Written by Allison McCarty.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.
Thinking back to my childhood, my most nostalgic and familiar memories are of the early morning commutes to my grandparents’ house in my father’s pickup truck. The melodies of AC/DC and Kiss pulsing through the speakers as we traversed the stop-and-go traffic of Austin. I remember swaying to the beat with my brother and sister while the electrifying sound reverberated throughout the cramped backseat, our tiny voices drowned out as we sang along. Sometimes we would ask what the not-so-safe for work lyrics meant and my dad would quickly deflect to a sign passing outside the window or simply tell us the wrong lyrics to which we would repeat with excited confidence. My days weren’t filled with Veggie Tales tunes or whatever children’s music was popular at the time, but were instead filled with the musical stylings of Def Leppard and Guns N’ Roses. Every car ride, every trip to the store, every weekend outing was practically a time machine. With each mile we drove I was immersed in past decades which my parents had grown up in, and in some weird way, I felt like I had, too.
As I entered adolescence, the stereotypical angst and rebellion against any and all established authority caused me to resent the music I had been raised on. Every time I rode in the car with my parents, I demanded that the only thing coming out of the speakers be Top 40, and if not that, then I preferred silence. Earbuds became a necessity for everyday life, allowing me to drown out the music my parents insisted on listening to. Pink Floyd and the Eagles were replaced with Panic! At The Disco and Paramore, Elvis Costello and Led Zeppelin with Bastille and Mumford and Sons. As soon as I got into a car with my parents, I would reach for the aux cord to ensure my music would be played over the stereo. I didn’t want to have the same tastes as my parents and I was determined to branch out and create my own identity completely shaped by the interests and opinions of myself. Anything that wasn’t from the present century was cast aside in favor of current popular culture.
It wasn’t until one day in my freshman year of college as I was scrolling through Twitter, that I noticed how polarized and unjustified my opinion of the “oldies” was. That realization came as the song “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac began to climb the charts over forty years since it had been released. After being featured on a viral video, the song reached #13 on Billboard Hot Rock Songs and began to be played on mainstream, “top of the charts” radio stations. People began to talk about the classic rock I grew up with on social media, “old” songs started to appear on my friends’ Spotify playlists, and I began to regret every year I spent pretending the music I grew up with, the music I loved, wasn’t good. That seemingly insignificant viral video was influential in reminding me of my suppressed musical interests, as well as reinforcing the transcendentality of music.
Music is timeless, the period it belongs to does not hold it back from relevancy.
Even though relevancy isn’t a quality in which music should be consumed, older music still possesses importance today with many prominent artists of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s holding rankings among today’s artists. As of the week of March 16th, 2019, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Journey, the Eagles, Guns N’ Roses, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Prince, and The Rolling Stones all hold spots on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. Queen dominates the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart, holding 16 rankings out of 50, AC/DC and Def Leppard are featured on the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart, and several artists ranging from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers to The Beatles appear on the Billboard’s Top 100 Artists chart. In addition to continuous chart rankings, the “oldies” still have relevance today by directly influencing current popular artists. Ariana Grande cites Madonna and Whitney Houston as some of her inspirations, Bruno Mars states Bob Marley, Elvis Presley, and Jimi Hendrix, Kacey Musgraves credits artists ranging from Electric Light Orchestra to The Beach Boys, and Rihanna recognizes Madonna and Bob Marley. New bands are even emerging as revivals of the iconic classic rock genre, most remarkably the Grammy award-winning group Greta Van Fleet. However polarizing their sound is, there is no mistaking that their music is reminiscent of the heady, psychedelic rock from bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. The popularity of revival bands today, as well as the continued influence from past musicians on current artists, emphasizes the fact that even though the twentieth century has come and gone, music from past decades easily defends its relevance among the music of today.
Classic rock has always held a special place in my heart as I’ve grown, starting from my earliest memories to present day, walking along campus as the iconic, lengthy guitar solos blare through my earbuds or studying while a vinyl record spins leisurely on a turntable, filling the room with the comforting music of my childhood. Without that music, I wouldn’t have the cherished memories of long car rides on early mornings, or the moments of joy as my parents lit up when they played a song they had loved as a kid over the speakers. Music is important for all of us, and it carries a certain emotional weight which no other expressive medium possesses. It is an art form that has the ability to transport us in time with a single note or a heart-wrenching lyric, and that indispensable quality shouldn’t be forgotten just because the music isn’t as popular as it used to be. Music will forever go through an endless cycle of relevance and irrelevance, but the only true relevance it can ever hold is in its most fundamental, personal form provided by the listener. Those feelings, every one of those emotions and memories stemming from the plucking of a guitar string or beating of a drum are what makes music valid, and that’s all that matters.