Thursday, April 10, 2014

Talking music with the kids


     The newspaper has a Starbucks machine on the 10th floor, plus a big red soda machine, and cereal, candy and ice cream bars, not to mention fruit and juice and varieties of almond milk in a cooler. After I get the column going, I like to pop up there for coffee, fuel for the rest of the morning. 
    I've dubbed the area "Pleasure Island," not just for the candy, but for the arcade games next door. It's intended to demonstrate that we are not a stodgy analog newspaper filled with old coots like me, but a glam high tech digital business buzzing with bright young people, and we are all supposed to mingle as we caffeinate and sugar up (and beer up, during the weekly social hours, or so I hear). Most grab a bowl of Raisin Bran or a banana and run. But sometimes they do linger and talk, and I certainly don't mind joining in for a bit of a chat with my coworkers.
    Or trying to. 
    As I pumped my coffee, two guys in their early 20s and a woman about the same age were talking.
     "...it was one of three bands that are important to me," the young lady was saying solemnly as I ferried my cup of black regular over to press its lid on. "I still can't believe they're going to accept my ticket and let me in."
    They were talking about music. I like music.
     "That's a phrase I haven't heard in a long time," I mused brightly, taking a step toward them. Three heads swiveled in my direction, their faces slightly surprised, as if a chair had spoken. "The phrase, 'bands that are important to me,' that is," I elaborated.  
     I smiled, slipped a protective brown sleeve around the cup and tapped the cup top in place. "Then again, I think of the the Eurthymics as a new group," I continued. Self-deprecation—always useful in conversation. Shows I'm an easygoing sort.
     Still nothing from the trio. Maybe because the name "Eurythmics"—very big in the 1980s—meant nothing to them. Maybe it did evoke a spark of recognition, but in a bad way. Maybe my name-checking a 30-year-old group is the moral equivalent of Larry Weintraub—50ish, goatee, tattoo of an inkwell on his bicep, wrote a column where he dressed as a circus clown and dipped himself in pudding and such, dead for a decade— had burst in on a conversation me and my pals were having in 1988 about R.E.M. and U2 and Jane's Addiction  and said, "Of course, nothing can top The Dave Clark Five."
     The three young folk gamely tried to continue their conversation.
     "Where are they playing?" one guy said.
     "Lincoln Hall," she said. The concert was last night, so don't get your hopes up.
    "I saw them in a bar in Cleveland," I added, not quite willing to let my great musical moment with the Eurythmics go, impressing no one.
     Another pause. The trio sighed. Apparently this old person was still talking to them.
    "So what group is it?" I asked, so that someone would be saying something.
     "Julie Ruin" she said.
      The name meant nothing to me. All groups do nowadays. She could have said "Peg Board" or "Meg Odon." Turns out to be a group, not a person. Like Jethro Tull. We all looked at one another.
      "What kind of music?" I continued, still doing the talking thing.
     "Feminist punk."
     "Like Ani DiFranco?" I ventured, tossing out the one name of a female singer I knew who had a slight edge and became popular after Ronald Reagan left office ... Sort of like Larry suggesting Brenda Lee when the conversation shifted to 1980s female singers.
      "With a harder edge," she said.
      "Sort of a female Big Black?" I continued, grabbing at an edgy group, forgetting it was another band that's 30 years old. Actually even older.
      "Yeah," she said, fleeing, before I could deploy the sentence forming in my head, "And the only reason I know who Big Black were is because I went to college with Steve Albini." She didn't quite break into a trot, not in actuality, but she might as well have.
      I took my coffee and shambled toward the escalator, a little more stooped than when I had shuffled in. Julie Ruin is a Brooklyn band. I would define it as the type of music that appeals to people who haven't listened to much music, but what do I know? You can decide for yourself. I'm going to have to stop this talking to young people business. It frightens them and saddens me.



