Music to our ears: coming back around - Morgan Hill Times: Gale Hammond

Music to our ears: coming back around

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Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:30 am

It must be a sign that I’m becoming a Cranky Old Person (COP) when some of the music I’m hearing these days leaves me shaking my head and muttering unintelligible things to myself.

I’ve tried to keep up with the times musically; I really have. I may have come of age in the ’60s when the Beach Boys’ songs of surfing, girls and cars reigned supreme, but when the new era of rock bands began taking the country by storm (think Beatles, Rolling Stones) we saw a shift in music that Elvis – much as we still loved him – couldn’t begin to imitate.

And as much as our parents complained about “those long hairs” from England, we were loyalists to the end because it hadn’t been THAT long ago that the gyrations of Elvis’ hips gave Grandma major heart palpitations.

So over time I’ve been in the “groove” with various music trends. I mean, who could deny disco for crying out loud?

I’ll even claim a certain fascination with some of the sounds from the rap and hip-hop genres. Talk about a beat! (Yes, I just sounded like an “American Bandstand” teenybopper: “It has good rhythm and is easy to dance to…”).

So I’m feeling a bit like I’m of a bygone era. A for-sure sign I’m traversing over that dreaded hill is I find less and less music that I can remember for longer than five minutes. If a “phenom” like Justin Bieber only makes me want to tuck him in at night with cookies and a glass of warm milk, I guess it’s pretty much over for me.

I’m sure it was the same for our parents and grandparents. Can you imagine when the frenetic music of the 1920s – that wicked, Charleston-dance-crazed era – blasted the sweet old songs of the early 20th century right into the history books? With speakeasies and flappers dominating the landscape, the older generation probably shook their collective heads and muttered that the country and its young were going you-know-where in a hand basket.

But new styles endlessly evolve. As music and dance moved into the ’30s and ’40s and the swing jazz movement caught fire, what do you suppose those crazy kids did to drive THEIR parents nuts? Yep – they initiated the jitterbug and the West Coast swing, a natural lead-in to the 1950s roots of rock and roll.

Now I think it’s great that nothing stagnates in the various genres of music. I mean, we couldn’t just keep tapping our toes forever to “In the Mood” or “Twist and Shout,” now could we? That’s right; we’ve seen popular music turn the corner into heavy metal, reggae, pop-country, contemporary R&B, and about a gazillion other variations and genres. Some permutations (“grunge” “funk” and “grime” come to mind), sound more like what collects under my stove than actual musical categories.

But I always smile when I hear an old song from my coming-of-age era playing when I’m out and about. Waiting for my latte at a local coffee spot recently, Rod Stewart’s ultra-familiar “Maggie May” played, transporting me back to my college biology lab and the professor who thought we’d be less bothered by what we were dissecting if we were rocking out to the hits.

So I’ll admit to being shocked recently when a “USA Today” article caught my eye about the year’s “biggest debut” album being the freshly released “Babel” by a young British group, Mumford & Sons. The article claims this band’s album is blowing other pop artists out of the water.

Now what’s so astounding is not that Mumford & Sons hails from West London – it’s that they embody folk/bluegrass music – something that’s been around for decades.

Imagine! Four young men playing today’s music on some of yesteryear’s instruments like the banjo, mandolin, resonator guitar and the accordion (ACCORDION?!). And I couldn’t be happier.

Because … let’s see: Four 20-something young lads from England blowing other pop artists out of the water … Hmmm … reminds me of another four young lads from England who blew other pop artists out of the water – nearly five decades ago. Could it be? Yep – we’ve done it, music fans. We’ve come full circle.

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