One night my father sat me down — I was about 10 — and sternly explained that we we’re going to spend t the nigh listening to “records.” One by one my dad played me the best albums of 1967. He described what Jim Morrison looked like when he would writhe around on stage with The Doors. Pops told me where he was when he first heard Jimmi Hendrix. It was the first time I’d heard Janis Joplin and I was sure that if my soul could make a sound it would be Joplin’s growl. He closed the 3 hour set by introducing me to Bob Dylan. I didn’t listen to a single album released before 1970 for a very long time.
So you would assume that I still have a burning sense of outrage when Dylan or The Who is used to score commercials like this one:
The same songs my parents cherished, the very ones that I valorized are used sell sodas, cars and bras. and life insurance. This is nothing new of course. Every mega company eventually trots out some wrinkly 60’s icon to brand a mundane product like life insurance as rebellious or hip. The stigma of “selling out” has vanished. It used to make me burn. The cultural artifacts handed down to me had been snatched up by evil corporations. But now I feel a sense of relief wash over me when I see these commercials.
When the rocks gods of my generation (Thom Yorke for Ford) start hustling for sneakers, we won’t have the pressure of being the “rebellious generation” that sold out the promise of a new culture. Nope, if there’s anything I’ll say about this generation is its honesty about the fact that we are all consumers. And we like it.
“The system”, “The Man”, The Matrix” etc, doesn’t seem to be as big as problem these days does it? You don’t hear it brought up as often (and if you do, you’re going to the wrong parties). Boomers who thought they were subversive because they listened to Dylan are the same as Cobain idolizers who opted for scuffed boots instead of loafers. It seems as though, we (ugh, “Millennials”) are more comfortable with musicians hawking products and product hawkers sponsoring musicians because the idea of consumption being subersive is out of fashion.
Switching from a Beetle to an SUV, from a topsiders to Chucks, or from Coke to Pepsi is somehow a social act seems all together silly doesn’t it? Just as silly as the idea that songs and music-making is some type of subversion action rather than a commodity.
I’d still cringe if I heard Le Tigre’s Decepticon as the score to a Sandals Jamica ad but I wouldn’t be surprised.