Do you know that the incoming college freshman class has never known a world where Kurt Cobain was alive? It’s the kind of trivia that is both fascinating and frightening. How the hell can anyone except the youngest among us not have been alive when Kurt Cobain was the darling of the media? I’m disgusted. In the words of Edward Norris, I do want to punch a polar bear in the face. Hearing this completely insane fact made me think about a few things today, allow me to share them with you.
OK, so the most obvious point is, what the hell man, really, what the hell. Am I so old or is the incoming college freshman class so young? I feel as if this ocean between us has been created while I slept last night rather than always being there. I want to put into perspective just how seismic a shift in my thinking this has caused. Earlier today while going to my car I was waiting for the elevator. For no reason at all I spun in a circle as fast as I could allowing my briefcase to be lifted by the air and took great pleasure in that feeling of almost falling. I stopped and realized that at any point someone could have either come out of my office or stepped out of one of the four elevators and saw me do this very silly thing. It was then that I thought I’ll never feel like so many of the “adults” in my office. I’ll always feel young, I’ll always feel free, I’ll always have the power of youth. Then I got in my car and heard that the incoming college freshman class has never known a world where Kurt Cobain was alive. Suddenly I felt the need to reach for a cane. I instantly aged. This can’t be possible.
With my very aged mind reeling at this news another thought slowly crept it’s ways through my decaying neurons—what type of spokesman will these kids have for their generation? Look, I wasn’t the biggest Nirvana or Cobain fan but let’s be honest, Cobain was out there as the spokesman for my generation. He and his cardigan as recognizable as Kerouac and his khaki’s and t-shirt, John Lennon and his horn rimmed glasses and NY shirt, you get the point. I don’t know what these kids look up to now but it’s nothing as cool as having a genuine rock star that you could identify with and call your own. In this world of prefab pop stars nothing seems to be as cool, as dangerous, as real as a punk rock rebel. I feel fortunate that my generation was the probably the last to know such a thrill. If grunge wasn’t your thing there were others out there for us, Axl Rose was pretty popular for awhile…we still had guitar heroes, we had rebel rousers and line pushers…this generation seems to have iPads. I’m not sure what that says or means. I know that it was only through emulating some of my idols that I found some of the biggest loves of my life. Without reading about them and their exploits I probably never would have gotten into Beat writing, the guitar, wrestling, real learning or a million other things that have made me who and what I am.
That brings me to my next point, half the reason that so many of these people in the past were mythical was that we didn’t have the opportunity to see and hear their every thought at the exact moment they had them. When you only get to see your heroes once a year when they’re on tour or read a magazine article about them once a month. Now that there is Facebook and Twitter and instant messaging and Instagram and everything else there’s nothing left to chance or imagination. It’s a lot harder to create an idol when you get to see the weaker moments in any up and coming idol’s life live. Would Dylan, Morrison, Ginsberg, Pollock, Plant or Cobain have been created in the current climate? I’m not sure they would have.
Finally, and probably the least significant thing but the one that saddens me the most, is that I don’t think the current crop of incoming college freshmen will live in a world with a bona fide rock star. Now before you start e-mailing me and saying I’m a fool and that blank and blank or what his name are great current rock stars let me set you straight. They aren’t. Rock stars last more than three albums unless they’ve made one or two truly great albums and then die in a pool of their own vomit, rock stars are larger than life, something all this new media doesn’t allow people to become anymore, rock stars are artist and I can’t remember the last full-fledged artist I saw on any pop charts. Oh that’s the other thing, rock starts transcend genres. The Doors and the Beatles and Led Zeppelin were artists whose music was heard everywhere and were interviewed and reviewed in kiddy bop magazines and serious, artsy publications. I can remember growing up and hearing Queen on the R&B station in Pittsburgh. That will never happen again. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have seen many, many rock stars in my time, some from previous generations, some from my own. These kids will never have that opportunity.
In closing I just want offer this final thought in the words of Bulldog from Frasier (Something else college freshman probably don’t know anything about)…”This is bogus. This is total BS.” I don’t want to be seen and don’t appreciate being looked at as an older generation. Who the hell do these kids think they are!!