Beer and Pavement

The End of the Boomer Age

Posted in Manifesto, Pavement by SM on April 2, 2010

Slate1 proclaimed that the oncoming Pavement reunion signaled “the end of baby boomer cultural hegemony” and I couldn’t be happier. We finally don’t have to be hit over the head with the British InvasionTM, WoodstockTM, MotownTM, or Vietnam® at every cultural turn and Time/Life special offer2 until our cerebrums are numb and too full to remember any of our own childhoods. Generation X is finally relevant.

I’ve felt like my entire childhood and a large part of my young adulthood has been hijacked by the Boomer Generation and resulting cultural output. I grew up thinking the Stones and Motown were the beginning and end of music3. Movies like Stand By Me and Mermaids4 dominated theaters. Rolling Stone was the cultural Bible, telling us what was hot and proclaiming the next Dylan5 or Scorsese at every turn. Boomer mainstays dominated pop culture. Boomer culture dominated society. It wasn’t my experiences that counted; it was the experiences of my parents which shaped my memories.

This appropriation of my experiences and interests has been confounded by the adoption of younger generations (including my own) of the Boomer aesthetic. I can’t go anywhere without running into a 20-year-old hippie6 or a hipster7 with a bushy mustache and afro a la 1973. And the music…Kids with iTunes libraries filled with Beatles, Doors, and Grateful Dead make me ill. All this may explain my distaste for hippies and hipsters. Watching younger generations lose their youth to Boomers frustrates the hell out of me.

So, when Slate made their proclamation, I could not fully express my relief in our culture’s escape from beneath the foot of the Boomer leviathan. Of course, with that release comes the inevitable takeover of custom by my own generation, X. While this is a good development for me and my escaping youth, it might not be very nice to those out there who are younger and trying to create their own culture and experiences8.

There has been a rash of eighties and nineties aesthetics popping up everywhere, completely ignoring any new or original thought. Besides Pavement’s reunion, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion9, Pearl Jam10, and Soundgarden are all reuniting this summer. Check the Tumblr blog Look at This Fucking Hipster for plenty of retro eighties looks. Movies like The Wackness or Clerks 211 inundate the young with Gen X with that 90’s flavor. We’re everywhere…much like the Boomers have been everywhere for the past three or so decades.

I don’t know if this is better or worse. I’m just happy that the Boomer’s stranglehold on our pop culture is over. Thank you Slate, but more importantly, thank you Pavement for ending this reign of tyranny at the hands of the Baby Boomer generation. Bring on the Generation X nostalgia12!

1Where I met my wife.
2Only four easy payments of $19.99 (+$19.99 s/h)!
3To some degree, this may be true, but we are so far removed from that era of music that I actually prefer more material from the past 15-20 years than I do from the 60’s.
4I could go on and on about movies from 1975 to 1995 that featured stories set in the 50’s or 60’s. It was as if the only worthwhile stories to be told happened when Boomers were kids.
5Granted, Dylan is a modern-day genius and living legend. I have no problem with him, except that the man now mumbles into a microphone and is handed three Grammies instantaneously just for showing up. I find him unwatchable and nearly unlistenable in recent years, meaning the last 20.
6 A distaste that has been well-documented.
7I am somewhat ambivalent about hipsters. They at least are often trying to do something new and unique. We often enjoy the same music as well. Generally, I find them quaint, even harmless.
8Primarily, my daughter. So, she will just have to grow up listening to Pavement and Guided By Voices while watching anything with Harvey Keitel’s penis or Werner Herzog eating a shoe. We Gen X’ers love that shit.
9 A Jehovah’s Witness came knockin’ on my door on a Saturday while I was laying in bed with my wife! OR Take a whiff of my pant-leg, Baby!
10Wait. Did Pearl Jam break up? They might as well have. It’s been so long since they mattered. I lost touch with them when they fought Ticketmaster…and still found a way to charge $30 a ticket for their shows.
11To reveal my age, I saw the original in the theater. We had a great art house theater across the street from my college campus. I worked in the mail room over the winter break and saw a ton of movies over those two or three weeks.
12Actually, don’t. I think I’m tired of nostalgia all together.

