I think I finally get it. I didn’t for a long time but I think I finally do. What is it you ask? Well, it’s that every generation thinks their things are the greatest and that they’re looking at things from an angle every previous generation missed and if only the rest of the world could see it their way the world would be such a better place. Now I confess, I’ve always been an odd guy. I’ve always dug the stories and tales from a previous generation. “Howl” and “On The Road” were important tomes for me while I was in high school, so was “Blood On The Tracks” from Bob Dylan and The Doors first album. On the other hand, I really felt like it was my generation that got it right.
There was so much during my formative to late college years that I was sure was better than everything that came before it. Starting with the artist still known as Prince—I was amazed at his genius and fought my step father tooth and nail when he claimed he was simply a Hendrix clone. From that early funk to the early alternative of the Replacements and R.E.M. I dove head first into the culture my generation was creating, as every other generation does with the art and culture their generation creates. Perhaps the most important tale was “Generation X”. I was convinced that this and Douglas Coupland’s next few books were all handbooks for my age group. I wanted to shake every person my parent’s and grandparent’s age trying to wake them from their sleep, unable to see the genius before them. Most adults I knew at the time hadn’t even heard of, let alone read these amazing books. Not only had they not read this genius of a writer’s books but they openly disdained some of the films and music influenced by it, things like Reality Bites and the whole slacker lifestyle.
I can honestly remember having conversations with adults from the generations before me trying to convince them that they needed to give this stuff a try. I watched as their eyes rolled into their head as they did their best to try and tell me why they had no interest. “Fools” I thought. Turns out they weren’t wrong and I wasn’t right. We just saw it from different points of view (to bastardize a Dylan quote.) Look, if I’m stacking artists and the impact generations have made on the world then I’ll be the first to admit that mine doesn’t really measure up. That’s not really important to the story though here. What is important is that at the time I really did thing every previous generation were fools for not getting what we were shouting.
What I know now is that they weren’t fools, turns out people like me don’t have all the answers though either. Now that I’m older I’ve found that we meet in the middle. The older generation has had to accept a lot of what my generation has brought and we’ve had to accept that maybe they have some good points as well. Now that I’m a little older though, interestingly the same age the previous generations were when I thought they were fools, I’m seeing the situation in reverse. I’m noticing that younger people I work with come up to me shouting about this artist or musician and how they’re the greatest and I have to listen or see it or read it and all I can think is “they’re just a Human League rip off kid.” So see, I get it. I understand now that every generation has it’s own disease (to quote another song popular while I was in college.)
Here’s the kind of sad part of all this generational thinking—by saying that there’s a new generation with new ideas and books and music what I’m really saying is that I’m older now, that the world has moved beyond me, that it’s not my thumb now on the button of pop culture. I’d love to tell you that I’m OK with it but part of me still wants to be that guy so passionate about believing that Prince really was the be all end all of guitar playing and that if everyone read “Generation X” then we could stop the next war. I guess I’ll have to leave that up to my son Jack though. Surely his generation will want to look back and see the genius of his parents rather than the snooty 20 year old creating what they think is art for people his age.