Play Me Some of That Old People Music Baby

Left to my own devices, I tend to listen to older music which is arguably for older people. I like Classical music, especially from the late Classical through the Romantic periods. The more modern stuff is OK, but you have to pick and choose carefully. I also like a lot of old Jazz, up through the classic period of the middle to late 1960s. I also like modern recordings of modern groups that are stylistically similar to music like this.

This leaves me in a bit of a bind with respect to pop music. I don’t pay attention, yet I need a certain density of the stuff for car trips and whatnot. Well, with the aging of the Baby Boomers, I have found my happy medium, so to speak. I only buy pop music that I hear about on NPR.

This didn’t start as any conscious plan. I think I was in college when I just stopped having time to pay attention. The last contemporary band that I can remember following was Talking Heads, but really only up through their Little Creatures album. They had already long since peaked anyway. In graduate school, I bought primarily highbrow LP records of serious music. Pretty soon, I hadn’t bought a pop record in several years.

Over time, I noticed that occasionally NPR would do a story about some band somewhere, and by some miracle they could actually play music. For example:

- Laura Love - Robinella and the CC String Band - Camille - Fountains of Wayne - The Kashmere Stage Band

In retrospect, it was inevitable that NPR would become my pop music source. Unlike Jazz or Classical, I don’t have a compass for pop music. I don’t have a feel for the various performers, song writers, and performance styles. I don’t know what I like and don’t like. I also don’t want to have to “explore” and “discover” the acts I like on my own. I don’t have the patience to deal with Sturgeon’s law to find the occasional record that I can listen to. In other words, I want NPR to help me out in the pop music realm the same way others might want for Classical. I want them to digest the material for me and then spoon feed it to me in a series of small digestible bits.

They do this very well. From time to time, each of their news shows will profile some band. These interviews are usually boring and pointless because musicians play music, they do not speak intelligently on a wide range of subjects. In between the boring interview bits, they will play clips from the record. If I can stand to listen to the all of the clips in the story, there is a good chance the record will be good. This happens maybe one time in ten. For some reason most band profiles you hear on the radio are breathless interviews with artists of oh-so-deep integrity who unfortunately can’t play an instrument or sing in tune.

However, over the last few years, the hit ratio seems to be increasing. This makes sense. Since NPR is run by old people, they have started covering more and more records that are actually good! The longer they go, the older they will get. Just this week the morning show ran an extended interview with the son of George Martin, Giles. The subject? The soundtrack for a Las Vegas circus show featuring mashups of original Beatles songs mixed and merged and mashed together from digital versions of the original four track tapes. Of course I had to buy that. Who can resist such a thing.