by James Wallace Harris, 4/10/23
None of my fellow Baby Boomers want to sit and listen to music with me anymore. What happened to y’all? When did you guys stop listening to music? I’ve read articles about how most people stopped listening to new music sometimes in their thirties — but when did you stop listening to the old music you love too? And by listening, I mean sitting down and listening with the same devoted attention you give a movie at the theater?
Sure, y’all will put Pandora on in the background sometimes. Or randomly listen to a playlist of the 37 tunes you bought on iTunes for your iPhone. And you might still get a kick out of seeing geezers from the past perform live. But when was the last time you bought a new album and just sat and listened to it? And when was the last time you sat and listened to an album with a friend?
Rock music defined the 1960s and 1970s pop culture. Most of y’all gave up on music after that. I was still crazy about music in the 1980s and 1990s. But I have to admit, it’s been harder to feed by habit in the 21st century. I mostly rely on old music now. (There are exceptions like Adele and Kings of Leon.)
My feelings are hurt that my wife and none of my friends no longer want to share music with me. The only people I know who still listen to music like me are guys I read about online or watch on YouTube.
The other day I was watching a YouTuber film at a trade show for audiophile equipment and I noticed something very interesting. The halls of this convention center were filled only with men, mostly middle-aged or older men. I watched carefully trying to spot a female in the crowd as the YouTuber visited one booth or dealer room after another. Didn’t see one female. But lots of grey beards and bald spots.
My wife and her friends still love going to concerts. Just the weekend before last, they went to see Journey and Toto at the FedEx Forum. She and her friends will spend big bucks to see ancient rock dinosaurs roam the Earth again. They’ll even travel hundreds of miles to see their favorite blasts from the past. But she doesn’t listen to the old albums from these same groups. Before she went to see Chicago I asked her if she’d like to listen to some Chicago albums with me. She just said, no.
I don’t like live concerts anymore. I saw Chicago when they were touring with their first album. I bought that first album the week it came out because it was a mysterious double LP with a Priced Right sticker that just intrigued me. It blew my leather sandals off.
Back then I haunted record stories, going to several each week. By the time I started college, I had 300 LPs in my collection.
When I blog about music I get a damn few hits. When I try to talk about music I’m excited about, I can tell I’m boring my friends. I know there are people who still love listening to music because of all the audiophile YouTubers. I’m especially amazed at younger guys who love and know so much about music from the 1960s and 1970s. Wait, I just remembered, there is one female record collector who produces videos for YouTube (Melinda Murphy). What a lucky guy her husband must be — assuming he enjoys sitting around listening to records with her.
I’m learning that as we get older we retreat into ourselves. Is that because we all have uniquely favorite things we like to do which seldom overlap with our friends? I consider myself damn lucky to have two friends who read science fiction.
My wife and friends love spending time with things I don’t enjoy anymore. I wonder if Susan’s feelings are hurt that I don’t watch sitcoms with her anymore. When we first got married we watched several each night together. I’ve lost my taste for them. So while she’s watching M.A.S.H., The Andy Griffiths Show, or Friends by herself in the living room, I’m listening to Buffalo Springfield or The Byrds by myself in the den.
So, are you an old guy who sits by himself listening to music?
(I’ve spent a fair bit of time dredging through old memories and I realize that I only knew a handful of people who would sit around a listen to music with me. I guess I’m wanting something that never happened much anymore. Mostly I listened to music with friends before I got married, and it usually involved getting high. Early in our married life, Susan would go record shopping with me, and even listen to what I bought afterward. I remember when I married Susan, she had a box of about 40 LPs, many of which I liked, and that impressed me. She even bought a few albums over the years and listened to them sometimes, sometimes by herself. We went to a lot of concerts together. But she slowly stopped buying CDs – except for The Foo Fighters. Now she listens to Spotify, but only rarely.)
[picture above was generated by Midjourney. The AI has a weird idea about stereo systems.]
41 thoughts on “Are You An Old Man Listening to Music By Yourself?”
