I tell you they missed it. They missed it all. . .
Kids today have no idea what music is. Even my generation was light on the subject. We were a little late, but at least we were there for the tail end of its magic. At least we knew what it meant to walk into a record store and feel lost in a sea of albums and choices. Whatever the choice or taste in music may have been, at least we had these choices. We had rows of albums and genres. Meanwhile, kids today have no idea what it feels like to scrape up whatever money they have and walk to a record store.
They hardly have a CD collection anymore, let alone understand what a cassette tape looks like or the way an album spins on a record player. These kids today have been spoon fed, I tell you, whereas we—ah, yes we were there. I remember it. We were alive in the music because the existence of music was a step more than just incredible.
I remember it well. I remember who I was, where, and what I went through. The songs I chose, to me, were like a badge to describe my rebellion. Different songs represented different aspects of my life. Perhaps some of my favorite song acted as my battle cry. Some of the music I chose was quiet, some was intended to expend the mind and enhance my psychedelic experimentation; other songs I chose were chosen for no other reason than sometimes, its juts good to hear a song and forget everything else around you.
I tell you, I remember it all.
I was sitting in the back section of the football field in Woodland Junior High School. It was the very beginning of summer time and the lightening bugs had just begun to flash their tiny green taillights. The grass was green and the sun was about to settle. We sat in a circle as four friends. All of us were longhaired and energized by the feeling of being young and leashed to nothing at all. It was the kind of feeling that gives youth its vibrant spirit—and you thought you were as untouchable as you felt while sitting in a circle with your friends, eyes half-closed and bloodshot and Zeppelin playing on a small radio.
I swore on this day there was nothing better than the feeling of lying back on the grass while Robert Plant sung the lyrics to, “Good Times, Bad Times.” The sun was about to fall in our little town and the summer was finally underway. Nothing could stop us. No one could keep us from this feeling—no teacher or anyone of authority; no one could take away this feeling we shared. All of us crazy and happy to be wild like a teenager should be. It was good to feel this way—alive, as if the hinges that kept us wound up and locked into position had at last, given way. It was good enough to be free and in our own special way.
I tell you music has the ability to give memory depth. I remember sitting on an abandoned bridge stretched over the Meadowbrook Parkway. It was autumn at sunset and the entire sky was a brilliant shade of orange. I say with my back to the wall with music wired to my headphones and a Marlboro Red cigarette dangled between my fingers. It was the sort of time when one could be alone and contemplate the next step or wonder the about the existence of God the Father and question the very subject of faith while asking if there even is such a thing. I was so wonderfully and painfully young, misled, misinformed, and missing in my own way. I was lost in my own thoughts and my own awkwardness,struggling with the concepts of life and love, or if like God—who knew if there even was such a thing. All I knew is there was music. There was no question about this. There was music. There was Clapton and there was Hendrix. There was The Who, The Doors, and then of course, there was the blitz of fast music from fast-paced bands, which was enough to rip your mind through your ears while listening. It was enough to make you scream, and scream we did because our screams were more like anthems or true expressions from the heart.
I knew that somehow, a song written by someone I never met or ever seen before was able to say anything and everything I had ever wanted to say; except, I lacked the words to say them. Except, the music lacked nothing. The music was exclamation point. Each song, whether it was about love, aggression, sadness, or confusion; whether it was fast or slow, quiet or loud—music was an explanation and words to a story I could never describe.
I tell you the kids today have no passion for the art. But I do.
I tell you, I loved all kinds of music. I loved the fast, thrashing sound of electric guitars—the kind that made your heart pound and gave us the right to bleed or feel virtually painless just moments before the battle. I loved the loud thunderous bass.
I especially loved one song in particular, which began with the words, “Bass solo take one.”
From there on, Cliff Burton allowed his bass to growl. He made sounds with a bass guitar that filled me with the mix of outrage and voltage. It was enough to let me forget the weight on my shoulders and concentrate on a song, which to this day, I can close my eyes and hear it as if it were playing on the radio in front of me.
Yes, I loved the fast paced sounds of heavy metal. I had the long hair and the ripped jeans. There was once a thing called rock and roll. There were concerts in which we the fans arrived with nothing else but the need to stand in a crowd and hear bands play music, live and right in front of us.
I tell you these kids today missed out. They don’t know what this feels like. Maybe this is why every kid today is so easily offended. Maybe this is why every kid feels they should win a trophy—they missed out on the actual, visceral experience of life. All they have now are computer applications. There is no effort needed to love a band. There is no feeling. There is no one daring to dream or inspiring the kids of today to dare the edge. These kids have smart phones. We had bands like Black Sabbath. We had The Doors. We were grateful to have The Grateful Dead and we had the privilege to gather in parks or in parking lots, all of us together, teenage kids teenage being kids, eager to howl and listen to the sound of an extinct art form known only to us as rock and roll.
I wonder if this is only a change of generation like it was with my father before me. I wonder if I am the equivalent of my father to the kids of today, calling their music, “Useless noise,” and cursing their so-called artists, calling them terrible because I’m too old. I doubt this.
I still remember the first cassette tape I bought with my own money. The name of the album was the same name of the band: “Black Sabbath.” I walked across town to small record store next to a video arcade known to us as The Wiz. It was raining out. I pulled my hood up and piped music to my ears. I listened to the introduction of the first song and I felt something for the first time. It was beautiful, I tell you. I was the type of rush that made it so I could feel nothing but the pure surge of guitars, bass, drums, and lyrics.
I tell you, they missed it. We had this thing. It was a movement. It was something to be a part of. We had shows and festivals. Above all, we had the heart to create and bands played their souls for us to listen to and it made you wonder if Heaven was a place where everyone danced until dawn.
If I were to ask a kid, “What was the first music video ever played on MTV, they would never know about a band called, “The Buggles.” They would never know the song, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” They would never know about this song airing first on something we called Music Television on August 1st 1981. They missed it, I tell you. They missed it all. What they hear now is only fragments that remain of tiny remnants of what we used to call rock and roll. It’s all gone, I say. But at least I have my memory. At least I have the times that I can rewind, in a sense, and play the songs that link me back to a time when music led the world. And I may not have healthcare when I grow old. I may never be able to retire and I might never see anything from Social Security, but at least I have this. At least I have the music to give my life some depth.