I finally caught a full episode of Glee tonight as I was puttering on my computer. I haven’t got all the story lines straight, but they seem relatively trite and as far as I can tell, it’s about a song-and-dance club at a high school that competes against the inevitable bad-guy club at another school. Meanwhile, the group is made up of students from pretty much all the stereotypes, boy-band style, with the right touch of conflict among the adults to set up everyone involved to learn valuable life lessons.
Despite being formulaic, it’s entertaining. And despite the worst lip-synching since Milli Vanilli, the soundtrack is awesome. And that made me think about some of the other really great eras of music that I’ve lived through so far.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch much television (and the two hours I was allowed to watch, I had to sit down with the weekly TV guide and highlight the programs in advance). Instead, I sat and listened to my parents’ records in front of the stereo. Jim Croce, Kenny Rogers, Peter, Paul & Mary, John Denver, Olivia Newtown John, the Beatles. I knew the folk and disco era because I listened to it on wax and later came back as an adult to fold it into the rest of what I loved.
The 80’s were a strange mixture of glam rock and rap. I switched back and forth between Metallica and Iron Maiden, and Kool Moe Dee and LL Kool J. There were appearances by Stryper and NWA. Motley Crue and Whitesnake graced my jean jacket in the form of buttons.
The 90’s is the decade that I’m most nostalgic for, which is odd given that it’s generally thought to be the void in quality music between eras. But those years brought harder rock and grunge and a lot of exploration for me in terms of new fronts of music. My Saginaw Rock City experience (coming in another post soon) with Pete and Eric was in 1990; dancing on the tables at fraternity parties to Pearl Jam; front row seats to REM and U2; forays into various DC venues to hear great new bands.
Tonight’s episode of Glee was called “Funk” after the feeling that supposedly set in on the club when their opponents in the upcoming regional finals tried to intimidate them. The soundtrack included Parliament, Beck, Rufus, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Queen and James Brown — there might have been more, but I haven’t consulted an episode guide. Those were all songs that struck me and resonated because I know them so well. Whoever the music director is for this program is earning twice their salary.
Music still happens for me, to the extent that I can catch great bands on occasion at places like the State Theater or the Drafthouse, but it’s not a major element in my life the way it was. Hearing throwbacks on shows like Glee may not endear me any further to network writers, but it’s a fantastic prompt to remember the things that used to matter so much.