Don’t Talk to Me about New Music. I’ve Toggled.

4 Jan

by Roger White

I’m old. I don’t feel old; my wife says I don’t look old; but no. I’m old. It officially happened on a recent Saturday afternoon at approximately 3:30 p.m., as I dutifully shuttled my younger daughter and three of her friends—oop, posse—to the mall. Jamie and her, um, posse had commandeered the radio, naturally. Yet another acne-laced, auto-tuned androgynous siren was gyrating her (his?) way through some vapid tune about “moves so hot they could melt your popsicle.”

As I shook my head, right there in mid-disgust, I became my dad. In a fraction of a second, I time-traveled to 1970 and back again—to my shag-carpeted bedroom, bell-bottomed and mystified as to why my antique father couldn’t grasp the overwhelming truth that Jim Reeves paled in comparison to Jimi Hendrix, back to present-day lane closures and Lady BlaBla. Or whatever. Just like that.

It was then I understood, an express-lane epiphany: It just happens. When one reaches a certain age, one simply shuts oneself off from new music. And one starts using the pronoun “one” for some reason. One doesn’t know why one does this. One is the loneliest number.

Where was I? Meandering train of thought is another symptom, but that’s for another column. Anyway, the actual age of this musical metamorphosis varies from person to person, but only slightly. Around late forties, early fifties (depending on individual blood glucose levels and early exposure to Lawrence Welk) somewhere just to the left of the brain’s hippocampus, a switch is triggered.

Scientists spent years (and approximately $749 million of your tax dollars) studying this phenomenon, and they actually discovered a cone-shaped mechanism deep in the mind that, believe it or not, physically moves to the “off” position when a brain’s owner has determined that the pinnacle of musical perfection has been reached and it’s all downhill from there. These researchers have named it the Ray Conniff Cortexial Cone, or Conniff Cone for short. Look it up, or don’t.

OK, I made that part up. But if there isn’t a Conniff Cone somewhere in the bowels of our brains (a compelling mixed metaphor if I ever wrote one), then there should be. It just seems a physiological inevitability, doesn’t it? Age toggles the switch. Try as I might, I never could sway my dad on the quite obvious genius of The Beatles’ use of the mellotron keyboard in “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It was too late. His cone had switched off. Dad was doomed to forever favor Johnny Horton and, gads, Homer and Jethro. The heroes of his youth.

And now it’s my turn. Looking back, I believe I did hear a distinctive click in my head about age 47. At the time, I thought it was too much coffee. Nay, it was my Conniff Cone. I see it now. Weekly, my daughters drag me to Youtube—or they buzz around my head hanging earbuds on me—determined to indoctrinate me in the appreciation of Kanye and Beiber and Nelly, and what’s a G6, anyway?

I keep trying to tell them it’s no use. I’m switched off. I’ve toggled. I’m pretty sure the cone is near that lobe that hardens and gets all crusty as we age. You know, that stubborn area that makes learning new things a genuine pain and keeps us deferring to our kids about how to use an iPod or program our damn cell phones without throwing them against the wall.

No, I’ve toggled. And if you remember Peter Frampton with hair, you’ve toggled, too. Confess.

I suppose it is a sad, bittersweet milestone. Like a needle stuck in a groove (a simile we must explain to the age-advantaged), our generation is condemned to seek only the fruits of Lennon, Plant, Jagger, Townshend, and the ilk.

Then again, “condemned” may be a bit harsh. Ale- ale- jandro, ale- ale-jandro? I mean, really.

[Published in the Oak Hill Gazette, November 24, 2010]


4 Responses to “Don’t Talk to Me about New Music. I’ve Toggled.”

  1. April January 5, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    But I’m not yet 30 and I can’t stand Lady BlaBla or Kanye. I’m all for Lennon, Plant, and Jagger. I’d say I toggled early, but that’s not the music of my generation, so I’m going to need a new diagnosis. I used to say my parents just brought me up right.

    There are good artists out there–Bob Schneider for one–but they aren’t as well-known as the latest punk 15-yr-old kid singing about being in love. Or whatever.

    (Note: The ONE exception I have is dirty rap music. Not the run-of-the-mill stuff you hear on the radio–the really bad lyrics. It’s hilariously funny to me.)

    • oldspouse January 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

      Your folks were very wise, young one. And perhaps you are an older soul.

  2. Eric Brody January 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    You hit the nail right on the head. I often have similer feelings regarding music, and then I think…”that’s what my Dad said to me”. Of course I was right back then, as the music that came from the 1960’s and 1970’s will live on. I doubt many will remember the 1 hit wonders that have littered our airwaves since. I look forward to more of your articles!!!!!

    • oldspouse January 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

      Indeed, Eric, indeed. Thanks for the kind words!

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