Getoffmylawn: A Study In Musical Temporal Perspective
I was recently dragged to a karaoke bar where one of my companions chose to play “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles. This got me thinking about musical temporal perspective. It also gave me a nightmare about Trevor Horn which went something along the lines of: “Sunset Boulevard” meets “Phantom of the Paradise” meets “Raiders of the Lost Ark” meets “Scrapheap Challenge” …but that’s another story.
When I say “musical temporal perspective” what I’m trying to get at is how old “old” music sounds depending on your age. The song “Video Killed The Radio Star” was released in 1979 which, from my perspective, doesn’t seem that long ago. But then I actually bothered to do the math and realized it was 32 years ago. When I was sixteen, a thirty-two-year-old song would’ve been something like “Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie” by Louis Jordan. My sixteen-year-old self would’ve considered this dated and quaint – not nearly as sophisticated as the music I was listening to at the time, like “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey. (shu’up)
It then occurred to me that you could gain a perspective on how the music of your teenage years might be viewed by today’s teenagers by looking up a comparably-dated song from your teenage perspective. There’s a formula for this: It works by taking the current year, minus the year you were sixteen and subtracting that from the year you were sixteen. We’ll call this retrospective temporal shift your “getoffmylawn” year.
Here are two graphs. The first simply gives you the year you were sixteen based on your current age. The second gives you your getoffmylawn year based on your current age. This is the release year of a song that would sound as quaint to your sixteen-year-old ears as the songs of your youth would to a current sixteen-year-old.
It works like this: Look up a song from when you were sixteen (preferably one you would’ve listened to) and then a song from your getoffmylawn year. This should give you an idea of how old your music sounds to today’s ears. Note that the second graph has a slope of 2. This stems from taking the age gap between your present self and your sixteen-year-old self and reapplying it to retro-date music relative to your sixteen-year-old self. It also means that, the older you are, the more bizarre these comparisons become.
Let’s try a few…