My husband and I often make the journey along the F3, M1 (or whatever the hell they call it now) to the Upper Hunter Valley. It’s more than a two-hour drive, so we listen to our iPods on shuffle.
And, frankly, our iPods are like those radio stations that advertise themselves as playing the best of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Except that we are even daggier and our selection starts in the ’60s and doesn’t budge past the ’80s (well, I do have a couple of Amy Winehouse albums on mine, but she’s the exception).
It’s all Rolling Stones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Dylan, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Bobbie Gentry (I know, that one is just me), Canned Heat, Creedence, the Clash and Blondie from Sydney to the bush.
We are not alone. Go to the home of anyone over 35 for a social occasion and, unless they work in the music industry, you instantly know what generation they are from the music they play.
Why is it that almost all of us prefer the music that was fashionable when we were in our teens to anything on the hit parade today? (Do they still have a hit parade? Once, with my ear glued to my transistor radio in my purple painted bedroom, with the fringed Tiffany lamps and collage of fashion spreads from Dolly magazine pasted to the wardrobe doors, I knew not just every song on the charts, but where they sat.)
Perhaps because it is in our teens that we begin to be able to make our own decisions about what we like and don’t like. In our teens we begin to separate ourselves from our parents, and music is a particularly effective way of creating a boundary between what we in the ’70s used to call “the olds” and ourselves.
My parents hated my music and I hated theirs. I hate the music my kids listened to and they roll their eyes at mine. And that is the way things should be. Much as my kids don’t care if they never hear Ode to Billie Joe again as long as they live (particularly while I insist on singing along with it), they pour even more scorn on people of my generation who try to engage them in conversation about contemporary bands.
When we are emerging from childhood and starting to build the person we will one day become, music serves as both a rebellion and a guide. It is how we begin to identify ourselves with our own generation. I am a tail-end Boomer and that is exactly what my musical tastes say about me. You can roll your eyes all you want but Lou Reed’s Perfect Day will play at my funeral, no matter how much younger mourners may groan. Just be grateful that I won’t be able to sing along.
There are other things that don’t change for most of us. Comedy, like music, seems to be very much of its time. I love Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Yes Minister and Get Smart.
My kids can’t see the joke. However, I also enjoy a lot of contemporary comedy, particularly the recent explosion of female-driven humour.
Women comics hardly existed when I was young. I laugh just as hard at Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman as my children do, and the late Joan Rivers united us all in adoration.
Another frozen-in-aspic-from-myearly-teens identifier is an exclusively female item. The brand of tampons that was cool when you got your fi rst period (it was Meds for me) is likely to be the one you are still using when you get your last. Maybe for blokes it is the brand of condoms they finagled their older brother into buying so they could have the tell-tale round shape showing through the back pocket of their tight-around-the-bum, flaredfrom-the-thigh Amcos.
Deodorant is another product that may have a similar life-long trajectory. There was a particularly cheeky ad for Mum roll-on (“I can get by without my boyfriend … but I can’t get by without my Mum”) when I was young. Guess which brand I still prefer?
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