Driving back late at night, Midlands 103’s Friday night “Roadhouse Cafe” programme was on air. The music had a mellowness about it – Free, The Band, The Moody Blues, Stevie Nicks – there came the familiar sense of having missed the important years of music.
Being born in 1960 and a teenager in the 1970s, there was a always a sense of having been born too late; a sense of having missed the most interesting times. The Beatles had broken up in 1970 and we had to be content with Paul McCartney and Wings and John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Jimi Hendrix, Joplin and Jim Morrison were dead before we became aware of their existence. There was a feeling that history had ended.
By the late 70s, the tenth anniversary of the important events were occurring – Woodstock being the most significant. When you are eighteen, ten years is a lifetime, who was there among us who would have remembered such times? The first film screened at the LSE Film Club when I began university was The Last Waltz, the farewell concert of The Band, when almost every musician worth knowing took to the stage. The fin de siecle mood seemed to have enveloped even freshman undergraduates.
Even expressing a liking for rock bands that once graced the stages of the great rock festivals became unfashionable; an undergraduate friend who preferred rap bands and New Romantic poseurs described my liking for a heavy rock band as an affection for dinosaurs.
The music of the times is now hardly recalled; people refer to Punk, but hardly anyone plays it, the New Romantics and their ilk have virtually disappeared from the radar screen – when did you last hear Adam and the Ants on the radio? The artists who played in those times, and whose work continues, are artists who are timeless – Springsteen, Elvis Costello, the various bands who had endured from the 1960s, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Who. No-one would ever talk about 1978, or ’79, or ’80, or the other years since in the way that people talked about 1967 or 1968.
It seemed we had missed history, that everything at which it would have been worth being present had happened, and that there was nothing left for us.
Suffering the human constraint of being born at a particular time, there is no possibility of knowing how people born at other times feel about the age in which they were born. Do those born in 1950 wish they might have been earlier in order that they might have enjoyed the first years of rock and roll? Do those born in 1970 ever think that they might have been interested in Punk music, had they been old enough? In fifty years’ time, will they play the music of the Teens?