For roughly the first decade of my life, my entire musical existence was based on Y102.
For the uninitiated (read: those not from Reading, Pa.), Y102 was, and still continues to be, the No. 1 source of classic rock jamz with delicate sprinkles of modern rock-related garbage occasionally thrown in.
My mom would always have the station playing in the car, so my young ears were taught quickly from the book of “Classic Rock,” the odd hybrid of a genre that seems to include both Poison and Bob Dylan depending on when you listen. Eventually, I turned my ears elsewhere and attempted to comprehend the truly insurmountable depth of music that exists in the world. I assumed that everyone else would do that as well.
Whenever I hear classic rock stations blasting from someone’s car, an interesting scene is set in my head. I’ll try to relay it to you: Imagine your parents cruising around, windows down, smiles plastered on their faces. It’s 1984, and although Prince put out “Purple Rain” and Husker Du released “Zen Arcade,” your parents are rolling around listening to Nat King Cole. And their friends in the car behind them are blasting a pretty sick Perry Como jam.
It’s a weird thought, right? In an age when fantastic music is being made, your parents are listening to what their parents were listening to. Why would they do that? Why do we do that?
That’s the age we live in today. A fair percentage of the music-listening population would much rather continuously blast Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, which was released 40 years ago, then, say, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists woefully under-appreciated “The Brutalist Bricks,” released this year.
People, this is why the music industry isn’t like it used to be. It’s not because “they don’t make ’em like they used to” or that “it isn’t like the old stuff.”
It’s because, as a whole, people adamantly refuse to find new music because old music is so much easier to find thanks to classic rock radio stations and the geezers that run them.
In fact, I’d be willing to make the argument that music has never been better than it is at this very moment. New bands are formed every day and instruments and recording tools have never been easier to procure.
And it’s not even just people in New York City and Los Angeles. If you were to look at your Facebook feed from the last couple weeks, chances are that your “friends” put up links to their original music imploring anyone who’ll listen to do just that.
To bring my point back around, the radio problem is far worse than most people are willing to realize. It’s a cyclical thing: Radio stations have diminishing listeners due in part to the emergence of MP3 players and various other technological advances in the 21st century.
Because of that, the DJs can’t afford to play new bands because they’re afraid they might alienate what’s left of their audiences.
And even if they would want to, the corporations, such as Clear Channel, wouldn’t allow them to anyway. Thus, the remaining listeners, somehow tired of hearing “You Give Love a Bad Name” for the thousandth time in an hour, stop listening to the station, bringing the whole thing around.
These desperate conditions breed people like that guy you saw at the last football game in the Rolling Stones hoodie–yeah, that guy. People that absolutely swear by “the old stuff,” because, hey, that’s all they know.
Of course, there’s a reason why this stuff has long been labeled “classic.” If I had been called to testify in a court of law when I was in seventh grade, I probably would’ve sworn on a copy of Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti.”
The thing is, this isn’t where your education should stop. Classics are the building blocks, the welcome signs to the path of eternal musical happiness. You start with the Beatles, and then you find out about this little band that existed around the same time called the Velvet Underground, whose lead singer palled around with this guy named Iggy Pop, who had a band called the Stooges, and so on.
Eventually, when you feel ready enough, you finally make it to bands that, wait for it, currently exist–like, they’re touring and putting out new music and have hair follicles that aren’t grey.
Sarcasm aside, it’s such a rewarding experience to discover something, anything, when it comes to music. Whether it’s a band playing in a basement or a songwriter that released one album in 1972 and quit the music business to sell knock off T-shirts on the Jersey shore, there’s a joy that can’t be replicated when you’ve found something you didn’t even know existed the day before.
For example, the other day I found Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” album at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Best known for the awe-inspiring title-track, I checked it out without hesitation. Despite the occasional dud, the album was totally worth the listen.
If you, dear reader, can take anything from this rambling mess of a column, it’s this: Never, never, never stop your quest to find new music. Do you want to be like those old people that threw up their hands and decided they had heard all of the music they ever wanted to hear?
Of course you don’t.
Top 5 Led Zeppelin songs Classic Rock stations don’t play but totally should:
1. “Night Flight”
2. “Down By The Seaside”
3. “Achilles’ Last Stand”
4. “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp”
5. “Hot Dog”
Kevin Stairiker can be reached @firstname.lastname@example.org.