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Struggles of Being a 20-Something Who Loves Classic Rock

Listening to music dubbed "oldies" is just one of the struggles of being a 20-something who loves classic rock.

Photo by Stephen Arnold

Twenty-somethings who love classic rock face a great number of struggles today. We don’t just feel on the outside of modern music, we literally don’t understand it. It lacks power, force, and the very beats that make rocks roll. In classic rock, songs are intricately structured. Lyrics are deep. The players play guitars and drums, not women and games. Often, our friends may find our music strange. It may be equated to, “That stuff my grandpa listens to” or, worst of all, labeled “Oldies.” Our families may not understand our passion for the music of the 60s and 70s and call us weird. Too often, we are misunderstood, but it’s OK. If Robert Plant and Keith Richards weren’t different, we wouldn’t have the killer licks of the Stones or Led Zeppelin. These are the top 10 struggles of a 20-something who loves classic rock.

Holding back your rage when your friends don’t know bands or songs that are, well, classics.

“Oh. THIS is Rush?”

I often find myself referencing a song or lyric and following up with, “You’d know it if you heard it.” Lately, it seems that my friends don’t know it when they hear it. My new mantra is, “How do you not know this? Have you been living under a rock? It certainly wasn’t a classic rock!” The flip side of this reason why it’s hard to be a 20-something who loves classic rock is being around a group of friends who burst out into song and dance at some electronic noise you’ve never heard before. Don’t feel left out. We’ll be their ace in the hole on trivia night!

Not being able to see your favorite artists because they’re dead.

While the great ones, the ancients, if you will, still roam the country on a never-ending final tour, most of your favorite artists have passed over the rainbow bridge to Valhalla (so epic). While your friends gather into overly sexualized dance parties donning gold necklaces and Patron, the best chance you have at seeing your favorite bands perform live involves a long night of YouTube videos. If a classic rock band does wheel your way, buy tickets now and pray that they survive until the concert date! It may be your last chance. And as a 20-something who loves classic rock, you may find that you’re the youngest fan at the show. Classic rock shows today tend to be pretty low key. But I’ve played air guitar with some old geezers at some shows before, and what did I get? It wasn’t an STD they got in the 70s. I got respect.

Hearing your favorite songs chopped up, put to an electronic beat, and rapped or auto-tuned over.

Whether it’s old school rap or new Drake, Ariana Grande, and whoever else my peers are fawning over these days, hip-hop artists and those in similar genres love to take a nice rockin’ guitar lick and cram it in between the “dub” and the “step.” It’d be one thing, we tell ourselves, if they had any appreciation for the original song. But the way it’s butchered and maimed on GarageBand and then unrecognized by the listeners shows a complete lack of respect for the original. "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. "Walk this Way" by Aerosmith. "Whole Lotta Love" by the Zep. I will never surrender. I will never forget.

Thinking you found another 20-something who loves classic rock, but it turns out Urban Outfitters is just selling CBGB t-shirts again.

What a fool believes: that a 20-something wearing ripped jeans, a chain on their wallet, and a completely awesome classic rock album art t-shirt means that that person loves - or even likes - classic rock. The 60s and 70s style comes and goes. Every time it comes back, I am fooled again. I am greeted by a giddy girl or too-cool-for-grad-school guy who is so excited about the art and style that they forgot to check out the music. Put your earbuds back in kids. I’ll pop my over-ear headphones back on for maximum rock.

Being nostalgic for a time when you weren’t even alive.

Man, they knew what was really going on in the 60s and 70s. Or did they? We’ll never know, because we weren’t there. As 20-somethings who love classic rock, we can really only dream and speculate. But if the music tells us anything, it was a time of artistic progression and boundary pushing. And the war during the 60s and early 70s seemed to produce a culture of deeper love and acceptance. This meant better art and music as strongly rooted feelings of aggression on the political front burst through progressive and artistic cities in an expression of feeling. Ah, why can’t we go back to when the music really meant something? I mean, I think it did. I don’t know, I made all of that up.

When your parents don’t recognize a Jimi Hendrix song and you realize that they were NEVER cool.

Guys. You grew up in the 60s and 70s. You had the music, the atmosphere, the culture, and the artist standing right in front of you. And you chose to listen to disco!? It can be a hard realization to know that while given every opportunity to be cool in the 60s and 70s when classic rock was still just rock, your parents disregarded amazing music. I once found a reel-to-reel in my basement with Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Led Zeppelin songs listed on it. I excitedly asked my dad about it and it said it was his college roommate’s. Disappointed sigh. He was the weird one then for not listening to classic rock, and I’m the weird one now for being a 20-something who loves classic rock!

When your friend introduces you to a “new” song and it turns out to be a cover of a classic rock song.

Sometimes a friend thinks I might like a new song because, it turns out, it’s actually a classic song. I try to keep my chill when this happens. But it can be hard not to flaunt my bank of music history knowledge, and even harder to listen to a new, almost always less rockin’ version of a song I already know and love. However, I can’t be too hard on artists who cover. Twenty-somethings who love classic rock know that some of the best classic rock jams are covers. Jimi Hendrix didn’t write "All Along the Watchtower," but he sure rocked it harder than Bob Dylan. Joe Cocker soley rocks out covers, like the Beatles’ "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Feelin’ Alright" by Traffic. Ram Jam’s "Black Betty" is actually a rock and roll cover of a very old folk song!

Having an appreciation for music played on instruments instead of computers.

It is no statistical anomaly that the level of guitar playing capability has a rising correspondence to knowledge and love of classic rock. Often, 20-somethings who love classic rock also love playing themselves. The truth is, I don’t know how to play a Macbook Pro, and it’s a lot less satisfying to set on fire.

The fact that they’re already playing Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alice in Chains on the classic rock station.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Green Day, the Chili Peppers, and Alice in Chains. And yes, many members of bands from the 90s are equally as deceased as those from the 60s and 70s. But Green Day and Red Hot are still putting out new music, and their old stuff is taking up precious air time from the true classics of modern rock. As a 20-something who loves classic rock, I now understand what it must have been like to the golden gods of the older generation who started hearing Steve Miller and Bachman-Turner Overdrive on the oldies station. Old.

Finally finding another 20-something who loves classic rock and being divided on a polarizing topic.

Sometimes, we classic rock loving 20-somethings meet, like two hands connecting as they reach out in the pitch black night. It’s almost a miracle. Maybe the classic rock t-shirt was purchased as the Salvation Army or handed down from an aunt or uncle and not bought on sale at Banana Republic. Maybe you overheard correct answers to classic rock facts at trivia. Somehow, you’ve connected. But then you discover that your new best friend thinks Dio was a better frontman for Sabbath than Ozzy. Or maybe he or she honestly believes that Bon Jovi belongs in the classic rock Hall of Fame. Opinions like these will rock you like a hurricane.

It’s true that 20-somethings who love classic rock face a lot of very real everyday struggles. There is often a sense of being on the outside and different. Fortunately, that’s what classic rock is all about. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know who Drake is. Feel bad that Drake doesn’t know who King Diamond is. Don your band t-shirts and casual attitudes toward life proudly, fellow time-capsuled millennials! I don’t know about you, but I wanna rock.

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