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April 29, 2007

Timing and the Digging of Pop Culture

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Not long ago I wrote about Ice Cream vs. Sherbet and mentioned that the cowboy character Hopalong Cassidy's picture was on the inside lids of Dixie Cups containing an ice cream - sherbet mix.

What I didn't mention was that I was not a Hoppy fan. I was a couple of years too old, it seems.

Age differences can be a huge thing for many youngsters, me included. Moreover, age differences have effects in inverse proportion to one's age.

For instance, I recall from Kindergarten days that first graders would taunt us on the playground by crying out "Kindy-garten BAAY-bees!!" And those first graders seemed a whole lot bigger and older than us, so we simply kept our mouths shut and put up with the taunting.

When I was a first or second grader we once went up to the upper floor of the school and were walked through an eighth grade classroom. Those eighth graders (they were around age 13) seemed like adults to me. They were really big like my parents and the boys had hairy legs showing above the socks.

As I noted, age differences seem to lessen as one ages. Though it wasn't until I was perhaps a Junior in high school that girls only a year younger became "interesting." As college Freshmen, Seniors seemed noticeably more mature than us. Matter of fact, it was the cooler, older heads in my frat house that kept initiation hazing from getting dangerously out of bounds. (See here for my post on Hell Week.)

As for the title of this post, here's the deal with me and pop culture icon Elvis Presley. Elvis hit the national scene in a big way in 1956. I was a high school senior the fall of that year. Junior girls were going mad over the guy. (My wife, who was a high school Junior that year, just told me that yes indeed she was an Elvis fan.) But not suave, sophisticated 16 or 17 year-old me. I thought Elvis was kid stuff.

You know what? I've never really cared much for Elvis. Had I been born a year or more later, I might have dug him.



posted by Donald at April 29, 2007


Maybe the biggest age divide of all was between those who thought the '60s were the Second Coming and those, just a few years older, who smelt a rat.

Posted by: ricpic on April 30, 2007 8:56 AM

I read something a while back, though I cannot remember where, that the style of music that is at its peak when you are 19 years old - yes, it's that specific - is likely to stick with you for much of your life.

Posted by: Peter on April 30, 2007 10:45 AM

That was the way I was about "Star Wars" - just a couple of years too old for it - oh, I went to see it and all, but I never totally geeked out about it, the way guys just a few years younger than me did. This was certainly not because of any sophistication or aesthetic sense on my part - I just missed the "Star Wars window", is all...

Posted by: tschafer on April 30, 2007 11:30 AM

It always amazes me when I learn that one of my thirtysomething colleagues (as in people close to my age) was into New Kids on the Block, or the Smurfs, or some other "baby" thing. The two or three years I have on them means nothing now, but it meant a world of difference when I was 13 and they were 10.

I quit listening to the Top 10 pop hits at age 14, when I "discovered" both classical music and the Beatles (in that order). So much of what I enjoy most now was written in the '60s ... the 1760s and the 1960s, and many of the years in between.

Here's a long but amusing post about how I discovered the Beatles in 1985 ...

Posted by: Waterfall on April 30, 2007 1:32 PM

It always amazes me when I learn that one of my thirtysomething colleagues (as in people close to my age) was into New Kids on the Block, or the Smurfs, or some other "baby" thing. The two or three years I have on them means nothing now, but it meant a world of difference when I was 13 and they were 10.

On a similar note, people just a few years younger than me watched Sesame Street as small children, while I was too old for it.

Posted by: Peter on April 30, 2007 9:42 PM

Perusing Wikipedia...

Wow, "The Sign" (Ace of Base) hit in 1994? The South Park episode with the iceman from 1996 (itself made in 1999, I think) has his museum exhibit playing "The Sign", with a "Fargo" poster.

If I recall correctly, I've more or less been able to pick up what I consider decent pop songwriting as I go along. In 1993 I was of course listening to Nirvana, but also likely to be playing mid-60's Simon & Garfunkel, mid-70's Billy Joel, or mid-80s Cyndi Lauper. In retrospect, these guys helped me through the chaff that was more generational identity than good sounds or humane art.

Posted by: J. Goard on April 30, 2007 10:25 PM

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