I’m going to make a lot of people quite angry with this post. If I don’t, I’ll go back to the drawing board and try again ;) (OK. maybe I won’t make anyone mad, but we’ll see)
A couple of weeks ago I went into a franchise of a large chain “sit-down”/mid-tier restaurant. The place wasn’t crowded, but it was far from empty. There were a few tables of 20-somethings, obviously friends out for a group dinner, but most tables were young families with the parents in their late-20s to mid-30s and their toddler kids. Most of the staff were in their late-teens to early-20s. In other words, discounting the young children, the vast majority of people were roughly in a 15-year age range from very late teens to early thirties.
I noticed the music almost as soon as I walked in. They were playing a song I hadn’t heard since I was a teen. After we sat down I continued to listen. The music was all mid-to-late 1970s mainstream rock and roll. There was no pop, no R&B, no funk and no disco. Nor were there any of the more fringe rock genre, like heavy metal, prog-rock (not even “prog-light”, like ELO or Styxx), no glam or anything experimental like Brian Eno. There was none of the emerging genres, such as punk and new wave. It was all safe, mainstream rock, what you’d hear on any “This City’s Home of Rock” radio stations back in the day.
I have a confession. I sometimes listen to ‘70s music. But when I do, it is more the fringe music, like The Talking Heads, or Yes or (pre-Wall) Pink Floyd. I even listen to some other things, like Stevie Wonder. I almost never listen to mainstream rock.
I was unconsciously enjoying the music. Most of the songs were things I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. Back in the day, this (mid-to-late 1970’s mainstream rock) would have been the radio soundtrack to my youth and even into my early teen years. I was happily humming along in my brain (nothing out loud) and mentally tapping my toe (no real tapping) along with it.
And then I noticed something.
The conversation of all of the millennials around me was in a totally different cadence from the music I was listening to. They were out of synch. Once I heard the voices, it grated against the music. The people were living at a different tempo from the music.
I started to pay attention and realized that all of the music was slow. No, these weren’t ballads or slow songs, these were (mostly) blues based, mainstream rock songs. But they had a relaxed feel, almost mellow. They ambled along, not in a particular hurry to get anywhere. “Take it Easy”, the Eagles sang in a low key, mellow way. Nothing was harsh. No edginess. Very laid back. Never in your face. Take it easy all of it said.
I remember a few things about that era. Kids would sit and listen to music. They didn’t do anything else. They didn’t talk, read, play games. watch TV, etc. They actually listened. Another thing is that many used a certain mind altering herb, which was known to mellow people, make them relaxed. As I listened, I suddenly thought of people taking a toke, nodding to the slow rhythm of the rock song, and saying, “Yeah, man, that’s pretty cool.” I almost laughed out loud….
I thought about it and something that I knew came to mind – the pace of life has totally changed. We are rushed, rushed, rushed. It isn’t new. It really started in the 1980s, where you had to claw and climb and fight and push to get anything done. The entire world seemed to have develop ADHD in 1980. The 30 minute long songs of prog bands from the 70s disappeared in 1981 and those same bands put out 3 minute pop singles to survive (Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, all. Those that didn’t went the way of the dodo.) The songs became shorter and the tempo increased. As did life. Life accelerated. I remember being in Italy in the late 1990s and having an almost impossible time slowing down to their pace. Life was so much more relaxed there. And that is how it used to be in the US. At least for kids in the 1970s.
There are people out there trying to slow down the pace of life. It is very unhealthy to live at a constant 200 mph go. We are over-stimulated, over stressed and over-tired. We need to slow down and smell the roses, enjoy life. We need to remember how to sit back and just listen to music.
Perhaps that chain restaurant is on to something.