I'm a fan of Bon Jovi. I'll readily admit it after going years trying to hide it (it wasn't exactly fashionable for years ... and may not be now, but I'm too old for that nonsense). I think they write solid pop/rock music filled with great melodies and lots of hooks. It's not exactly prime rib, but more like that tasty, tasty hamburger you love to eat.
I'm using them as an example because, lately, I've been wondering where all the good, new music has gone. Music that moves me the way Bon Jovi's stuff did in the late 1990s. I find myself listening to the songs I listened to in high school and college a lot more now that I'm in my mid-30s. I used to be perplexed about people who listened to nothing but Lynyrd Skynyrd and classic rock radio all day. At some point, they seemed to get off the current train and simply said 'I'm staying right here in 1977.'
I was listening to Bon Jovi's These Days album on vinyl the other day and thought about how I wish they'd make another album that was as raw an honest as These Days was. That led me to this line of thought: Have they really not made a record as great as These Days or are my memories associated with the time period surrounding the These Days era so strong that nothing could ever match up, no matter how great it truly was?
I'd say with certainty that it's the latter.
When a person listens to music, they aren't just listening to the notes put down on disc or digital format, they are absorbing the notes and the memories that surround them while listening. When I hear These Days, I may not be consciously thinking about the summer/fall of 1995 and the beginning of my college years, but I am certainly not listening with completely honest, fresh ears either.
I'm subconsciously thinking about my teenage buddies Jeremy and Michael, about waiting in line to get tickets to see the band on the These Days tour (Nashville. Sept. 18, 1995 at Starwood Amphitheater, seventh - and then first - row), about hearing my friend Daron blasting Something For The Pain from his sweet blue Mustang's CD player (I still had a tape deck in my red 1987 Ford Ranger), about working in that awful factory (Mohon International) the summer after high school and listening to the tape every day, about how lonely college was at the start and how that tape was my friend and about the many, many miles I drove listening to that album while I was delivering pizzas for Domino's to pay for my college.
How can anything new Bon Jovi puts out now compare with that long list of defining memories? Music means a ton to me, as it always has. However, back then, music meant almost everything. I was completely obsessed. I was also in my transformative years. Figuring things out on my own for the first time. Often lonely, often confused, my mind going a million miles an hour.
I try to keep all of that in mind when I complain about there not being any good music out today or when I complain about my favorite "legacy" bands not putting out decent albums anymore. The truth is, the stuff's probably not that bad but it simply can't compete with the powerful memories of the past when my favorite songs were the soundtrack of my life.
On another note, there are simply too many choices today. In 1995, I had that one These Days tape to keep me company all summer/fall (granted I had other music, but not more than 25-30 cassette tapes). Today, the album consists of 12 of my 18,000+ songs. But, that's another post for another day.
Music vs. memories. Memories will win every time.