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How Pop Music Stopped


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#1 Wilfrid

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 03:42 PM

I thought we had a thread on this, but perhaps I expressed my view that pop music came to a standstill a few years ago in the middle of a longer thread.

Anyway, further anecdotal evidence. I was at a large "after party" for an event recently, probably one to hundred people present. Age was diverse, early twenties to thirties. I may not have been the oldest person there, but I was in a minority. There for some time. The dj did play the "Blister in the Sun" song everybody loves, and a brief track which was mainly white noise (no idea). Otherwise, the music was solidly thirty to forty years old - and the dance floor was crazy. Little Richard was about the oldest offering, but there was plenty of glam rock ("Little Willy" :blink:), Two Tone (The Beat), new wave...

Perhaps the place would have emptied if he'd played anything from this century (except "Blister" and maybe "Range Life").

ETA: The point made in the past is that it's inconceivable that a similar event in, say, 1980 would have had a soundtrack from the 1940s, unless it was some kind of theme party.

#2 g.johnson

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 03:59 PM

I thought we had a thread on this, but perhaps I expressed my view that pop music came to a standstill a few years ago in the middle of a longer thread.

Anyway, further anecdotal evidence. I was at a large "after party" for an event recently, probably one to hundred people present. Age was diverse, early twenties to thirties. I may not have been the oldest person there, but I was in a minority. There for some time. The dj did play the "Blister in the Sun" song everybody loves, and a brief track which was mainly white noise (no idea). Otherwise, the music was solidly thirty to forty years old - and the dance floor was crazy. Little Richard was about the oldest offering, but there was plenty of glam rock ("Little Willy" :blink:), Two Tone (The Beat), new wave...

Perhaps the place would have emptied if he'd played anything from this century (except "Blister" and maybe "Range Life").

ETA: The point made in the past is that it's inconceivable that a similar event in, say, 1980 would have had a soundtrack from the 1940s, unless it was some kind of theme party.

In 1980 it would be inconceivable that the soundtrack would come from the early 70s (the odd Bowie notwithstanding).
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#3 Lex

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 04:05 PM

Every once in a while my memory comes through. The word "stasis" was the key.

And here. I admired how adroit you were to incorporate my suggestion that rap music disproved your point into your overall theory.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

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#4 ghostrider

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 04:06 PM

I don't recognize any songs or anybody here except Little Richard. I guess I could clear a room right quick if I were DJ.
It was hard to avoid the feeling that somebody, somewhere, was missing the point. I couldn't even be sure that it wasn't me. - Douglas Adams

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#5 SLBunge

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 04:07 PM

Unless it is a remake, Blister in the Sun dates to 1982.

I noticed the same thing at a wedding this summer. The songs where all of the 20-somethings rushed the dance floor were all from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. There were some outliers but not many.

I suppose a wedding DJ is appealing to many generations but having virtually no songs from the generation that had the most dancers seemed odd.
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#6 Lex

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 04:14 PM

This is the type of meme that once it's embedded into your consciousness you are unable to see things any other way. It's become a running joke to see how many bars I've gone to that have a brand new iPod playing songs that are older than 90% of the customers.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

"I don't have time to point out all the ways in which you're wrong" - irnscrabblechf52


#7 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 04:49 PM

The point made in the past is that it's inconceivable that a similar event in, say, 1980 would have had a soundtrack from the 1940s, unless it was some kind of theme party.


But would it have been inconceivable that a party in 1940 wouldn't have had music from the 1910's?

The Boomers were such a cultural force and they pushed things forward so fast that judging them as normal is probably wrong
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#8 Lex

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 04:50 PM

But would it have been inconceivable that a party in 1940 wouldn't have had music from the 1910's?

