Music defines generations. Ours, for sure. Which makes for some challenges for fellow boomer Marsh Rose and her pre-boomer partner Robert, who live north of San Francisco. She calls this, “Us Kids Nowadays.”
My significant other, Robert, is seven years my senior. Seven years isn’t much, not at our age, but he and I were born on opposite sides of the Great Rock And Roll Divide and his befuddlement about baby boomer music keeps me feeling young.
He’s a member of the Beat Generation, those folks who came of age in the 1950s while we had to wait for 1967 and The Summer of Love to take our place in the social hierarchy. When it comes to music, although he never says the words, I hear them… spoken by my parents: “You kids nowadays! You call Bob Dylan’s songs music? Caterwauling, that’s what it is. Why, when I was your age….”
His alienation is understandable. He grew up with Elvis. Lyrics to Are You Lonesome Tonight, while heartfelt, leave nothing to the imagination. And they rhyme: “Does your memory stray to a bright summer day….” Compare that with Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues: “Talkin’ that the heat put plants in the bed but the phone’s tapped anyway….”
Anyway. We’re heading out for a date and I’m picking the CDs to play in the car.
“Let’s have some Bob Seger,” I say. “You’ll like him.”
Robert replies, “I can’t stand that hippie protest music.”
I’m stumped, mentally replaying lyrics about truck driving until the light dawns. “Sweetie,” I say, “Pete Seeger and Bob Seger don’t live on the same musical planet.”
He doesn’t seem convinced. Even when I play Turn The Page I see him white-knuckling the steering wheel, probably braced for If I Had A Hammer.
We lived in the north San Francisco Bay area in its boomer musical prime and our town boasted a venue, The Inn Of The Beginning, that hosted some big names. When we reminisce about that time, I remember the night people came from as far away as Seattle to hear Taj Mahal.
Robert was in the bar next door, cursing the traffic. All he remembers of appearances by Arlo Guthrie, John Fogarty, and Marty Balin were the extra cops monitoring the surge in population. I feel like a teenager when I explain to him why their songs changed music forever.
He does try, though. He comes in while I’m doing the housework with Ball and Chain blaring from my stereo.
“Powerful voice,” he says, nodding appreciatively toward my speakers. “Who is she?”
I roll my eyes. “It’s Janis Joplin.”
He can tell by my expression that he’s given himself away again and scrambles to set things straight. “Oh, right, Janis Joplin. That’s the one who was going out with a senator.”
I’m afflicted with an image of Janis in her feather boa, one hand holding a shot glass of whiskey, skipping arm-in-arm along some lane in the Great Beyond with Barry Goldwater.
“That was Linda Ronstadt. And it was a governor. Brown, of California. Honestly!”
I pretend to be exasperated, but my elbows aren’t as stiff when I fire up the vacuum cleaner again.