Then Play On

Consider. While there is certainly a percentage of rock in its multitudinous forms that is all about being pissed off and rebellious, about being disaffected and morose, about being loose and large, a greater percentage, arguably, is about relationships. Love lost. Love won. Love unrequited. Love that’s not really love. Love that dare not speak its name. Love sought but not found (which can lead to many of the feelings previously mentioned, as in pissed off, etc.).

Music (let’s stop using the word rock here as it can be too loaded as it can encompass too much, and the more generic term allows the focus to be on the argument, not the terms thereof) to a teen helps describe and define relationships or the lack thereof. Say you see a person of the opposite sex for the first time and you are immediately smitten. Chances are, if there is music playing, it is a song that you’re not likely to forget—at least not unless or until you meet someone else who wipes away the memory of the first one. Say she—and, yes, I am exhibiting my bias here, just to make this less prolix—has a song that’s her favorite. Now depending on your taste in music, there is a good likelihood that that is going to be among your favorites, as well. If you find it to be completely abhorrent, chances are there are going to have to be some rather significant factors that are going to overcome what you now know is a horrible taste in music, as you ask yourself: “If she likes that, what else can she possibly like?”, a question that causes your eyes to go wide with fear, despite the fact that you are talking to yourself.


Time goes on. You go to school. She goes to school. Vacation occurs. She goes away. You stay home. You sulk, and listen to the appropriate music. You sit in your room imagining that she’s having all manner of fun—with someone else—and you listen to the appropriate music. She sends you the rare text (as the cell coverage doesn’t quite make it to the beach) or maybe a postcard, and you suddenly find your spirits lifting, and the appropriate musical accompaniment for that. Until you begin to sulk again. And it renews.

She comes home and (1) it is the case of absence making the heart growing fonder or (2) she unceremoniously dumps you. There is the appropriate music for that, and you listen to it. Obsessively, particularly if it is option (2).

You go to college. The music is still there. You’re exposed to more types of music. You may find that your tastes begin to change. You’re exposed to different people. And you have different relationships. Depending on the nature of those relationships, they may engender a soundtrack that is rife with meaning, meaning that maybe only the two of you understand. You flunk a class. You get a shitty job tending bar. There is music for that. You gain love. You lose love. You listen. Almost always.

You graduate college. You get a job. There is still music. Admittedly this goes beyond the teen years of the start. But pretty much, the music has less an effect on you than it previously had if for no other reason than the fact that by then you’ve been accumulating experiences, audio and otherwise, such that the newer experiences are less central, less core.

But then you discover the One. And with her, it is almost like in high school from the musical standpoint. Here there is additional, fundamental change. There is music that you share. Music that you will long remember, long after you’ve forgotten what it was that you were listening to when you went out with that woman you’d met in PolySci. She will have her music, the music that formed her sensibilities when she was a teen. It may cause you some discomfort. But that is soon passed over. You will still have your music. And for a while, your music and hers are segregated. But in time, there is a melding. She still has her tastes. You still have yours. But there is a greater tolerance that grows.

None of this is to suggest that with age you listen less. You may—thanks to the wonders of disposable income—even listen more. You can afford to go to the concerts that you once only hoped to attend. You may even get on an airplane and fly to hear one of your favorite bands. (It may be this happens post-divorce.) You hear different bands and you like them. You buy all of their music. But you still have your vinyl or your CDs, you still have your formative music. You carry it on your iPod and you listen to it in the privacy that earbuds afford. Some of that music you wonder about: what did you ever hear in that? Some of the music you like much more than the music that the bands have put out subsequently.

Some of the music brings back that girl from high school, who is now someone you could pass on the street without a second glance (unless you know that it is her, in which case you’re stopped in your tracks and you begin to wonder why, all over again), it brings back the feelings that may have been naïve, may have been immature, but were unquestionably authentic.

And you listen with your heart as much as with your ears.

But what happens as you age? What happens to the music? Does it move you as much as it once did? Can it move you as much as it once did? Yes, it will move you. But probably not with the propulsion of when you were young.

For some people it is the Beatles. For some Neil Young and Crazy Horse. For some Nirvana. For some. . . . It is their music. Theirs because of when they heard it. It is there’s in a way that nothing else ever can be.

“When the music’s over. . .turn out the lights.”

The Beatles: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Nirvana: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

2 thoughts on “Then Play On”

  1. Hmmm.

    I have to wonder if those formative years for us over 30 are going to be slightly different for the simple reason that music was not as easily accessible, available, portable, comprehensive as it is now. The resources now to investigate & mine a particular vein of sound are enormous.

    But yeah I definitely think there’s a hormonal factor that goes away to some extent.

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