My wife had a very literal A-ha moment the other night, one that has left her concerned about the future of today’s youth.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention my wife spends a good deal of her time concerned about the future of one group or another. Call it the curse of the big-hearted or just what ought to amount to basic human compassion, but she worries about people not having the things she believes make life worth living — which, in this particular case, includes a brain absolutely jam-packed with the lyrics to dreadful '80s songs.
This latest round of worries came courtesy of a Reaganomics show Saturday at the Twist and Shout. For those not in the know, the Reaganomics is an '80s cover band out of Columbus. The Twist and Shout is a night club in the village formerly known as Fort Shawnee. And I’m saying my wife’s A-ha moment was literal because it came while the band played an actual song by the Norwegian '80s pop act A-ha.
The band was about half-way through the chorus to “Take On Me” when my wife announced her concern for the coming generations. The crowd had been worked into a relative froth by a long set of “classics” that included everything from the Commodores to The Clash. Add a little Budweiser to the mix, and you wind up with a packed dance floor and a club full of middle-aged moms and dads pumping their fists and shouting out the lyrics to tunes they first heard more than three decades ago.
“I worry about what our kids are going to sing when they’re our age,” she shouted over the ruckus of a nearby insurance adjuster screeching a falsetto, 'In a day or twooooo…’ “I mean, they won’t have amazing music like this.”
It says something about my wife that she tied the term "amazing" to an A-ha song with not so much as a whiff of irony. While we both grew up in the same decades, she has maintained an enthusiasm for the music of the time that eludes me. From the response of that crowd at the Twist and Shout last weekend, she is not alone.
It should come as no surprise an '80s cover band would draw a crowd of folks one can kindly refer to as past their rockin’ prime. What did surprise me some was the passion they still have for music that – and I say this knowing I am risking a seriously ugly response – mostly sucked. Sure, there was good music being made in the '80s. We had The Clash, Elvis Costello, early Van Halen and a few others, but it’s hard to believe bands like Sly Fox or Loverboy made music anyone believed would last.
And yet, there it was. Close to 30 years after the Beastie Boys first told us we had to “Fight for our Right to Party,” and a couple hundred balding, overweight civil engineers and their partners in kindergarten carpool were shouting out the words with a seriousness typically reserved for readings of the Torah by Bar Mitzvahed teens.
The meaning has changed some. Instead of clashing with parents (who in retrospect seem fairly reasonable in their demands), “Fighting for your right to party” now means finishing up the market reports you brought home from the office, squeezing into the last pair of Levis that almost fit and tracking down the one babysitter in town who can be trusted not to throttle the entitled brats you call kids if you stay out past 11.
Then you can feel free to party like it’s 1999, or whatever the two beers and home by 11 equivalent of that might be.
As odd and unsettling as all that might seem to our kids, there is some reason in my wife’s concerns. I may not be a huge fan of all the music of my youth, but I know it. It was implanted in my brain by a repetition predicated on the reality that we had one radio station in town that played any music kids would listen to and, aside from early MTV and its constant rotation of music by disastrously coiffed white kids, no place else to hear music.
That meant we had a nearly universal experience. And while I may have chosen to play Costello instead of Journey, there was no way to get through high school without having heard “Loving, Touching, Feeling” a few hundred times.
My kids have a lot more options. The Internet makes it possible for a new act to reach millions of ears with a video captured on a cell phone. That means the audience's tastes are more varied and the hits come and go faster than they did when we were young, so they have less time to worm into the communal consciousness.
I have a tough time imagining anyone singing along with a Wiz Kahlifa cover 30 years from now. Then again, had you asked me when I was 18, I would have said the same thing about A-ha. So maybe the kids will be alright. Maybe even a little less screwed up than us.
My wife remains concerned about the future of today’s youth. Me, I’m more worried about their parents.