Friday, 13 January 2012

How to tell a person's age.

I have an infallible scientific method of telling how old a person is. I can freely share this with you now - it goes like this:

1. Ask the person what their three favourite pop records (or "choons") are and look up their year of release. Let these be x, y and z.

2. Where today's year is T, calculate the person's age as follows:

If this complex Higgs Boson level of sophisticated maths is beyond you, I'm simply repeating the old saying that a person's musical taste is formed and solidified at around 16 years old.

There is a lot of truth in this. 16 years of age is maelstrom of embarrassing acne and hormones which music helps to soothe and establish a generational identity to uniquely differentiate it from those before and those after. This is especially true of baby boomers onwards as previous generations had to just shut up and get on with it or put on uniforms and get killed.

Thinking back, my own musical delights centred on the late 1960's when Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the Beach Boys were at the peak of their powers. Older music was dismissed as middle-of-the-road meaningless crooning which I would have no part of. Similarly when later music such as Punk Rock or its posh cousin, Prog Rock, came along I decried it all as either talent-free noise or self-obsessed nonsense. I'd staked my territory in time and space with a box of glorious vinyl and the rest could go hang.

Now conventional wisdom decrees that one gets less mentally flexible as one gets older and less able to take on board new experiences. The surprise of growing older is that one actually becomes more tolerant of a wider range of music. (Excuse me, my Tibetan Terrier has just choked on his chewer at the concept of me becoming more tolerant - let me expel him from the room).

This counter-intuitive revelation came to me last week when I heard Nat King Cole's "Let their be Love" on the Radio and thought to myself suddenly that this isn't the "easy listening dross" I'd always dismissed - this is sublime music. The middle piano break where George Shearing just walks off on the piano keys is just perfect and every single note and bass line is pure joy. Suddenly I found myself loving this record.

And there's more. Watching a recording of The Sex Pistols a few days ago I found myself warming considerably to "God Save The Queen" with its raw dynamic and sheer attack and energy. I'd always hated Punk but this stuff really was so much better than my long-held preconceptions had given credit.

I haven't gone completely mad. I would still happily throttle Classical Opera, Justin Bieber and JayZee.


Geoff said...

I was into prog at 16 but in my 20s I dismissed it as overblown tosh. It's only in the past 10 years that I have gone back to it and loved it again (except for most of Genesis' output).

We still buy the odd modern album but it's a very rare occasion nowadays.

I'd always hated Billy Joel but recently had a hankering to listen to his music. It made Betty's day when I bought his greatest hits!

Rog said...

Blimey Geoff, that took some courage to admit. You'll be buying a Coldplay retrospective yet....

Mike and Ann said...

Sorry Rog. Just done the equation - doesn't work!

Martin said...

I'm still a Beatles fan, though it surprises me, just how many of my generation now write them off as 'not all that'. My collection, over the years, hasn't sunk in the middle, towards any genre in particular. It's pretty much Abba - ZZ Top.

Tim said...

Sublime indeed. But so is 'Empire State of Mind'. (PS I come out as even older than I am.)

Liz said...

Being a bit maths-phobic, I'd prefer to just ask people how old they are.

I like music from most eras although looking back at my song challenge choices the only song that is less than 10 years old is by the Ting Tings. Although I was a teenager in the 80s and still listen to stuff from that era, much of my favourite music is from the 90s, which is when I really got into buying albums. The Britannia Music Club did well out of me in the mid 90s.

Anonymous said...

Great post Rog - haha - and love your formula. I find my musical loves increasing as I get older (and now I even like the opera my Mum loved - haha). There's not much I don't like, in fact. Bob Dylan is my number one favourite, however.

Rog said...

Mike & Ann: You must have forgotten to subtract x from both sides and concretize the nebulous parameter.

Martin: I was more of a Stones person coming from near Dartford. And I tend to come round to things I hated earlier ... like Abba. And Kate Bush.

Tim: When it comes to hip-hop, I'm more into this.

Liz: I never thought of asking people! I'm still paying off Britannia Music in installments!

Gabby: Any friend of the Zimmerman is ok round here!

Nota Bene said...

I've nominated three pieces by Beethoven and used your formula. Evidently I'm not even a twinkle in my mother's eye yet...

broken biro said...

I'm coming out as younger, but it's hard to pick 3 favourites and I'm all over the place. For Christmas I got Tom Waits' new album, Adele, Moody Blues 'Octave' (which I used to love to bits but only have on shabby cassette) and The Who - who I only discovered in the last 12 months!
I hope I get old before I die

Soaring said...

Yes, I agree with everything you say. I did come out a year younger than I am on the formula but am only 4 weeks beyond my birthday & I'm not certain of the actual release dates in '64 & '65, so it jolly well worked for me. And I agree completely about one becoming more tolerant & investigative of music. Of course accessibility also has a lot to do with the latter.

Pat said...

'The surprise of growing older is that one actually becomes more tolerant of a wider range of music.'
I totally agree with you and thanks for the tape - sublime indeed.
I had the same feeling about Queen the other day.

mig bardsley said...

I agree too and am loving the music.

I wonder if we listen to music with our hormones when we're younger and our ears when we're older.