Rich would know the answer to that.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

"I don't have time to point out all the ways in which you're wrong" - irnscrabblechf52


#9 porkwah

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 05:40 PM

it's probably that more recent music has split into tribes, and nobody in a public place wants to play it for fear of alienating someone.
music from the 70s and 80s has gone through a process of filtering through the agency of oldies and lite rock stations.
suffocating stuff it mostly is, but it's not going to make anyone leave the room.

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#10 Sneakeater

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 05:42 PM

An interesting wrinkle is provided by this recent book review essay by Robert Christgau. Christgau claims that his interactions with his students at NYU indicate that they are all familiar with music from the 60s but not from the 50s: they don't know what Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, et al. sound like. (Elvis is different because he lasted into the 70s.)

This seems plausable to me. The 50s stuff was when rock and roll was still essentially a form of black music. Sixties pop and rock (I'll note that "pop" as used this way is purely a British usage which is virtually incomprehensible to Americans, who think that Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra and Patti Page were "pop") turned that music white, and it's that whitened form of the music that really took over the culture and has formed the basis for all rock-oriented pop music since.

It's interesting that hip hop was able to stay so central while remaining black. Maybe that shows a difference between the 60s and later times. Maybe that's how the U.S. got to elect a black President (something that still sends people like me who were alive in the 50s and 60s reeling).
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#11 Lex

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 05:45 PM

it's probably that more recent music has split into tribes, and nobody in a public place wants to play it for fear of alienating someone.
music from the 70s and 80s has gone through a process of filtering through the agency of oldies and lite rock stations.
suffocating stuff it mostly is, but it's not going to make anyone leave the room.

That makes sense in theory but in practice something else is happening. Bars where 90% of the customers are under 30 are playing the greatest hits of the 1960s and early 1970s. You'd think that a bunch of people in a fairly tight age range would share a common musical taste.

And they do. It's for music from the 60s and 70s.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

"I don't have time to point out all the ways in which you're wrong" - irnscrabblechf52


#12 Sneakeater

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 05:45 PM

it's probably that more recent music has split into tribes, and nobody in a public place wants to play it for fear of alienating someone.
music from the 70s and 80s has gone through a process of filtering through the agency of oldies and lite rock stations.
suffocating stuff it mostly is, but it's not going to make anyone leave the room.


Or, it's the last music that everybody -- including young people who weren't around when it came out -- can be expected to know.

Porkwah should note that this isn't limited to the anodyne "rock lite" stuff he's talking about. If you sit in the lobby bar of the Ace Hotel, just about everything you'll hear is rock from the late 60s to the early 80s at the latest in the Velvet Underground tradition. Nothing that ever got played on mainstream radio at the time -- although now it's everywhere.
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#13 Sneakeater

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 05:49 PM

I know I tell these anecdotes all the time, but a couple of weekends ago I was having brunch in The Vanderbilt and I was shocked to hear them play, as background music, the entirety of the MC5's Back in the USA. People used to get beat up by hitters for listening to music like that (much to the horror of the artistes, no doubt -- who wanted the hitters to be their audience rather than the disaffected nerds). You certainly never heard it on the radio, much less in brunch spots.
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#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 05:53 PM


it's probably that more recent music has split into tribes, and nobody in a public place wants to play it for fear of alienating someone.
music from the 70s and 80s has gone through a process of filtering through the agency of oldies and lite rock stations.
suffocating stuff it mostly is, but it's not going to make anyone leave the room.

That makes sense in theory but in practice something else is happening. Bars where 90% of the customers are under 30 are playing the greatest hits of the 1960s and early 1970s. You'd think that a bunch of people in a fairly tight age range would share a common musical taste.

And they do. It's for music from the 60s and 70s.


And to sort of repeat myself, it isn't stuff like Three Dog Night singing "Joy to the World".
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#15 Lex

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 05:56 PM

Sneak, you and I are hearing different things. In Williamsburg bars and bars in the East Village most of what I hear was mainstream stuff in the 60s and 70s.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

"I don't have time to point out all the ways in which you're wrong" - irnscrabblechf52