This is your parents' rock 'n' roll
Teens and their parents find common ground in an unlikely segment of pop culture - music
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF. — Mom and Dad's music, once potentially embarrassing to the hip young adult, may now be cool. That is, if Mom and Dad listen to classic rockers such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd - or even newer pop stars such as Michelle Branch, Dido, and Smashmouth.
While most parents say they aren't likely to tune into 50 Cent anytime soon, they're discovering some common ground in music with their kids - almost unthinkable for rock 'n' rollers of earlier generations whose parents would scoff at the mention of Elvis Presley.
Some baby boomers who came of age during the psychedelic '60s and disco '70s are discovering two startling facts: 1) their children take an interest in the music they grew up with and 2) the pop musicians their kids like aren't so bad after all. As the summer concert season approaches, some families even plan to attend shows together - an event that could have been socially disastrous to teenagers in the past.
"When I was a teenager, the last thing I wanted to do was be seen with my parents, but my kids have never had that issue. Perhaps that's because rock 'n' roll is a bridge," says 50-something Warren Hoag of Arroyo Grande, Calif. He and his two teens have attended more than 25 concerts together, starting with a Coasters show when his son was 8 years old.
One reason for the shared interest in music may be that, as rock 'n' roll has matured, radio stations have embraced a broader format, say industry observers, playing music that spans three or four decades and exposing young people to different generations of artists.
According to Jeff Green, executive editor of Radio and Records Newspaper, based in Nashville, Tenn., one of the most successful radio formats is the "pop pattern," which plays hits from past and present. It particularly appeals to moms and daughters.
"There's a whole record industry that's built on it," Mr. Green says. He says the pop pattern format is the No. 3 most successful radio model in the country, just behind talk radio and soft rock.
Take Kerry Brainard, a 40-something mom of three from San Luis Obispo, Calif., who listens to pop music with her three children. Favorites around their house include newer bands like Dido, Pink, and Radiohead.
"It's actually a pleasant surprise that we like the same music, because I didn't like my parents' music at all," says Ms. Brainard. She and her 11-year-old daughter, Krystle, have gone to see Christina Aguilera in concert together.
"It was fun," Krystle says. "My mom put me on her shoulders and danced."
In turn, Krystle has discovered the music Mom grew up with: The Beatles, Queen, and Frank Sinatra.
Teens also may be picking up their parents' music because they find qualities in classic rock bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin that are absent in modern rock, such as different melodies and a focus on lyrics, says David Atwood, program director of classic rock station KZOZ here.
"We're seeing that younger rock listeners want something the newer rock doesn't give them, and that's passion," he says. "It's melodic, which is giving them something different than what the new rock [has given them], which is a real hard, heavy beat, a lot of power chords...."
For Amy Unterman and her dad, who live in Pacific Palisades, Calif., talking about music from the 1960s helps guide their discussions about modern social problems.
"It's a way for us to connect where neither of us feel infringed upon," says Amy, who is 17. "Recently we had a huge talk about expectations and society, and it all started because we were talking about Joan Baez and the good and bad of hippie culture."
Amy's first concert was a Rolling Stones show her father took her to when she was 10. Soon after, Amy, influenced by her dad, developed a deep affinity for screaming rockers Aerosmith and wanted to attend concerts with her father.
"At first, I lied to everyone and said the only way I could get tickets was if I went with my dad," says Amy, who also likes Arlo Guthrie, Carly Simon, and Cat Stevens. "Now I've gotten over that. Friends laugh that I go to concerts with my dad, but nobody thinks it's lame."
The notion of mutual recognition through music rings true with Marc Geiger, cofounder of the full-service music Internet site ARTISTdirect. "Whatever influenced the adult musically in their life, they want to pass that on to their child, and it also gives their child an understanding of what makes up their parent."
Teenager Lily Clark of Arroyo Grande, Calif., credits her parents with molding her into a faithful Beatles fan.
"I got more into their music the more I heard it," she says. Lily, however, is just as likely to pop in an Eminem album as she is a Beatles CD, and her favorite radio stations play R&B, hip-hop, and pop music.
But she says she appreciates the deeper meaning of some of the Beatles' later work, like the self-reflective "White Album" and the psychedelic "Magical Mystery Tour."
"There's a lot of different styles, and you can sing along to it, and some of the stuff from their later years has meaning," she says. "John Lennon did a lot of stuff with political meaning, like 'Imagine,' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' says a lot about mankind."