I was remembering a conversation I had with the father of an old friend of mine the first time I met him, and with him being as absolutely enthralled with all sorts of music as I am, his opinion stuck with me and has had me thinking ever since. Even given the decades age difference between us, we (for the most part) talked about music from a distinct era – the 1980’s. Now, despite what some people may think, the 80’s weren’t just hair metal and cheesy 80’s synth pop, in fact some of the greatest music of our generation has come from that decade. So we continued talking about our mutual interests in the likes of New Order, Laurie Anderson and AC/DC, and then I made the breakthrough, I mentioned how music today is of a poor standard. His response almost single handedly changed the way I think about music. He said:
“You might think that now, but back in the 80’s I thought the exact same of the music then. You only think today’s music is bad because it’s today’s music.”
That statement has stuck with me since, and I found that more or less, it’s completely true. When you look at the music of yesteryear, it has a certain sense of establishment, and of success that it’s managed to stay relevant decades later. However music today doesn’t have that reputation, nor did these “Instant Classics” that we love today, and there are examples of this throughout the course of modern music.
Take Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” for example. On it’s release, some of the reception was scathing, with one reviewer calling it a “superficially impressive pastiche”, yet now you’d be hard pressed to find someone musical who can’t nail all of the lyrics a cappella, proving that perhaps my (or perhaps our) preconceptions about music released today can be blinded simply by a time period or artists name.
Another incredible example is “Layla” by Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos. On the single’s initial 1971 release, it peaked at number 51 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and the parent album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs failed to chart in the UK. However on a rerelease in 1972 with an Eric Clapton compilation album, it reached #7 on the UK charts, and #10 in the US. A decade later in 1982, Layla peaked at #4 in the UK Charts. To even further surprise, in 1992, 20 years after the single’s initial release, an MTV Unplugged version of the song reached #12 on the US pop chart, and also won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song. Even now, “Layla” was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the 27th greatest song in their list of 500.
So really, are we so right when we so quickly judge the laters T-Swizzle release about another break up, or the latest in a long line of radio-friendly indie soft rock? Perhaps it would help to judge the song more on it’s musical merits, and those alone rather than the general umbrella of their genre or the artist as a whole.
That being said, can we quit with the 4-Chord Acoustic Solo Males, and the love for Nirvana as one of the greatest bands of all time? Or is that too much of an ask after asking to give respect to modern music? Whatever happens, here’s hoping that some of our much criticised artists become musical legends, and their songs last in the social conscience for decades to come.
– AJ Lienert