Where did Bing, Frank and Perry go?
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 by Ron Cruger
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          We were done with our Sunday tennis. Most of the men playing on this day fell into the “mature” category. None of us were younger than fifty years old. The discussion turned, as it often does, to the aches and pains we acquire from playing tennis. The regular topic of which pain killers and anti-inflammatories were most beneficial was discussed.
          As the discussion lagged I packed my equipment and walked to my parked car. I turned the key to start the engine and, without thinking, hit the button to turn on the radio as I’ve done a few thousand times before. And, as it has done a few thousand times before, the sounds of National Public Radio came on through the car’s speakers.
          That’s the station I listen to, almost exclusively, except when there is an emergency situation or weather threatens, in which case I tune to KNX radio from Los Angeles.
          As I left the parking area I thought back to those days of long ago when I would listen to Casey Kasem and his “Top 40” music hits of the week. I hadn’t heard Kasem’s voice in over twenty five years so I decided to hit the “seek” button on the radio and catch up on a long over due contact with what’s happening on current radio. Miracle of miracles, the third station that came on bore the voice of Casey Kasem. He sounded older, raspier, a bit more tired, but it was Casey Kasem, introducing the eighth most popular song of the week – some offering by a group called “Linkin Park.” The arrangement was sung by a young man with a weak, dull voice, backed by a drummer no doubt suffering from a hyperactive thyroid and a guitarist and back up singers inflicted with tone deafness.
          The list of songs reaching the top 40 were performed by the following groups, “Against Me!”, “Atreyu,” “Nada Surf,” “Jimmy Eatworld,” “Spoon,” and “Skillet.”
          Some of the top rap songs of the week were performed by “Afroman,” “Ludacris,” “50-Cent,” “Kanye West,” and “Corbin Blue.”
          I was drawing blanks.
          A recent list of top albums included, “Brighter Than by Creation’s Dark,” by “Drive by Truckers.” “Distortion,” by “Magnetic Fields.” “Safe Inside the Day,” by “Baby Dee.”
          More blanks.
          Billboard’s number one this week is an album called, “Step Up 2 the Streets,” with “Flo Rida featuring “T-Pain.”
          I guess it’s time to admit that I’m out of it. The music of today has passed me by, as have a number of other things.
          It’s time to confess that I’ve never seen “Facebook,” “My Space,” “Meetup,” “iVillage,” “Flickr,” or “Topica.” Some of the most popular web sites on the internet.
          I can’t stand hearing rap clamor, which sounds like “anti-music.”
          When I first listened to Casey Kasem and his original top 40 songs of the week they were performed by B.B. King, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, Neil Young, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, The Beatles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. You know, love songs, ballads, broken love affairs. Understandable and gentle lyrics. Talented musicians, with an understanding of music. That was the 1970’s.
          And so, my memories of popular music are reaching back almost four decades.
          I recognize the names of some the modern stars because I’ve read about them and their altercations with police or their spoiled outbursts at award shows. I know of some of their names only because of the obscene lengths they will go to appear on those annoying “Access Hollywood” type shows.
          You can put the different genres of punk rock, hip hop, rap, grunge and all the rest in a blender, grind them up and dispose of them as far as I’m concerned. Take all of that electroclash, stink rock, retro glam and psych stuff and place it not too carefully in the closest Dempsey Dumpster.
          Music started changing in the 1980’s. A younger (than me) crowd were buying the CD’s and tickets to the concerts. The 1980’s brought “AC/DC,” “Judas Priest,” “Motorhead,” “The Clash,” “Guns ‘n Roses” and “Van Halen” to the top 40.
          The 1990’s featured, “Poison,” “Tesla,” “L.A. Guns,” “Ratt” and “Jesus & Mary Chain” to the forefront. They made millions selling records and appearing in concerts.
          And where was I? I was still listening to those old vinyl LP’s with soft and gentle sounds from Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, Linda Ronstadt, Perry Como, Elvis, The Beatles, Elton John and Neil Diamond.
          If our music accurately represents the true temperament of our times I worry about the generations that revel in the grunge, rap, hip-hop and angry music of the day. The distortion, the annoying, pounding drum beats that fizz and screech behind so many of these popular songs illustrate the frustrations and anger of our youth. What we are hearing is far more than rap and hip-hop music. We are listening to young people with an amount of resentment, hard feelings and umbrage expressed in their music.
          We cannot say that our youth are wrong in feeling their frustrations. The music is representing their consciousness. I can’t help but feel that the anger and frustrations we hear in the music of today is somehow buried in the hearts of so many of our young people.
          What we are listening to is far more than the idle beat of a drum or the picking at the strings of a guitar or a rhyming of a bitter, acrid bit of rap poetry.
          Listen closely and you will hear the shouting of our youth. I don’t like to hear it, but it is there for us to hear. 
          It might be wise to pay attention to these sounds.