I remember curling up with my husband listening to music when we were first married. But you’re right, I don’t just listen much any more… and we’re not married. Sometimes I’ll lie out on the grass in the sun and just listen…. it’s very pleasant and I should make time to do it more often.
I’ve been meaning to listen to old favorite albums when I’m alone. There’s no one who would listen with me. Oddly enough my housemate never listens to music, although she introduced me to a 70s prog rock band valled Renaissance which I now love. But she never listens to them now, or to anything else, for that matter. She keeps herself really busy and says she doesn’t have time.
I stuck with music much longer than most people. I was still buying CDs about ten years ago, occasionally trying new artists. I have one Adele CD. Haven’t tried Kings of Leon, but I do have CDs by Keane and Kasabian. (All those k’s … must be because I love the Kinks.) Those are the most recent or “newest” acts that I actually spent money on.
One of life’s greatest disappointments is that it is near impossible to share something you really love with anybody else.
Your last sentence is what I was trying to convey in my essay and you say it so clearly in one simple sentence.
That last line. My word.
For me and perhaps others, I think there is something melancholy about hearing the great music from the 60s and 70s, as it can’t be touched by much else. So I think it reminds us of our youth, but a youth that is long gone, as are those times. I don’t listen to it at all now, but because of
a personal note. My husband loved this music and had albums and then CDs, but he has been gone 10 years now and I just don’t want to fall into sadness that it brings out in me.
That’s sad, Mary, but I can understand. I always assume Susan will go first, but you make me wonder how I will feel if she goes first. Getting old is such a strange trip.
I drifted into country music in the early 70s and stuck with it until about 1980. It seemed to me there were better women’s vocals in country and, excuse me, but what else did most women do in the music of those days? There were Janis and Grace and
It seemed to me like it was *almost* a “closed shop.” I didn’t understand listening to those guys on their electric guitars and drums although there were some tunes I really enjoyed. (I loooooved the rock ‘n roll of the 1960s, fwiw, but the singers were more important then maybe? – I don’t know.)
Anyway, I dropped the country stuff, too, about 20 (30?_ years ago and have never really looked back. (Except I always loved Dylon and a few others.)
Becky, I got into country music in the 1960s when The Bryds did Sweetheart of the Rodeo. I especially loved country music for female vocalists. I was a huge fan of Reba McEntire and Nanci Griffiths, but also so many many others. The other day I was listening to Loretta Lynn’s first album, from 1960, I think, and I was amazed by how good it was. Unfortunately, I’ve lost most contact with all the genres after the 1990s. But I now spend more time trying to catch up with music from the 1950s, and earlier. I also loved female rock vocalists.
Don’t forget Heart, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon and a few others.
I was into Ronstadt and Simon but never tried Heart. The list of female vocalists I follow is very long.
They did a wonderful tribute to Sting at the Kennedy Center a few years ago that was fabulous.
Whoops..it was a tribute to Led Zeppelin..Lady Gaga did the one to Sting..both on UTube..
That was a great reminiscence piece. I was crazy about Springsteen back in the years 1975 – 1978. I got to see him for the Born to Run tour and the Darkness At the Edge of Town tour. I envy Greg Mitchell seeing Springsteen so early in his career. However, I did buy a lot of bootlegs back then, so I got to hear many other concerts, including some early ones.
Many thanks for your moving recollections, Jim and everyone! I understand the situation you describe, but for me it’s not all that sad, since I’ve always been content to share my interests with others partially and casually. In high school, I had friends who shared my musical tastes (the Beatles, Todd Rundgren, etc.) but we didn’t necessarily listen to music together. I’ve only known a few people in my life, at intervals of years, who share my love of science fiction, mostly in my teenage years, but since then I’ve occasionally been able to share my interests with others to some degree. I have a friend and coworker who also loves SF, and while we like different branches of it, we can still relate to each other’s preferences enough to discuss it.
