Rock history in the millennial age

Matt Cowan

I was born in the wrong generation. As a millennial, there are times when I wish I grew up in the 1960s, watching and listening to how music evolved.

In many ways, it’s easier now to see how popular music, and in particular rock and roll, grew and evolved during the ‘60s and on into the ‘70s. But it’s also a lot harder, too.

It’s impossible to feel the same awe that rock and roll fans must have felt when they listened to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the very first time. On one particular track, “A Day In The Life,” there’s an orchestral swell during the middle of the song.

Combining an orchestra with a rock and roll band was unheard of back then. Now? Computer programs allow people to lay down backing tracks to song recordings, effectively dubbing in a fake orchestra.

And because The Beatles used an orchestra, everyone followed suit. There’s a good chance, as was in my case, that by the time you first hear “A Day In The Life,” the orchestral swell that blew people away doesn’t blow you away, because you’ve already heard it before.

This, sadly, makes it harder to appreciate what some of these rock and roll pioneers have done. I’m sure everyone has that one song where, when they first heard it, rocked their world. Perhaps it’s a musical style you’ve never heard before, like a heavy metal guitar riff or an orchestral crescendo.

But as you get older, this happens less and less. Not only is there so much more music available now than in the past, but people can also listen to it a lot more. MP3 players have revolutionized the way people listen to music. Try going one week, or even one day without your iPod, and you’ll see what I mean.

Because I was born about 35 years too late, I’ll never know what it was like to hear that orchestra for the first time. Yes, I can look back and see how we’ve gotten to where we are, but it’s just not organic. There’s no mystery or wonder.

I don’t know if other millennials have this problem. Maybe people born in the ‘60s had this problem because they couldn’t experience the blues-to-rock transition in the ‘50s.

But I still get to experience the thrill of listening to new bands and new albums in context. And that’s OK, even if it isn’t Led Zeppelin.

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