I’m going to tread lightly with this column, hoping to avoid any negative trappings of ageism or inter-generational bashing. But the fact is we evolve as music fans throughout our lives. The more we listen, collect, and observe, the more knowledgeable we become.
At the same time, we develop preferences, biases, prejudices, and all manner of psychic baggage when it comes to music. And at some inevitable point, we mutter to ourselves that today’s music is nowhere near as good as it was when we were younger.
Every generation believes that the music of their youth was the greatest music of all time. You may not be down with the kids anymore and that noise they call music, but your elders thought the same of your music back in the day. And it was the same for your parents, too. Nothing to be ashamed of here. It’s the cycle of life.
Actually, the kind of musical knowledge and expertise that only comes with age should be celebrated and cherished. When you start thinking about how music has entered (and occasionally exited) your life, you begin to realize that it’s been a long, strange, wonderful journey, filled with magnificent memories.
This test will help determine just how experienced a music fan you are. Give yourself a point for each “yes” answer. And don’t forget to tally up the bonus points. (Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy and “You may be a redneck if…” routines.)
You might be an experienced music fan if…
- You ever had a car with an under-dash tape player. Give yourself one bonus point if it was made by Craig or Jensen, three bonus points if it was from Muntz.
- Your favourite part of The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was when the Wolfman played a song and then danced with Igor.
- You or someone next to you lit up a cigarette at a concert and no one said anything.
- You ever bought a new record at a furniture store, drug store, or department store.
- You ever taped songs off the radio. A bonus point if it was off an AM radio.
- You know how to program the presets on a push-button radio.
- You remember when a new Rolling Stones album was a very big deal.
- You ever stood in line overnight at a box office in order to get the best possible seats to a concert.
- You thought the big Mach 1 speakers sold at Radio Shack were pretty good, but you really wanted a set of JBLs or Cerwin-Vegas. A bonus point if you lusted after anything made by Magneplanar.
- You thought planetarium laser rock shows were cool.
- You had the request line phone number of your favourite radio station memorized. A bonus point if you had it on speed dial.
- You not only remember when albums were released on Tuesdays, but the days when an album could come out on any day of the week.
- The sound systems at concerts consisted of piles of speaker cabinets on either side of the stage instead of hanging from the rafters.
- You had to take a record back to the store because it was warped and skipped right out of the sleeve.
- You owned a piece of stereo gear made by Sansui. Three bonus points if you had a TEAC reel-to-reel machine.
- You remember when David Bowie was the weirdest person in music.
- You never missed Good Rockin’ Tonight on the CBC for your fill of new music videos.
- …you had an HMV buy-10-CDs-get-one-free card.
- .You recall when the only way to watch MTV in Canada was with a 12-foot satellite dish.
- You fought with your friends over which brand and of blank cassette tape was best. A bonus point if you argued over the proper length of a blank cassette. (The right answer to both is TDK SA C-90s.)
- Besides WinAmp, you had at least two other CD ripping programs on your desktop.
- You ever went to a show where security was provided by a local biker gang.
- The most important thing in your life was being an official member of the KISS Army. A bonus point if you still have your patch somewhere.
- That T-shirt you bought at your very first concert is still in a drawer somewhere.
- You were ever listening to a radio station and heard a record skip or played at the wrong speed.
- You couldn’t wait for the annual Radio Shack catalogue to come out.
- You saved ticket paper stubs from gigs you attended before you met your spouse.
- You went into stereo stores pretending to buy high-end speakers but really just wanted to hear your favourite albums on big systems that you could never afford.
- You lined up in the cold for the annual Sam the Record Man Boxing Day Sale. A bonus point if you ever shopped at a store during Rocktober.
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- You went back and forth between Future Shop and Majestic Sound Warehouse looking for the best deal on a piece of sound equipment.
- Your most treasured vinyl and CDs are UK imports. A bonus point if you have at least one German import. Another bonus point if you have any imports from Japan.
- You went to a record store for midnight on Monday so you could be among the first to own a hot new album when it officially went on sale at 12:01 am.
- You went to a movie and then immediately bought the soundtrack. A bonus point if you have at least two of the soundtracks to any of the John Hughes teen movies from the 1980s.
- You understand how penny (or two) might be helpful to a tonearm.
- You only bought 45s because you couldn’t afford LPs on your allowance.
- At least one friend had an all-in-one AM/FM receiver/turntable/8-track/cassette unit by a company liked Lloyds.
- You honestly believed AC/DC was over when Bon Scott died.
- Not being able to hear properly for three days after a concert was a badge of honour.
- CDs seemed like science fiction come to life.
- You remember being told that “Home Taping Was Killing Music” and didn’t care.
- Concert crowds tossed around Frisbees or beach balls before and between sets and security didn’t care.
- You bought concert tickets at ABO, CBO, or Ticketron. A bonus point if you bought tickets at your favourite record store.
- You doodled band names and logos in the back of your notebooks instead of paying attention in school.
- You understand why the best Beatles album is Revolver.
- You saw The Who with Keith Moon.
- People gazed covetously at the white headphone cord leading to your iPod.
- You agreed with all the critics who said that Led Zeppelin was crap.
- You went through a hate phase regarding synthesizer-based bands because “that wasn’t real music.”
- Punk was the scariest music out there.
- You still have a collection of music magazines because you just can’t bear to throw them out.
- You remember what you were doing when you heard that (one point) Kurt Cobain died; (two points) John Lennon died; (three points) Elvis Presley died.
- You collected the weekly charts published by your favourite radio station.
- You were in front of a TV when The Beatles played Ed Sullivan for the first time on Feb. 9, 1974. One bonus point if you immediately vowed to form your own band. Three bonus points if you did.
- You can name the Paris cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. A full ten bonus points if you’ve ever visited his grave.
- K-Tel records were THE BEST!
- You went broke buying D-cell batteries for your boombox.
- You had to settle for a Sanyo portable cassette player instead of the Sony Walkman that you really wanted.
- There was a console stereo in the living room. One bonus point if it also had a built-in TV.
- An FM radio in the car was once exotic and cool.
- You have MP3s older than your kids. One bonus point if you got at least five of them using the original Napster.
You could total up all those points if you wanted to, but if you answered “yes” to at least half of those statements, congratulations on all your experience. You may now lord it over a younger generation if you wish, but they’ll just look at you and ask “What are you talking about?”
Got any other things that define experience? Leave ’em in the comments. And feel free to share this list with all the other experienced music fans you know.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.