My wife and I still listen to our original vinyl albums from “the day.” I invested in an up to date sound system that makes it all the more brilliant. Tea For The Tillerman and Buffalo Springfield
Again, turn it up and take your hearing aids out.
Enjoy, Phil! I love Cat Stevens. (I haven’t heard Buffalo Springfield.)
Gotta check them out. Steven Stills, Niel Young, Richie Fury, one of the best bands of the 60s Laural Canyon movement. Their first two albums are the best. Cat Stevens is a timeless tunesmith, as relevant today as he was 55 years ago.
I was just listening to Cat Stevens a few weeks ago and I just bought the three Buffalo Springfield albums remastered.
I’m lucky that I don’t need hearing aids. And I tend to play my music at 85 decibels. I’ve read that’s safe for 8 hours.
I spent too many hours standing in front of a Fender Dual Showman Amp turned up to 11, so my hearing in my left hear is about 1 and my right at about 8. The downfall of rock n roll. We tend to play our music a bit too loud for the neighbor, and we live in the country. Good to meet a Stevens and BS fan.
And for female voices of any genre…hard to beat Barbara Streisand of earlier days and even though some people don’t like her personally, Lady Gaga has an awesome voice and she can sing all types of music.
Pink does a great “White Rabbit.”
I’m a big fan of Streisand since 1970 when I saw On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. I’ve only bought one Gaga record but I find her fascinating.
i reckon that one of the great unanswered questions of the 1970s,which is still open to debate, remains: who was a bigger asshole, john denver or cat stevens? (almost as thought provoking as who got on my nerves more often, kenny loggins and jim messina or jim seals and dash crofts?) a dissertation or two in there somewhere…mostly i’m becoming more aware of the old adage that you know you’ve a bad case of the lonelies when you pass up a concert or a flick you’d really dig checking out because you don’t want to catch it by yourself. (i passed up mary gauthier over in Berkeley a few nights back because the routine of reading and radio at my place was less intim-idating than the prospect of a long ride home alone on the subway to face an empty bed. growing old is not for the faint of heart. i’m too old to die young and too young to die now, as warren zevon phrased it so eloquently many moons ago.
What did John Denver and Cat Stevens do in the seventies that was so terrible?
John Denver was a borderline alcoholic who threw rocks at trucks at a construction site under the justification that he is without blame should cast the first stone,then bought land on top of a mountain and levelled it to build a hangar and landing strip for his plane, then tried to deflect his critics with the claim that he wasn’t hurting anything since it was private property. Cat stevens got religion somewhere along the line and came out in support of the ayatollahs fatwa on Salman Rushdie,then backed off,claiming he was just kidding around and his critics were a bunch of hypersensitive bookworms who couldn’t take a joke, much as the dalai lama the other day. Just the usual horseshit from a couple of privileged characters who recorded a lot of treacle and muzak that will doubtless be forgotten by the time this decade ends. So buy the records;you obviously don’t care how you spend your money. That’s MY critical opinion and I’m sticking to it.
OK, Ed. I was just asking about whatever these two might have done during the seventies, which seemed to be what you were referring to. I didn’t know anything about John Denver. I share your views on Cat Stevens’ religious fanaticism during the Fatwah against Salman Rushdie, but I still love his music from the seventies. To each their own.
Ed, if I only listened to records produced by saints I’d have nothing to play. I don’t think the bad in a person invalidates their good.
Now I’m not saying we should ignore the bad that people do, but I just don’t want it to cancel the good.
Of course, if you don’t like the good for aesthetic reasons that’s cool. I’ve never been a big fan of John Denver but Cat Stevens made several records I still feel are beautiful.
Sometimes great art is created by fucked up artists. I can live with that.
I agree, Jim. This might also apply to some of our favourite science fiction writers.
Yes, too many of the old favorites are being canceled.