19 Responses

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  1. carriethewade said, on April 2, 2010 at 6:06 am

    pardon my french, but WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THE BEATLES, MAN?
    It’s one thing to be aware of the past and know the music your music references, but it’s another thing to fetishize it, which is where you can take issue all you want.
    But don’t knock the fucking Beatles doing it. I’m sorry someone somewhere has ruined the beatles for you…it’s really your loss big time on this one.

    dylan has even admitted that his music sucks now (well, in 2004 he said it wasn’t anywhere as near as good as it used to be).

  2. builderofcoalitions said, on April 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I don’t think I have a problem with the Beatles (or any band from the Boomer era). I have a bigger problem with the surrounding around them. It’s as if Boomers know more about music because they listened to the Beatles growing up. They don’t know any songs on Abbey Road or the White Album, but they know who the Beatles are.

    See, it has way less to do with the music and more to do with the essentialist attitude toward that music. It’s as if no worthwhile music was created after 1969.

    I appreciate the Beatles and what they did. They started out as an Nsynch and finished as a Radiohead or Wilco. I get the imprint they’ve left on music, but I don’t think music ended when they broke up.

  3. carriethewade said, on April 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    “They started out as an Nsynch and finished as a Radiohead or Wilco”
    -disagree big time.
    maybe in terms of fan following, but in terms of musical quality there is no modern analog.

  4. builderofcoalitions said, on April 3, 2010 at 3:21 am

    No, I was not trying to make that analogy. However, in the context of their respective music scenes, the Beatles filled the same niche early in their careers as Nsynch did for all of theirs. That and I’d argue a Radiohead or Wilco release is as anticipated, scrutinized, and canonized just as much as a Beatles release in their prime, like it or not.

    My point was more that I was expressing my appreciation for just how quickly the Beatles developed in a decade. No other band moved from teen/tween sensations to highly respected and uber artistic in…well, ever. It’s pretty remarkable.

    See, I’m really not anti-Beatle. My point is that their legacy is pushed upon us by people who don’t even truly appreciate their place in music history. It’s just accepted that they, Motown, any movie depicting soldiers in Vietnam or kids growing up circa 1960, etc. are the peek of art or at least entertainment. I’m ready to move on from the Boomers’ domination of popular culture. Aren’t you?

  5. Carrie said, on April 5, 2010 at 3:19 am

    We’re all stuck somewhere, whether we actually belong there or not.

  6. Carrie said, on April 5, 2010 at 3:20 am

    (note: I originally typed out a long response about how I never felt dominated by any culture, even having been raised by boomers [older parents], but decided it really just boiled down to that one point.)

  7. builderofcoalitions said, on April 5, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Well, I don’t think we ever are, especially in times where cultures are so mixed and globalized as they are today. A lot of us (those raised by Boomers) can transcend their influence, but a lot more of our generation(s) just accept the Boomer experience as their own. Maybe it’s not the Boomers’ fault then. I’m just glad that my generation’s influence is surpassing the Boomers’ so that my daughter can one day complain about Pavement, Kevin Smith films, and 9/11.

    • Jeff said, on April 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      Some of your contemporaries (like me) are already complaining about Pavement, Kevin Smith films, and 9/11. (Well, not complaining about Pavement, I don’t know them well enough to. But if you keep up the pressure, I someday might begin to appreciate them.)

      Regarding the rest of your post:

      “I’ve felt like my entire childhood and a large part of my young adulthood has been hijacked by the Boomer Generation and resulting cultural output.”

      Here’s the problem. Your feelings are wrong. Your childhood/young adulthood wasn’t hijacked by anything. You’ve always been free to accept or reject any part of culture that you want.

      It might be fun to analyze cultural trends, etc. but to actually be a *victim* to it… I just don’t get it.

      Oh, and the Beatles rock. End of fucking story. (Sorry, channeling Bill Hicks.)

      • builderofcoalitions said, on April 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

        Oh, and I think that I have accepted and rejected parts of the culture that I want. My point is that, like religion or family traditions, Boomer culture has dominated my cultural exposure. Certainly, I’ve rejected it, most of it. The point was that we’ve moved into a new era, a post-Boomer era. This post was more about that cultural shift than a woe-is-me sentiment.

