Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things That Make Me Feel Old

Having turned 33 recently, I’m constantly reminded of a line from the Pretenders’ “Middle of the Road” — I’m not the cat I used to be / I got a kid, I’m 33 baby!
When I was nine, that lyric struck me like a transmission from Mars, a confession from some alien world I would never know or understand. Today, of course, I totally relate. Which got me thinking about all the other things that I think of in a completely different way now. Starting with the most obvious.
“1999” by Prince, then: A defiant hedonism in the face of an impending Reagan-induced nuclear apocalypse. And now: Evokes a pathetic nostalgia for the year that brought us Kid Rock, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas, American Pie and the Y2K bug.
Metallica, then: So wild and exotic and dangerous. The guys who wore Metallica T-shirts in school were total misfits. And now: It’s all therapy, art collecting and fear of Napster — as documented in the idol-shattering Some Kind of Monster. See also, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden.
“Cars” by Gary Numan, then: Seemed like a total novelty song. And now: One of the most prescient, ahead-of-its time singles ever.
“Touch of Gray” by the Grateful Dead, then: Like many people my age, this was my first introduction to the Grateful Dead. And I hated it. And now: Once I realized what an important band the Grateful Dead was, I reconsidered Touch of Gray and even learned to like it. But now I hate it again. 12-year-old me was totally right. This song sucked then and it still sucks now. I guess some things really don’t change with age. See also, “Veronica” by Elvis Costello, “Centerfield” by John Fogerty, “Got My Mind Set on You” by George Harrison, “Harlem Shuffle” by the Rolling Stones.
Nostaligia itself, then: 1987 was the first year I noticed the phenomenon of nostalgia. I remember NPR doing a long piece on the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s. And Rolling Stone put out a special 20th anniversary issue listing the best records of the past two decades. Back then, it all seemed like ancient history, as if Shelby Foote were narrating while the camera panned over sepia-toned pictures of Jimi Hendrix and the Doors. And now: Good Lord, man, twenty years ago isn’t history! Why, no, it’s hot, fresh songs like “Father Figure,” “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” “Man in the Mirror,” “The Flame,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Never Tear Us Apart,” “My Prerogative” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Those aren’t old, right? I’m not old, right? Right?

1 comment:

Jim said...

Prior to reading this post, I didn't fully appreciate what a godawful year 1999 really was. Everything you listed, with the exception of the gratuitous soft-core nudity of "American Pie," could in itself have signaled a sickening decay of western society (especially "Smooth"). Taken together, the list conjures up images of the horsemen heralding the Apocalypse.