19 comments:

  1. Young people should appreciate the classics! U2 is still playing and releasing new albums!

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  2. Actually, I'm intrigued by the "accept my ticket and let me in" comment.

    Does the band vet its audience? Do you have to prove yourself to see them live?

    Because I'm way too old for that kind of nonsense.

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  3. A million thanks for the link to Julie Ruin's music.
    I'm being sarcastic, of course, as what that was is just screaming masquerading as noise.
    I only listened to less than a minute as my constitution is far too delicate to take that before 7AM!

    Playing it might work as a way to drive rats & squirrels out of your house!

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  4. I'm with Caren. I wondered about that "accept my ticket" line, too.

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    1. My sense is that she was so excited to see the group, that she couldn't believe she had a ticket, couldn't believe that it would work. I'll ask her about it, if I see her. Maybe we can have Part II.

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    2. "I still can't believe they're going to accept my ticket and let me in." Yeah, I just thought she meant "I'm not worthy" in a facetious sense, to be permitted to share the same space as the great and powerful Julie Ruin. Though not *that* facetious.

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    3. Another theory: Maybe she had a ticket for another performance that she missed and they were willing to take her ticket for a different one. That happened to me at a Broadway play.

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  5. As a bike messenger in 1985 I used to deliver stuff to the old building and I used to love to peek into the grotty ancient lunchroom where Sun-Times employees were -- playing Scrabble. Heaven.

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  6. I stopped paying attention to new popular music around 1963, the year sexual intercourse began. Nothing to be proud of, but the world is so full of wonderfull things we can't enjoy them all in order to be as happy as kings.

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    1. Points, Thomas, for the Philip Larkin reference -- for the rest, the opening lines of his "Annus Mirabilis":

      Sexual intercourse began 

      In nineteen sixty-three
      
(which was rather late for me) – 

      Between the end of the Chatterley ban 

      And the Beatles’ first LP.

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    2. Do I not get a point for the nod to R.L.Stevenson? (Or, if you like, Thurber?)

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  7. Try talking to young people for a living.

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  8. The Greeks took as a warning the legend of Tithonis, a mortal who became the lover of Eos, goddess of the dawn. His lady love got for him the godly gift of eternal life, but forgot to ask also for perpetual youth. Tennyson wrote a fine poem on the subject that begins with some memorable lines about the cycle of life and then moves on to explore the hero's plight.

    "And after many a summer dies the swan.
    Me only cruel imortality
    Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms
    Here at the quiet limit of the world
    A white-haired shadow roaming like a dream
    The ever-silent spaces of the east."

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  9. Neil,

    The fact is that younger people are embarrassed when people as old as us try to relate to them. In a culture which glorifies youth, we are irrelevant in their opinion and clueless as to what's "important". It upsets their view of the world when we "intrude" upon them. In their eyes, we're like that crazy uncle that you have put up with during family holidays but avoid the rest of the time. Of course, they are too young to realize that they will someday be in the same position.

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  10. I never would have imagined it. "A white haired shadow roaming like a dream." That's about it. It's like I've already died and my animate corpse is haunting the places I used to be.

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  11. Of course, if you *had* heard of the band, you would have (Julie) ruined it for her.

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  12. Hi Neil, I'm 52 and I'm always looking and enjoying new new music and I find I actually know more bands and singers than a lot of younger folks in the office. Yes finding new hot artists is fun and exciting but the catalog of already published music is endless. I'm always amazed how some young people actually seek and find great music by the Beatles, Motown, and even 80's music. Most people are music snobs and very passionate about the type of music that appeals to them. When I was young I was so passionate about Punk and House Music it really played a big part of my life at the time. It was 1978 -79, I came out of the closet and rebelled against anything mainstream. LOL.

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  13. "The Julie Ruin" - ***eyeroll**** - here's some goddamned music for the 'kids'. Christ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko2CvygFuCE

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  14. As a card-carrying young person myself, I can certify that we do, in fact, mostly suck.

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