Friday, March 16, 2012

Strawberry Fields .... Forever?

I really had to hand it to Ringo Starr for his comments in this Billboard Magazine article; however, I also had to note that this was not the first time society has experienced "unaware kids", even in the age of the Internet.  Due to the nature of just being kids, some level of unawareness, otherwise known as inexperience, is bound to pop up eventually.

While some might argue that it would make more sense for kids to do a Google search on names such as Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr before publicly tweeting or posting blunt questions such as "who the hell is that?", the reality is that the rapid convenience of blogs and Twitter has mysteriously prohibited some young people's abilities to effectively look up such information themselves. 

Step into the time machine with me once again and let me take you back to about 1994 for a story on The Beatles and general "unawareness."  I was almost 22 years old that year, a first-year senior in college, and armed to the teeth with a dial-up modem connection to the world and a roaring 486 personal computer.  At the time, the Internet was beginning its meteoric rise and engines such as Netscape and America On Line (AOL) were two powerful, pre-eminent, Windows-based, graphical user interfaces available; both of which eliminated the need to type command lines and allowed us to view pictures as well as text content.

As the World Wide Web emerged thanks to our ability to access it with Netscape, the attraction of newsgroups also flourished, and at that time, I blogged (before there was such a word!) primarily on the Steely Dan and Beatles newsgroup boards.

The Beatles board in particular received a lot of traffic then because new compact-disc editions of the group's entire catalogue were being released for the first time.  It was the 30th Anniversary of Beatlemania in America, and Capitol Records (EMI) was milking the profit machine for all it could.  As a result, as adults raced into the record stores to get the same albums they owned on vinyl -- now on CD -- their kids saw the Beatles albums advertised and heard them played overhead.  Rather than ask their parents about the group (so uncool), they naturally sought out places on the Internet where they could ask (other, older) fans about the music. 

At the same time, the newsgroups were a great place for the kids to log on and educate us presumed "old farts" that BRITNEY SPEARS ROCKS FOREVER!!! and THE BEATLES SUCK!!!!!  That I could stand; that was just a fourteen year old being rebelliously and immaturely fourteen.  However, at least the kids still knew who Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr were.  What they didn't know was the jargon that accompanied the "archaic" recordings.

Growing up with vinyl records, we Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers took it for granted that everyone and his sister knew what a 45 RPM single was.  We figured everyone knew what 33 1/3 LP meant and how this was different from an EP.  We even dared to assume that everyone on the board knew what a "record" even was. 

We were wrong.  Times were changing.  Almost daily, someone, usually a ten to fifteen year old (who, by the way, would be in his or her 30s now!) first asked "What's an LP?   What's 45 RPM mean?  Vinyl?" and then of course never neglected to remind us that BRITNEY RULES!!!

At first, most people on the boards nicely answered their questions. Invariably, after the daily onslaught, fans grew weary, and an FAQ was finally drawn up.  After that, the kids were mocked, told off by the fans that felt they didn't have time to answer idiotic questions like these.  The fans wanted to talk about the music and in egregiously nerdy detail!   They wanted to dive into Lennon's incredible use of the mellotron in the psychedelic period of the group (1966-1970 - think tapes playing backwards and the electronic flute sound on "Strawberry Fields Forever" and you've got it.)   They wanted to discuss who was a better songwriter and/or lyricist: Lennon, McCartney, or neither, opting instead for the "Dark Horse", George Harrison.  They wanted to know how Paul and Linda were doing with their new vegetarian frozen food line.  The last thing they wanted to be was a New Webster's Dictionary of technological wonders of the 1960s and virtual babysitters for pre-pubescent Britneyphiles.

Fast-forward to today and no one is even talking about Britney anymore.  Eighteen years later, it's the kids of the kids I was just talking about that are asking for verification of a pop legend's identity.  Now it's all about Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Pitbull, and who the hell is Paul McCartney

(As an aside chuckle in retrospect, if the teenybopper set even knows who McCartney is --- and most assume that they do and that the Twitter trend was really a big joke --- it likely didn't help his image to have released an easy-listening standards album.  It no doubt missed the ears of the Beliebers and Gaga-monsters.  They just probably figured it was some old guy singing some really old songs on the Grammies.  Time passes.  Paul probably doesn't care and why should he!  He's hitting his demographic square-on and selling well.)

The fleeting world of the young is not a new phenom; the juvenile pronouncements today are exactly the same as they were on the Beatle UseNet boards in 1994.  With this, we can safely assume that the next generation in 2030 will be asking us  ... "what's a CD?   What's an mp3?  What's an iPod?" -- and amazed that we used to TYPE STUFF?  (So uncool.)

Ringo's attitude is right on the mark; he knows who he is, what he has achieved, his undisputed place in history, and perhaps the most important thing that comes with age, security, maturity, and experience --- knowing that kids will be always be kids. 

Best always,


Kathryn Ballard Shut
TIMKAT Entertainment
Denver, CO, USA

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