THAT’S A GOOD POINT! (BOY, IS MY FACE RED.) MY IMPRESSION OF CAT STEVENS WAS OF A DUDE WHO HAD HIS FUN WHILE HE WAS HAPPENING, THEN SIFTED GEARS WHEN PEOPLE GOT TIRED OF HIM WITH THE ATTITUDE OF “YOU GUYS CANT PARTY WITHOUT ME.’ ASIDE FROM THAT, I REMEMBER HEARING PEACE TRAIN THE NIGHT MY MAN TRICKY DICK GOT RELECTED WITH ONE OF THE BIGGEST PLURALITIES IN HISTORY AND FLASHING ON THE CONCEPT THAT CAT STEVENS WAS EVEN MORE MINDLESS THAN JOHN DENVER. AS FOR AESTHETICS, I RECKON CAT STEVENS MOST LASTING CONTRIBUTION TO ROCK WILL LIKELY BE THE TREMELOES COVER OF HERE COMES MY BABY. CAT STEVENS AND JOHN DENVER BOTH LAG SOMEWHERE BEHIND JAMES TAYLOR, WHOSE WORK SUFFERS BY COMPARISON WITH CARLY SIMON, BUT,CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE, AHEAD OF DON MCLEAN OR JONATHAN EDWARDS. AS STEVE EARLE SAID OF TOWNES VAN ZANDT, ‘ HE WAS A GREAT TEACHER, BUT A SHITTY ROLE MODEL.’ (WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION OF CARLY SIMON, THEIR WORK IS SUPERIOR TO THAT OF ANY OF THE CLOWNS LISTED PREVIOUSLY.) I HAVE SPOKEN!
Ed, your message set off a wave of nostalgia for the singer-songwriters of the 1970s. Sure, the folks you mention haven’t made the impact of Dylan, Young, Morrison, or even Janis Ian but I still enjoyed their work.
I don’t worry if an artist’s effort were minor in the big scheme of things, if I remember them at all is what matters to me. I bought hundreds of albums in the 1970s and large percentage of them are still memorable.
Who do you still listen to from back then?
“I don’t worry if an artist’s effort were minor in the big scheme of things, if I remember them at all is what matters to me.” I agree completely, Jim. I feel the same way about books (SF and otherwise).
I hear you on the lonelies
sorry if i brought you down. i’ll refer you to mick and keith (there was a time when the rolling stones WERE the worlds greatest rock group.) The day may come when you get old/Sick and tired of life/You just never realized/ Maybe the choice you made wasn’t really right/But you go out and you don’t come back at night/So I’m just sittin on a fence/You can say I got no sense/ Trying to make up my mind/Really is too horrifying/So I’m just sittin on a fence.
I listen to music every day. I’m in negotiations with the Music Library at SUNY at Buffalo for a donation of my 3000 music CDs when I die.
I’m an old woman, sitting with dog, listening to Stevie Wonder today.
I’m GenX, and I do this. I think GenX may be the last generation to do this. Maybe it was growing up in the back seat of a Barracuda listening to the 8-track in an era when children were seen and not heard. Maybe it was my mother’s incessant Carly Simon playing while vacuuming with an old Kirby and confiscating my legos from the carpet.
Maybe it’s just because music allows me to tap into emotions and memories without the sensory bandwidth of videos and books, and from there I can dive into thinking about… well, stuff. Weird stuff, normal stuff.
There’s a “Radio Rock Classics Mix” [24/7] live on YouTube that presently has my attention in off moments. It does toss in some 80s+ stuff, but it might be worth checking out. Just went from Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, so it isn’t necessarily a consistent mix.
I saved “Radio Rock Classics Mix” and will give it a spin now and then. Back in 1965 I lusted after the Plymouth Barracuda. Most people wanted Mustangs, but I loved that swept-back back window.
Yeah, my father had an old Fastback. I think it was a 69, with “NCC 1701” painted on the front of the hood.
That’s great. Here’s the model I wanted https://www.uniquecarsandparts.com.au/brochures_1965_plymouth_barracuda
yeah, that big window in the back. I look at them now and wonder how the hell they kept the inside of them clean. That’s a hard angle to get a hand into!