Why Is This Restaurant Playing The Big Bopper?

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, March 31, 2019

Susan and I went out to breakfast this morning. She wanted to try this new place called Staks. One of those storefront restaurants where you order at the counter and sit down and wait for your food. (A trend I don’t like.) What surprised me was the music they played at 7:30am, oldies like “Rock Around the Clock,” “The Wanderer,” “Chantilly Lace,” “He’s So Fine,” and “Dawn” – all songs from when we were growing up.

We sat at a booth with high backs covered with green plastic. In the middle of the room were sterile white metal tables and chairs occupied by younger people, including three late twenty-something couples with babies in highchairs. I wanted to ask them what they thought about the music. I was grooving to oldies, but were they? Was it just Muzak to their ears? The staff was all teens and young twenty-somethings. Why were they being forced to listen to old people’s music all day? I assume some industrial designer imagined both the decor and music together believing old fashioned breakfasts went with old-fashioned music. There were no vegetarian or gluten-free options on the menu – that would remind people of now and break the illusion.

Just to check if I wasn’t the only one noticing this trend I found this at the Chicago Tribune, “Nostalgia has taken over food and pop culture because we can’t help but fall for it.” Google also gave me “4 Ways to Use Nostalgia to Grab Your Customers’ or Members’ Attention.” Of course, marketers have been selling us American Graffiti and Happy Days leftovers for decades.

I can understand a fondness for life between WWII and the Vietnam war because that’s when I grew up. Susan and I were the only music-age-appropriate customers in Staks. Susan still knows all the words to those songs. Why should our nostalgia be piped into younger generations? My parents hated rock ‘n’ roll. I have to work mighty hard to find songs from the 21st-century that I love. And the song I do find to love, tend to sound like songs from my past. My parents like music built around vocalists, horns, and woodwinds. I grew up with vocalists, guitars, bass, and drums. Modern music fans love processed vocals mixed with computer-generated tones and sampled clips.

My theory is every generation has a sound they are pop culturally programmed to resonate with during their teenage years. I assume in half-a-century the young people that were sitting in the middle of the room will be in booths listening to music from their generation wondering why another industrial designer brought it back.

By the way, here’s a 21st-century song I love. I’ve probably played it two dozens times today. It shows I shouldn’t think every generation is stuck in their own musical hole. It still doesn’t explain why I see young people wearing t-shirts with The Beatles, Jimi, or The Grateful Dead pictured on them. I never wore a shirt with Benny Goodman’s face and doubt I’ll wear a Rilo Kiley advertisement.

Finally, why is it easier for younger generations to embrace older generations of music than it is for older generations to keep up with the music coming from younger generations? There are plenty of places to eat and drink that feature contemporary music. I just don’t go in them anymore. Why? I’ve heard many in my generation say they feel invisible around younger people, and that made them feel old. I’ve got to admit I stopped paying attention to newer trends, so they are invisible to me. Maybe it’s mutual.

My guess is those under 30 kids in Staks never even noticed the music.

JWH

11 thoughts on “Why Is This Restaurant Playing The Big Bopper?”

  1. I’m from the post WWII also. Rilo Kiley does sound good, and old fashioned. She has a good voice and that helps. A few other modern artists that I like are Kesha, Nikki Minaj, and Karmin.

  2. Jim, imo the nostalgia fad (?) is not usually aimed at young people – it’s aimed at us Baby Boomers who are sought as customers.

    Otoh, there are very good things about our old music – like it had tunes and a beat (not a thump) – there was harmony and it had more or less peaceful lyrics. We, the Boomers, took over newer music along the way (1980s, 1990s) wanting to stay young and “with it,” I suppose. Or we went to county music.

    My grandmother loved Lawrence Welk. My mom loves Lawrence Welk and Perry Como and Frank Sinatra etc. My mom loves the music of her own era (and church music and patriotic music) and that’s mostly what they play at the retirement home she’s in. When my time comes I want them to play stuff like “Give me the beat boys to thrill my soul cuz I wanna get lost in your rock ‘n roll and drift away-ay.” (and anything from about Buddy Holly to the Bee Gees.)

  3. Jim, glad you liked the song I turned you onto. But, you’re so old you probably forgot me telling you about it. Ha!

  4. I wonder whether the musical discontinuity of the ‘boomer’ generation vs its parents has been diffused in the last decade or three… these days it seems ‘anything goes’. I often wonder, too, whether tastes are somehow ‘set’ for us as teenagers. I’m not sure, though. As a kid growing up in the 1960s, I was surrounded by music of all kinds – my Dad had a retail shop that, among other things, sold records, so he was always up with what was happening. He was born in 1926 and had been brought up with big band jazz, but in the 1970s we ended up (at his initiative) with everything from Pink Floyd to Carly Simon. I have to say my own musical tastes are eclectic – as a teenager I listened to a lot of Brit prog rock, but these days I’ll happily listen to (and enjoy) everything from classical through jazz, rock, prog, reggae, synth-pop, electronica, purely electronic tonalities, and metal. There are only three genres of music I actively dislike: rap, country and, of course, western…

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