Musical Cycles

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When I knew what 'good' music was

When I knew what ‘good’ music was

I love music. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. My first device for playing back music was a plastic Looney Toons record player, then a small portable cassette player with which I listened to Blondie’s Call Me and Village People hits incessantly, usually with my strap-on roller skates bolted to my Battlestar Galactica shoes, zipping around our basement’s smooth concrete floor. Semi-poor taste can be forgiven as I was six-years-old.

When I was 15, I got my first job at a roller rink (yep I was not very cool) where I worked my way up from skate boy to DJ over a year-and-a-half and got to listen to popular music of the day. By the time I was Djing the prime shifts at 17-years-of-age I felt I had a pretty decent idea of what ‘good’ music was. Around this time I discovered AC/DC’s Back in Black as well as Led Zeppelin IV. While Milli Vanilli and Technotronic were hot (and I thought awesome at the time), thankfully I was exposed to some truly great rock music before being sucked too far down the pop drain.

About 1994 (I was 21-years-old) I was Djing at popular clubs in my native Calgary, Canada and was one of the city’s top DJs. I worked mostly at the Rattlesnake Saloon which thankfully allowed me to play a wide variety of tunes, from country to top dance tracks of the day. If it was ‘good’ I played it. I can remember not understanding how some of the older bartenders who were in their late twenties didn’t like much of the new ‘good’ music I played. What was wrong with them, their ears and taste?

Now 40-years-old, having long left DJing behind, I find myself in a curious position, reflecting on the state and quality of popular music today. And it’s simply not very good. This got me questioning whether music really is worse now than it was 15-20 years ago or have my tastes changed so much that I’m no longer in tune with what’s ‘good’?

Hoping to avoid the possibility that I’m just getting older and am out of touch with what’s ‘good’ now, I was delighted to come upon an article by Canadian music expert Alan Cross who has a theory that music follows a 13-year cycle. If his theory is correct then the next wave of meaningful, ‘good’ music I like should manifest itself in 2014! That gave me some hope that it wasn’t my age that was the issue, it was music’s fault and a natural wave of crappy tunes was currently riding high.

Around the same time an article on CNN.com caught my attention by suggesting the music you like when you’re 20-years-old is the music that will grab you most for the rest of your life. This wasn’t such a bad hypothesis and also reinforced the idea that yet another round of ‘good’ music is right around the corner.

Trying to assess my taste in music now

Trying to assess my taste in music now

Having ruminated for a while, being honest about my age and the music I really like, I think there are a couple of factors at work. Age is the most important. I still listen to dance tracks that were popular when I was around 20-years-old (S’Express, It Takes Two) and my prime genre of love is rock, likely as a result of being exposed to AC/DC and Led Zeppelin around the same time period. Popular music wasn’t any better when I was 20, but it was aimed at me then and isn’t targeted at the 40-year-old I now am.

I also hold great hope there is indeed a cycle of rock music soon to come; bringing much needed ‘good’ music to my ears once again. Should the abovementioned theories be correct it won’t be long until a new slate of bands like Green Day, Foo Fighters and Black Crowes hit the scene and give me enough musical-fuel to sustain myself for another decade or so.

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