Fight for Your Right to Not Party

Something you may have noticed: most of these entries are about old records. This is partly because there are fewer new records that are 45s– although there are more and more and more these days and I hope to write about them, too– and partly because they, at one point, had some resonance in my life, and because they did, I can talk about my life, and because I can talk about my life, you can know me. It also gives me an excuse to listen to records that I already know and explore them the way one explores a hand or a place along a riverbank or a worn tool or a photo you’ve kept in your pocket ever since you were fourteen. Because there’s a base of understanding or appreciation or love, I force myself a little deeper into learning them, or learning why I love them. New songs are great and new songs replenish, but, like a lot of things (and a lot of people), you understand them better after you’ve known them awhile. I’d merely be skimming, I think, if I only wrote about music I’d just heard. I’d be writing about first impressions, and while those are okay for reviews, they’re not as heavy a shovel or as wide a truncheon when it comes to breaking music apart. So, most of these entries are about old records. Last week, Noah Baumbach, talking about aging and music, said that he found himself listening to whatever radio station was mostly likely to play “Boys of Summer.” AD Rock of the Beasties Boys said here–– that he listens to no new music because young bands don’t want him to be their audience. “Also, I don’t wanna be that old guy at the club,” he said. It’s comforting, sortof, to know that this is a normal thing that happens when you love an art form that is, generally, best when it is young, even though you are no longer young. Two years ago, I was in Brisbane, Australia, and discovered that Big Boi was playing. I bought tickets, went to the club, and watched the opening band (a rapper whose name escapes me) in relative peace and comfort on the relative emptiness of the dance floor. Then the room started to fill up. I was the oldest person there by about 20 years, which was fine by me until the band appeared and the club grew very tight with bodies (again, less fine by me, but still fine). Then came the heat, the smoke, the volume and a small girl whose piston-dancing to my right threatened to crack a rib, maybe two. At first, I didn’t think she was trying to hurt me, but after five songs, and a weakened physical state, I thought that maybe she was. She dug hard and pistoned faster, and, after a few more songs, I was done. I carved my way out of the crowd and walked home, utterly exhausted and sore. I didn’t feel bad. I understood that, in a way, it was part of the club kid’s job: to test me, to see if I could handle it, which I could not. New music is bright and beautiful and (mostly) young and because kids have time on their hands, they have time to create new rock and roll (I call all music “rock and roll,” by the way). But I can’t pretend it’s necessarily for me or that it wants me. I had my era, and my time, and I gave it everything. And if I want to listen to or write about an old song– “Fight For Your Right (to Party)”– and why it’s one of the ten greatest rock songs ever recorded, it’s how I feel. If a kid reads this, hates this, and thinks I’m just an old fucker, that’s ok, too, because part of being young and being a young musician is to despise whatever is in your way, and, starting out, every preceding generation dominates the one that follows, at least in the beginning. This is life, and so is wanting to hear “Boys of Summer” when everything else seems new and foreign and unspeakably boundless in energy. Your ribs take their shots, and you move on. You drive home in your Lexus and your kids are asleep.

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