It’s an odd thing.
Sometimes, when I speak before high school or college students, someone in the audience, knowing I began my professional life as a pop music critic, will ask what I think of music today. I always demur that I don’t listen to a lot of it, but that most of what I do hear kind of, well … bores me. While there are exceptions — i.e., Adele — much of it feels corporate, cold, plastic, image-driven, less reflective of talent than tech, more programmed than played.
Of course, the old folks are not supposed to get the young folks’ music. That’s the whole point of the young folks’ music.
But here’s the odd part: After I’ve said all this, as I’m bracing to take my lumps for being antique and out of touch, the young people — many of them, anyway — tell me I’m right. They agree with me. That’s not supposed to happen and it says something that it does.
What it says is worth pondering as we commemorate a milestone in popular music and culture. On Friday, it will be 50 years since the Beatles landed in New York City. They would appear on The Ed Sullivan Show — in 1964 Sullivan was what passed for music television — over three successive Sundays, twice from New York, once from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. They also squeezed in a concert in Washington.
There is a great photo that captures the pandemonium of that era: It shows a hapless New York City cop carrying some girl who just fell out, limbs splayed, knocked senseless by proximity to the “lads from Liverpool.” John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr brought their bright harmonies, jangling guitars, long-for-1964 hair and cheeky irreverence to America, and American girls responded in shrieks while suddenly ignored American boys practiced looking indifferent, as if they were cinderblocks who could stand, unmoved and unchanged, by the wave now washing over them.