Like Confederate Statues?” but was amended to the less vitriolic title above.)
In her essay, Boylan takes a swipe at the Stones' “Brown Sugar.” The band recently avoided controversy by dropping the classic from their set list in response to the pressure. Boylan still goes after Keith Richards for asserting the song is about “the horrors of slavery.”
But her venom is reserved for the patently offensive classic from Don McLean. Yes, “American Pie.” Actually, her beef is with McLean who has pled guilty to several domestic violence charges over the years. In her mind, bad behavior on the part of a singer/songwriter is something we should consider as to whether their music should be played on the radio.
One day last week, I started making notes over coffee of all the rock, pop, country, blues, and jazz stars we know of who have behaved badly. I stopped listing them out when I filled two napkins with famous musicians. (And those are the ones we know about.)
I thought about that idiotic moment a few Christmases back when “Baby, It's Cold Outside” was dropped by numerous stations because of its sexist lyrics. That incident occurred in 2018 which is a reminder about what we worried about before there was a global pandemic. The song, by the way, quietly returned to many stations' Xmas lists the next year.
I wrote a blog post in 2020, “Radio And The Cancel Culture,” that addressed many of the issues Boylan brought up. I related a friendly debate I witnessed between two classical programmers, discussing whether Richard Wagner‘s music should continue to be scheduled on their stations due to the composer's well-known antisemitism and bigotry.
As I was about to waste my time dashing off a rational response to Boylan's essay, somebody beat me to it. In the Washington Examiner, Harry Khachatrian's “No, we shouldn't cancel classic rock” turned out to be the perfect takedown. He even mentioned Richard Wagner!
Khachatriran makes the point that if gatekeepers (yes, even programmers) start axing songs, movies, paintings, operas, and other works because of artist misbehavior, we may not have much culture left. Eric Clapton's entire body of work would be tossed in the English Channel, along with catalogues of albums from scores of other boorish artists. This is especially the case when we hold behavior from decades ago up against the moral standards of today.
And in conclusion, he reminds us that “Great art is timeless; it transcends the foibles of its artists.” He also suggests we shouldn't be so quick to idolize celebrities, whether they're great quarterbacks, they play family doctors on TV, or they're guitar heroes.
Not all things branded “classic” turn out to be winners – That's the case with ESPN Classic. While there's been no official word that it's been “pink slipped” by parent Disney, the company has struggled with the channel in recent years. It was launched way back in 1995 as a source for classic sporting events, documentaries, and other sports-themed programming. It is scheduled to hit the exits on January 1st.
MediaPost's “Digital New Daily” says the channel has been losing carriage on numerous cable systems. And much of ESPN Classic's once-exclusive content became easily accessible on YouTube and other outlets.
But perhaps the real reason for the channel's inability to get long-term traction is often the same problem other nostalgic content runs into – great “currents.”
In the case of sports today, most of us would rather watch new contests, blossoming rivalries, and rising stars – not the 1988 World Series, the 1968 Olympics, or last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Some “classics” do not stand the test of time.
Days of a Moody Blue passed – Some sad news for Classic Rock lovers as the Moody Blues' brilliant drummer and poet laureate, Graeme Edge, died yesterday at the age of 80.
Yours truly was a dyed-in-the-wool Moody Blues fan. I still own all their albums. Graeme Edge was one of the founding members of this dreamy, progressive rock band whose concept albums and themes could take you to higher, more enlightened place.
In addition to his percussive skills, Graeme Edge wrote poetry for some of the band's albums and compositions, including the haunting “Late Lament.” It was the crescendo ending that closed out the iconic “Nights in White Satin” on their amazing “Days of Future Passed” album, a fitting eulogy for Graeme Edge, recited by band member Mike Pinder:
Despite the passing of a Classic Rock cable channel and a multi-talented Moody Blue, I remain in awe of the genre's resiliency. I am also amazed by its “currency” – its ability to remain fresh, topical, and timely in so much of today's hyper-quick pop culture.
Play on, you Classic Rockers. Play on.
Thanks to my former partner in crime, Dave Beasing.
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