Ever since my XM satellite radio antenna was stolen—far too many months ago for me to have a good excuse not to have yet replaced it —I have been switching between my old cassette tapes (yes, I said it), new CDs, and playing hopscotch with Vegas radio. Despite the lack of diversity on our local airwaves, I sometimes find decent songs between the commercials and garbage.
So there I was last week, engaging in said station-surfing, when one of my favorite bands from the early 1990s, Temple of the Dog, graced my speakers. As I began to appropriately beat my steering wheel in faux-Matt Cameron fashion, I realized what numbers were glowing on my dashboard display. 96.3? Could that be right? I switched away and then back to the preset, and Chris Cornell was still wailing.
I put off panicking until the song was over, thinking that, perhaps, 96.3-FM was no longer KKLZ, the classic rock station. Maybe it had changed formats without my knowing; quick format changes happen in the Valley all the time, though usually to Spanish-language formats. But no, there was "The Warrior," that decades-in-place afternoon drive-time DJ. The station ID still declared "96-three, KKLZ, the classic rock station."
This could have been an isolated incident. Maybe it was a dare. All I heard on the station after that was the usual glut of dead rockers from the '70s. But then the next evening, I heard Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box" on the same station. And the next day, Pearl Jam's "Corduroy."
It happened. It really happened. The music of my teenage years has officially become classic rock. My 29th birthday is this week. I haven't even cracked 30, for Buddha's sake.
It's ironic, really. I listened to classic rock almost exclusively for a while when I was 15 or 16, but the definition of "classic rock" has remained the same for nearly 20 years, varying a little bit to include multigenerational artists like U2 or groups that may as well have existed in the '60s or '70s like the Black Crowes.
But the addition of '90s alt-rock bands to the classic rock oeuvre marks a definite generational shift. In a way, it helps to explain why, despite what I feel is my relatively young age, I identify more with thirtysomethings, while people just three or four years younger than me seem to come from a different world. That break from Generation X to Generation Y is not a trivial one. The evidence, for me at least, becomes clearer every year. Music of bands like Slipknot and Taproot makes little sense to me, and today's hip-hop is nearly indigestible. Though I understand the functionality and purpose of blogs and sites like MySpace, I am lost on the obsessive draw of these cultural phenomena. I remember Land of the Lost and Three's Company episodes as clearly as any 40-year-old, but mention either to an average 25-year-old, and question marks appear in his or her eyes.
Little things have changed over the years, things that I don't relate to age, but facets of my life that differ so much from my younger years. While I raged against traditions of marriage and corporate America as a wild-eyed wannabe rock star in my teens, I now find myself in a surprisingly different mind-set. Here I am, more than seven years married, in a house in Green Valley, working for the same company that I gave a writer friend so much crap for "selling out" to in the '90s. I support school uniforms. I do my own taxes and save receipts for deductions. I fall asleep watching movies after 9 p.m., and wake up before 7 a.m. on the weekends.
Have I become a part of the machine that I rebelled against so much a decade ago? I'd like to think that I've just gone from working on the outside to enacting change from the inside. But I'm afraid that one day, I'll find myself in the same place as those classic alternative albums of the early-to-mid '90s, irreversibly part of someone else's idea of "classic rock," or in my case, "The Man."