Sunday, January 4, 2009

R.E.M. turns 25 and I turn three shades of old.

Published January 4, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

As I drove to work today, I tuned my radio to my favorite talk radio station and started in surprise to hear the familiar strains of, “The One I Love.” The song is one of the first hit singles by the band, R.E.M., a long time favorite of mine. The radio program, a rebroadcast from April, featured the band members as they promoted their new album and the 25th anniversary edition of their first hit album, “Murmur.”


Okay, Sarah. Just think in cold, hard facts. What do you know for sure? I’m 32 years old. I know that. “Murmur” was released in 1983. In 1983, I was a first grader attending Johann Kalb Elementary school in Nurnberg, Germany. It is now 2008. 2008 minus 1983 is 25.

All right…all right…good. Now, considering everything you know for sure, does it follow that R.E.M. could release a 25th anniversary edition of “Murmur” in 2008? No. No, absolutely not. Can’t happen. Completely impossible.

It’s quite a moment when you realize you’re old enough to speak the language of decades. As a kid, you hear people say things like, “He’s been my buddy for 25 years,” or, “I haven’t been back there in nearly 25 years,” and you just shake your head and think, “I’ll never be that old.” And then one day you’re driving down the road and 25 years worth of R.E.M. love hits you like a runaway semi…head on, no mercy, no survivors.

It’s times like these a girl realizes why her parents once balked at the idea of “their music” being relegated to “oldies” status. Back in the 80s, it made perfect sense to my young mind that music from the 50s and 60s was old. 25 years was, like, forever, man. Now that my music is 25 years in the past, it’s not so easy to wrap my mind around.

You can imagine how the shock became 1983 times worse when I shared this column idea with a 15 year old girl I know and heard the words, “Who’s R.E.M.?” WHO’S R.E.M!? I sang her song after song, even imitating the mandolin part on “Losing My Religion,” and got nothing in return but a blank stare (mixed with humor and pity at the old lady who was clearly losing it.)

I’m not sure where to go from here. My love of jazz and big band music notwithstanding, I’m not sure I’m ready to be old enough to listen to oldies. It’s not the Beatles, people! We’re talking about R.E.M.! Depeche Mode! Bon Jovi! Aerosmith! Wham! (Okay, not so much with Wham!, but “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” is just too infectious not to like.)

I considered rebelling against the clock and listening to the type of music my 15 year old friend listens to, but about a half hour into that experiment, my brain started melting right out of my ears from all the insipid lyrics and two note “melodies.” How do they call this music?

That's just great. Not only do I listen to oldies now, I complain that kids today don’t know what good music is. I’m one step away from using the word whippersnapper and shaking my hand carved cane around.

I guess it could be even worse than that. I could be the 30-something who can’t accept her age and keeps right on acting, dressing, and dancing like a teenager, never catching on that the teens aren’t laughing with her but at her. Much as it pains me to realize my musical heroes are well past the greatest hits stage, I’m not ready to be THAT person.

The best plan is to just suck it up and enjoy my life and my music as an out of touch adult. Maybe it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be. It’s not like the singers I adored as a kid are old enough to win any lifetime achievement awards. I’ve got plenty of time before all those crazy hot front men of yesteryear become so old I can’t pretend to be young and vital. Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, still makes my heart pound, and he’s only…uh…only… (Google search) 60.

Darned whippersnappers. Where’d I leave that cane?