Classic rock


The long arm of the past has a way of tapping us on the shoulder sometimes. This week was one such time. News on the pop culture front noted that an album by the Eagles (Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975) has claimed the status of being the best-selling album of all time.

Taking 1971 as a point of reference, we’re talking about, yikes, 47 years ago.

I don’t know where the line of demarcation for “classic rock” begins, but I guess in rough terms the genre is at least 50 years old now if we measure from the beginning.

Some rock songs are far older than you might suspect. For example, a few weeks ago I heard Black Sabbath’s Iron Man on the radio. There’s nothing dated about that wild song, at least to my ears, but, in fact, it came out in 1970.

The scary thing here in 2018 is that any random excursion across the radio dial can deliver a song that makes your brain go *poof* and quantum-leap itself backwards by a half-century.

As for those old Eagles songs, for those who remember that far back, a few of them were Take it Easy, Lyin’ Eyes, and One of These Nights. I remember this fare getting played on rock stations and on country stations.

The Eagles weren’t the only act getting play on both the rock and the country stations. In 1973, Uneasy Rider, by Charlie Daniels, which was essentially a rap song (it was spoken, not sung; does that make it rap?) got a lot of attention in the rock and country realms as well. Many of my pals can recite it from memory, more or less, as long as you’re buying the drinks.

The Charlie Daniels Band complication A Decade of Hits came out in 1983 and it was very popular in the country genre.

Back in the rock world, by the ’80s, the New Wave scene was well-established on the West Coast, and this seemed to give rock an extra dose of energy and, in posterity, extra longevity. Not that the West Coast launched all the bands. Ohio and Georgia were also important sources of talent on this front.

When it comes to pop culture music, as opposed to church music (I was in the choir) and classical music (I played in a youth symphony), I associate it with the radio I heard before high school, then high school parties, college parties, and youthful road trips. So the window was about 15 years wide. The CDs I buy on occasion are to replace ones that I’ve lost or that have gone bad from age. Gee, you know you’re getting old when you’re outliving CDs.

The longevity of some of these acts is remarkable. Aerosmith, which released their first album in 1972, is still performing, with front man Steven Tyler still serving as heartthrob for several generations of groupies, including, notably, my wife and her friends. Aerosmith has already inked performance dates for next year in Las Vegas.

Back on the CD note, I first heard about CDs in the early ’80s, but it was several years before I bought a CD player. CDs were a big deal back then, and newer models of players were always being unveiled and advertised.

I knew an engineer who bought a player that could hold something like 100 CDs. He then bought CDs to replace, at least to the extent possible, his motley array of cassettes and vinyl records. It seemed like a great idea at the time. However, the CD player was persnickety, difficult to operate, and far beyond the ken of any random guest who wanted to play a few tunes. The machine eventually drifted from the living room to a table in a spare bedroom, thence to the garage, and after that point there hasn’t been a confirmed sighting in many years. He was an old-school engineer, a guy who knew how to use a slide rule, and the CD episode confirmed his professional judgment that nothing to come along since 1976 has really been worth the trouble.

Well, so much for random retrospection. Here’s to 50 years of classic tunes so we can listen to echoes of our younger days or, sometimes, just stare at the world.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

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