I’m still struggling to comprehend it, but my 16-year-old daughter asked for–and received–the same thing for Christmas that I wanted when I was her age: a new turntable. I honestly didn’t know they made them anymore.
She had been poking around in the attic and found crates full of our old LPs. Intrigued, she brought them downstairs and started sorting through them, pleased to find some of the artists she knew and loved: James Taylor, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones. “Wow,” she said. “You could listen to a whole album by the same person at the same time!” Imagine that. Then she observed that it was easy to tell which albums had been mine and which her father’s: mine were more beat up and tossed in the crate in any old order, with an occasional “SG” scrawled in the corner (to distinguish them from those of my freshman roommate, who had an eerily similar collection, right down to an obscure Elton John album called “Friends”). My husband’s records, true to form, were neatly aligned and alphabetized, bearing tiny typed labels with his initials.
I teased her for being such a throwback, but of course I was secretly delighted. It affirmed for me, once again, that no generation has ever grown up with better music than the Baby Boomers. Just glance at my children’s playlists: the Beatles, the Stones, the Clash, the Boss, CSNY, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac. They even know all the words to “American Pie,” just like I did. (By the same token, even my father, a serious classical music buff, harbors a soft spot for JT, Carly Simon, Elton John and the like, thanks to years of hearing them blasted from the bedroom next door.) And the newer artists my kids like–Sheryl Crow, Jack Johnson, Bret Dennen, Eric Hutchinson, the Avett Brothers, Adele–are clearly descended from their rock-and-roll forbears, and also heavily represented in my iTunes library. I’m not sure if this musical synchronicity is a cause or an effect of the Boomer penchant for oversharing with their children, but it certainly makes listening to the radio or sharing an iPod an extremely low-stress affair. When I was growing up, my choices for listening with my parents consisted of Beethoven or talk radio. No wonder I sought refuge in Neil Young.
In any case, I found it somewhat disconcerting on Christmas Day to hear emanating from my daughter’s room the same strains of the Jackson Browne album–“Late for the Sky”–I used to listen to every night during high school, stacked on my turntable with four or five other selections, including “Yessongs,” “Workingman’s Dead” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue.” To make things even more unsettling, my 86-year-old mother-in-law was at that very moment downstairs listening to her new Tony Bennett CD via laptop. He was singing a duet with Lady Gaga.