So Elton John sings in Crocodile Rock, originally released in 1972. I have listened to this song many times but the most recent time my iPod randomly throw it at me I just happend to notice and ponder that line. Just how old was Rock & Roll then anyway? The song specifically refers to Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley from 1954, one of the songs that popularised the injecting or urban blues into popular music. So, in other words, the youth of a musical genre was passed by the time it was eighteen? Is that right? Do genres age quicker than humans? And if they age quicker then do they have a shorter life expectancy too? That last one - whether Rock & Roll still lives - is a topic for another time. For now I will just muse on the aging of the thing even in its teens.
By the time Elton was singing it seems that a lot had changed in music from the mid-50s. And so too for me it seems that, looking back at that time, a time in which I never existed, since I too was produced in 1972, that a lot had changed. The characteristics that define (say) 1954 and distinguish it from 1972 seem significant. The music, movies, fashions, designs, political and cultural developments all seem to present to us two very different eras. However, if I look back to 1990, also a distance of eighteen years, then do I get the same sense of difference? For me in many ways 1990 and 2008 feel much more akind to one another than do 1954 and 1972. Life in a lot of ways seems similar. Of course my own circumstances have changed from then till now but still there are many things uniting these two times in my life.
But then that is the key to this whole discussion. I can compare my personal experiences of 1990 and 2008 because I have lived those times - been a young adult in those times - which is something I cannot do for comparing 1954 with 1972. For those past times that I never experienced I rely on history and in doing so I draw on and compare those things that popular history thrives on. The big things like pop culture icons and major events. While in comparing times I have experienced I am much more likely to draw on the things that define ones personal life from day-to-day. And it is because of this that I am likely to see greater difference in the older times and greater sameness in the newer times. History focuses on differences and on defining moments. Life however focuses on the things that stay the same like sleep and food and friends and family. With all that in mind I may overlook big changes like (say) the replacing of the Cold War bipolar world with a multipolar world and its half-arsed War on Terror or (also say) the proliferation of all sorts of electronic music.
Does the pace of change alter speed from decade to decade? How would one ever assess that anyway? I wonder if others feel the same or differently...