Loving Old Music: It’s Not Easy Going Retro Sometimes

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“Whatcha got coming out of your earphones?”

That was my thirty-something male coworker the other day, when he stopped by my desk to ask me a question. I don’t own an iPod (they make people socially detached and catch on fire!), but I do subscribe to a website that allows me to download up to three songs from any artist for free into a revolving playlist and listen to it through the URL. Mine’s currently a very eccentric mix sharing the space: Bob Dylan, Benny Goodman, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Glenn Miller, my favorite disco song (More More More), by the Andrea True Connection, the Supremes, Johnny Rivers, Artie Shaw, Culture Club, The Coasters, and Bill Haley and the Comets to name about half of them. But oddly enough, they all seem to congeal into great working music to bliss out to when I’m working in Adobe InDesign.

But I couldn’t tell my colleague that. I was simply too embarrassed to mention some of the older, unknown people for fear that I’d be viewed as square or just plain weird. This guy isn’t much younger than I am and while he has a girlfriend, I’m still cool in his eyes as far as I know. So instead, I replied with, “Uh … a lot of older stuff. Some sixties, a lot of eighties, you know, like Blondie.”

“Oh, Blondie! Did you know that she takes credit for performing the first rap song?”

And so he launched into a little history lesson about Blondie. I did have Blondie on my playlist, by the way. But why I am so uncomfortable about disclosing who else I’m REALLY listening to? This guy is about thirty or so. He probably wouldn’t have a clue who anyone from pre-1970 on my play list is and would probably think I’m odd for being able to jam out (internally, of course, since our office is an open, non-cubicle environment), on some of this stuff.

At my last company, I was openly snickered at for loving the sixties and taking my mother to see Tom Jones—from my boss, no less. So I’m afraid to reopen up the wounds. I keep my musical tastes on my play list private, at the risk of doing a disservice to the memory of so many wonderfully talented singers and/or musicians.

I want to be more like my brother. He openly plays what he likes and doesn’t give a rat’s behind about what other people think of it or not. At our family’s Fourth of July gathering this year, he spilled out a ton of his favorite CDs (many sans their corresponding cover), Jimi Hendrix, Sam Cooke, some VERY old Benny Goodman from the 1930s, Buckwheat Zydeco, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Jerry Lee Lewis to name a few, and proceeded to play them all, swapping one for another when the tracks started to get boring. My sister giggled at some of his choices, but she respected them. And I became a Sam Cooke fan thanks to my brother’s inability to get embarrassed.

I’m striving to become the type of person who can proclaim my retro musical choices proudly because I fear that eventually they’ll be no one left who loves Glenn Miller, Bobby Darin, or anyone before the 1980s, with the exception of The Beatles. Perhaps by mentioning some of these names, the tables will get turned and I’ll be the one giving the lesson down musical history lane. I’m going to work on that. “I’m listening to Dean Martin! And I don’t care what anyone thinks!” Because for the record, I know that Blondie did not invent rap.


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