This past weekend, we were at a cocktail bar with friends when my husband winced.
“This is the second ZZ Top song they’ve played in the past 10 minutes,” he muttered.
“Not a fan?” our friend Mark asked.
“Oh sure, I was a fan — 40 years ago,” William said. “I’d like to be a fan of something new. But ZZ Top follows me everywhere I go.”
This was not the first time I’d heard this complaint. And I actually can see the merit in the argument. Scan the radio and it’s not going to take you long before you hear Billy Idol belting, Heart crooning, or Jethro Tull tulling. Like it or hate it, classic rock is alive and well in 2019.
However, the older I get, the more I actually love it.
It started several years ago when Pandora had just started getting popular. I was cooking for a big dinner party and needed something to keep me revved up. I’d somehow just been reminded how much I love the song “Peaceful, Easy Feeling,” and discovered I could play the Peaceful, Easy Feeling radio station on Pandora.
I listened to it for the next eight hours, hearing and singing along to everything from “Southern Cross” to “Wild World” to “Amie” to “Sundown” to “Take It Easy” to “Night Moves.”
As I raced around mixing cake batter, poking meat and blending soup, I was reminded how much I love these songs and, frankly, how much they remind me of my dad. Music was always really important to him, and I remember spending hours staring at the album covers in his extensive record collection. He was also a speaker guy, not infrequently hauling Matthew and I to Advance Audio to listen to the latest in tweeters before we’d head to Sam the Record Man to add to his collection.
It was from him that I got my abiding love for Fleetwood Mac and Dire Straits. But I realized on the dinner party day, I had inherited a lot more.
The thing that I love most about classic rock is the recurring themes in the songs. For example, there are a lot of Fords, Chevys, roads and driving in the lyrics. There is a lot of drinking, with the specific liquor in use often acknowledged (tequila sunrise, margaritas, bourbon, scotch, beer). While almost all the songs are sung by men, they readily and happily name the women who inspire them (Amie, Roxanne, Melissa, Rosanna, Sara). And they have locale — Alabama, Detroit, L.A., Rocky Mountains, California — which, when mentioned, draws immediate cheers from the crowd. Finally, these locales experience a lot of weather, specifically thunder, wind and rain.
I love how all of these details paint a picture of a time and place. It always makes me feel nostalgic, yes, but somehow it also makes me feel hopeful and restored at the same time.
Interestingly, Gabrielle Baker, age 19, is fully on board with me on this front. Before she had her license, we were often in the car together, with Baker in charge of the soundtrack. The day I heard her sing every last word of Journey’s “Separate Ways,” complete with soulful hand gestures, was the day I realized classic rock is here to stay, in no small part due to millennials. In fact, all of Gabrielle’s friends dig on 1960s and 1970s rock. To hear her and her friend Ashton sing “Eleanor Rigby” is a thing of beauty.
Psychology Today’s Ronald E. Riggio has actually weighed in on why this happens to be the case. In part, he credits more involved parenting and the fact that the 1960s and ’70s are culturally enshrined. He writes:
“In the same way that the Roaring ’20s are talked about fondly, the 1960s were considered a time of social and cultural revolution, and the emergence and acceptance of rock-and-roll music by the majority of Americans … make this a time that is looked back on as culturally important and a time of positive change and good times.”
That classic rock is often featured in kids’ movies could be another reason, in my view.
But what did Gabrielle have to say about it?
“The songs are just good,” is the most specific answer I could get out of her.
So where does that leave poor, old William Baker? Runnin’ against the wind, I’m afraid. I don’t know much, but I do know he’s going to hear a lot more ZZ Top before his day is done.