The other day, I was listening to music on Brown University’s radio station. Since it’s a University station, all of the DJ’s (can I still call them that?) are students. After the song ended, the two DJ’s began discussing the 25th anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind. As they talked about the impact that album had on the music industry, it dawned on me that these two people were not even alive when that album came out!
That’s the moment that I started feeling old. I mean, I’ve been feeling old lately anyway, but this made me feel really old. Because to me, it seems like that album came out five, maybe ten years ago. It’s still “new” to me, but could technically be on an “oldies” station. I remember listening to the oldies station as a kid, and thinking how old those songs were. But in reality, they were the same age then, as Nirvana’s music is now.
This got me thinking about all the CD’s (and some cassette tapes) I have that haven’t been touched in years. Not because I listen to downloaded music, but because I rarely listen to any music. I’ll turn on the radio in the car, mostly “oldies” stations, which now apparently play many of my favorite songs from the 80’s. Many times, if I’m by myself, I don’t turn the radio on at all because I take the silence when I can get it.
So I dug out all of my old CD’s and cassettes. With just a glance of the album cover art, I knew what each one of them was, and what songs were on them. Every one I looked at brought back a memory. I remember buying them, getting so aggravated trying to get the cellophane off, finally getting them open, and the smell of the jacket as I opened it, hoping they included the lyrics to the songs.
It made me smile. And then it made me a little sad. It made me sad that most kids today will never get to experience that same kind of excitement. They will probably never sit on their bedroom floor and listen to an entire album, reading the lyrics on the jacket and singing along to the music. Nor will they know the amazing sense of accomplishment that went along with making an entire mix tape by recording songs off the radio.
A couple of years ago, when Frozen was all the rage, my kids wanted to listen to the music from the movie. At eight o’clock. On a Sunday night. We told them we couldn’t get it for them right then, but we’d look online and see how much the soundtrack cost. I price shopped, checking the websites of Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. Then it dawned on me to check Amazon. We could have the soundtrack in our hands for a few pennies less than all those other stores, and it would be shipped right to our door two days later. Perfect!
In the midst of explaining to our children how lucky they are to be able to click a button and purchase things without needing to leave the house, I saw something. I saw the option on the computer screen to purchase a digital copy. The fact that I could even do that had honestly never occurred to me. So we bought the digital copy, and they were listening to “Let it Go” on our Kindle within seconds.
And that’s what they’ll know. They’ll know clicking a button and instantly hearing a song. Don’t get me wrong; being able to access so much wonderful music at the drop of a hat is amazing. But the instant gratification for everything today makes me feel like our kids are missing out on the excitement that builds up when you have to actually wait for something.
I know that every generation goes through this. The generation before me said the same thing about cassette tapes and CDs not being as good as records. But at least cassettes and CDs are like records in that they’re tangible. You had to go to the record store and flip through them, finding just the one you were looking for. They aren’t some digital file, forgotten and floating around in a ‘cloud’ somewhere that maybe you’ll listen to again if the ‘shuffle’ function on your device deems it worthy.
And I’m sure that when today’s generation grows up, they’ll be telling their kids how easy they have it. “When we were kids, we had to type in the song we were looking for,” they’ll say. “If we didn’t know the name of it, we had to type in a couple of lyrics that we knew, and the name of the song would pop up. Then we had to move the mouse to get the arrow to the ‘Buy Now’ button. Ugh, it was so hard! It’s not like today where all you kids have to do is think about the song you want and it’s automatically downloaded to the microchip implanted in your brain. You’re so lucky!”
As I said, every generation goes through this. Instead of “I walked to school uphill both ways in the snow,” I have, “I had to leave the house to buy things and wait for everything I ever wanted.” And my kids will have their own story about how their kid’s lives are so much easier. I just really, really hope it’s not that ‘microchip implanted in your brain’ thing.