I was only gone for two years but something in the world changed during that time. After returning from to Kansas after a two year stint in Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, I heard Led Zeppelin on the Oldies Station.
To understand the significance of this event, you need to know that when I was growing up in small town Kansas there were a limited number of radio stations to listen to. While I mainly settled between the modern rock station, T-95, and the classic rock station 96.3 KRZZ, I did pass through some of the various other genre’s every now and then. I’m not sure why but every now and then I got in the mood to listen to the Oldies station.
Now, let me define what I mean by each of these Genres. When I last remembered, Modern Rock has tended to include things like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the White Stripes and basically anything back to the early 90’s. Classic rock was based mainly in the 70’s and 80’s, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Ozbourne, and a collection of glam rockers like Scorpion and Quiet Riot. Oldies, in my recollection was made up of people like Elvis, the Pretenders, anything from Motown, and maybe, on a good day the Beatles.
Then one hot and sunny day as I drove through flat Kansas landscape on my way back to Harper I casually flipped through the radio stations and settled on an old Led Zeppelin tune. And then it happened. I looked down at the dial and realized that the station that I was listening to was, in fact, Oldies 103.7.
In that moment it became official, our culture was in the process of a musical shift. Before my eyes the generations were moving. What’s more, I’ve listened to the Oldies station quite a bit more since that day and I’ve noticed that the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Doors are now the standard for the Oldies station.
On some level, this is concerning to me because it means that the music that I grew up on is now in severe danger of quickly moving from the Modern Rock category into the Classic Rock category, and thus, is a sign of my own mortality quickly slipping away at the obscene ole’ age of 28. (Yeah, I know, poor me, right?) But, being a good grad of Bethel and AMBS, I quickly began to reflect on the implications of this shift as well as the looking back to the music that is now fading off of the radio.
There was once a day when Elvis was considered the spawn of Satan and was the most sexually provocative obscenity to ever corrupt the souls of young people. Now……..we regularly see advertisements marketed at grandparents using Elvis’s tune “Viva Las Vegas” with the words “Viva Viagra”. My favorite of these commercials took the saying from the 60’s “never trust anyone over 30” and reworded it saying “never trust anyone over 90”. News Flash to the boomers: you’re not edgy anymore, quit pretending like you haven’t turned into everything that you protested when you were my age.
But it does raise the question about what the definition of “edgy” is. Elvis made a certain generations blood boil. Today, rappers and rockers with half naked women in music videos barely raise an eyebrow. Is it possible that in another 30 years, Nirvana’s song “Smells like Teen Spirit” will be quaint and used to sell my aging generation the next family sedan?
From a youth ministry perspective the trend might actually be of some comfort. “Don’t worry about the current shocking thing because there will be something even worse later!” Maybe that’s not comforting….but it’s true. Growing up the Simpsons were off limits because of their “vulgarity”. Now there are Bible Studies for high schoolers based around the Simpsons partly because they pale in comparison to South Park and the Family Guy. There’s a time and a place for shock value. It’s a necessary tool, especially when it’s used well to open people’s eyes. Shock value for it’s own sake, however, is rather unimpressive.
I’m well aware that time marches on. In fact, I’m kind of glad it does. I don’t really need to repeat certain points in my life and I actually do enjoy where I’m at now. Every now and then, however, I find myself stumbling across cultural reminders that I have thoroughly moved out of the “young and hip” demographic, even if I haven’t fully moved into the “adult” demographic.