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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

That Old Fart Rock and Roll

Every once in a while — read: constantly — life decides to slap me around a little and point out what a fool I am.

I’m not sure why life feels it needs to make the effort, frankly. I’ve got a wife, two parents, several neighbors, fourteen bosses, a financial advisor and three dental hygienists who are happy enough taking turns at me. Life’s just piling on at this point.

But does that stop life? No. Life’s kind of a weenie that way.

And so, I found myself strung up by my own snarky attitude last night — only it wasn’t last night’s snarky attitude; it was snark from twenty years ago, coming back to haunt me. Or verbally pants me. Probably both.

“Some assholes will try to tell you that their home theater Dolby 43.1 nineteen speaker MegaSurround system lets them decipher which of the violinists farted during the second movement of Bach’s Bradenburg Concerto No. 2.”

Here’s the thing. I’ve always been a leetle bit of a music snob. Not an audiophile; I want to be very clear on this point. I’ll listen to grainy old recordings on Ghetto-brand crap computer speakers that have been left out in the rain overnight. Sound quality is not my bag. Some assholes will try to tell you that their home theater Dolby 43.1 nineteen speaker MegaSurround system lets them decipher which of the violinists farted during the second movement of Bach’s Bradenburg Concerto No. 2. Those people can suck a tweeter. I like what I like, and if I can hear it, I’m happy.

It’s the ‘what I like’ part that’s somewhat problematic.

See, I grew up in a sleepy little mid-sized town — the sort of place where the local radio stations competed, seemingly, to see who could play more Styx and Loverboy and GreatWhiteLionSnake than the others.

(And if you won such a contest, what would you even get? A lifetime’s supply of hair-band wigs? A swift kick in the nuts? Deported?)

Interspersed with the contemporary snoozers were the obligatory ‘rock blocks!!!’ of the Rolling Stones or Lynyrd Skynyrd or Led Zeppelin. Meanwhile, I had the fantastic opportunity — if one can call something that one does at the age of seventeen that has absolutely zero chance of getting one laid an ‘opportunity’ — to DJ at my local college radio station. I worked there in 1987, and was practically inundated with fresh-off-the-press music that didn’t sound like every other band on the radio, nor like they were simply holding the guitar-jocks of the last generation’s heroes until the next cloned bunch of yahoos came along. I didn’t like all of it, but it opened my eyes to stepping out of the mainstream and finding something genuinely new. Expand your horizons once in a while. Take a risk. Step out of the formulaic box and do something different.

The way I felt I could best sum this idea into one succinct expression was: ‘Why in the world would you listen to the same boring music that’s twenty years old?

You can probably see at this point where life’s going to slap me. I never said I didn’t deserve it. Just that it freaking smarts.

Fast-forward to last night, when I was out at a bar with a few people from work. A few younger people from work, naturally. And at the end of the night, I offered to drive one of the guys back to his house. We hopped in the car, and music from a live-recorded CD blared from my speakers — music he’d never heard before. He asked what it was, and I explained, rather excitedly:

Oh, I just got it in the mail today. It’s a recording of an album release party from this band that I really love — it’s their first CD coming out, and they taped the whole show of them playing the whole album. I’ve only played through it once or twice, but it’s awesome.

Who is it, he asked?

Waxing Poetics,‘ replied I. He hadn’t heard of them, which is no surprise. They’re not especially well known.

I could have stopped there. I should have stopped there, and — if he liked the songs at all — I might’ve gained a little old-man street cred for having my finger on the pulse of some segment of the music scene. Maybe I’m out there, discovering bands and rocking out at clubs, with some secret living-the-dream alter ego life as an avant garde music connoisseur. You don’t know. Anything’s possible.

Until I opened my mouth again.

It’s from 1987.

A pause. Then, from the passenger seat:

Yeah. Dude, I wasn’t even born yet.

And suddenly there I was, driving through Boston with the fresh red imprint of life’s backhand across my cheek. I guess I should be glad life doesn’t wear any rings.

And here I am, as we virtually speak, listening to that same CD — yes, that awesome CD, dammit — which is very nearly twenty-five years old. And I suppose, grudgingly, I understand now. Nostalgia is a strange and involuntary beast, and it recognizes no calendar. The music of your youth — the songs you really feel like you discovered, just when they meant the most to you — that music will always stay with you. For me, it meant finding something different. For someone else, it might be the soundtrack of their first love, or the summer they rented a beach house, or the first time they really had their soul touched by a flugelhorn.

Only probably not the flugelhorn thing. That’s probably an audiophile. He can hug a woofer.

But I have become the monster I beheld, and I get it. I listen to old music, and I understand why. Some day in the 2030s, Mr. ‘Wasn’t-Born-Yet’ will get caught beaming Death Cab — or Fergie or P-Mac-Diddle-Puff or whatever the hell kids listen to these days — into his subneural songalizer implant, and some Martian kid will laugh and point at his ancient taste in music. It’s a vicious cycle, and we all have our ride on the turntable in store.

So yeah, life. I’m old. And I’m listening to CDs that could’ve graduated from college by now. You got me.

But Skynyrd still sucks. So, nyah.

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