        I’m not really sure why the Beatles stuff is resonating so much. I never bashed the Beatles in the post. It’s what they represent that irks me. Now is the time to recognize Pavement as bastions of culture and progress or something like that.

        Man, you two are sensitive.

      • Jeff said, on April 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm

        “Kids with iTunes libraries filled with Beatles, Doors, and Grateful Dead make me ill.”

        It’s true that you didn’t bash the Beatles per se. But kids with Beatles in their iTunes library makes you ill? Really?

        I think the problem with bashing the Beatles (not saying this is what you’re doing) is it’s like bashing Bach or Chopin or Miles Davis. The Beatles are revered (by both the population at large and by critics and snobs) because they wrote music of timeless beauty and sophistication.

        I’ll give you The Doors and the Grateful Dead though. Especially The Doors. Blech.

        “I’m just happy that the Boomer’s stranglehold on our pop culture is over.”

        It’s the generational “changing of the guard.” Same as it ever was. Lather, rinse, repeat.

        I will say this though: the “Boomer hegemony”, to the extent that it actually exists, has, you’ll have to admit, a lot more wrapped up in it than just music. The struggle for civil rights and equal rights for womyn and the backlash against the Vietnam war were pretty historically significant. And pretty closely tied with the music and culture of the time.

        Gen-Xers never had a Vietnam or successful mass politically galvanizing event.

  8. builderofcoalitions said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Well, I focus on the music because that’s what I do on this blog.

    I also think the Boomer generation takes way too much credit for the changes which occurred during their lifetimes. What are they doing now? Where’s that commitment to peace and making this world better now? I’d argue they’ve lost their way, but that may be a post in the making.

    I’m not saying my (our) generation is better than generations before or after, I was just expressing some sentiments about that cycle of which you referred.

    • carriethewade said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm

      What Jeff pointed to was what kind of set me off because I’m “a kid with the full beatles catalog on my itunes.”

      The boomer generation shows the kind of mass momentum of culture that people can fall under and follow blindly–a lot (not all) of them are the same people who turned to Reagan after the lost years of the 1970s as an attempt to recover from and forget the historical/cultural/political missteps of the 1960s. That’s what happened to the hippy-dippy idealism.
      And Sometimes it returns in flashes like Hendrix t-shirts at Wal-Mart and Clinton’s eagerness to be associated with the socially progressive movements of the1960s (even though he was more of the golden-boy democrat Kennedy’s political pedigree), and Gen-Xer’s desperate attempts to outshine their parents with reincarnations of Woodstock throughout the 1990s. Even culture that tries to defy what previously was uses it as a referent.

      It’s basically a whole big nasty cycle of misremembering and bullshit [reactionary] nostalgia (E> you, P.Roth).

      • builderofcoalitions said, on April 5, 2010 at 6:03 pm

        I think that idea of blindly following someone else’s nostalgia (or something like that) is what I’m getting at. I have long grown tired of Boomers and their self-importance, but it probably bothers me more that anyone under 40 idealizes that era.

        BTW, I have Stones, Beatles, Velvet Underground, Dylan, Drake, etc. on my iPod (or somewhere in my collection). My point was not to bash the music, just celebrate that I’m now relevant.

        (Man, you two keep me on my toes and away from completing my work.)

    • Jeff said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

      “I’d argue they’ve lost their way, but that may be a post in the making.”

      Ooh! I wanna read that!

  9. doublewordscore said, on April 8, 2010 at 3:29 am

    This post’s discussion is only a couple of days old, and I’m already feeling a little nostalgic for it. Maybe you guys could do a reunion discussion or something.

  10. doublewordscore said, on April 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    If not everyone’s in, I’d be willing to audition. It wouldn’t be the original lineup, but I think we’d be okay as long as we could carry on under the original name.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm

      Why don’t you write a response and post the link here. Be sure to egg Carrie and Jeff on so that they jump in with guns blazing. (For Carrie, bash the Beatles. For Jeff, just say something about how much he likes Miller Light.)

  11. doublewordscore said, on April 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Then is it really a reunion, or are we creating original material? I’m not nostalgic for the new stuff…

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