Teens Save Classic Rock

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 | 11:00 AM
in Music



I found this amusing -- and just as the Classic Rock stations are disappearing from the FM dial:

Like countless parents before him, Steven Tyler is shocked at the music that's been blaring out of his fifteen-year-old son's bedroom lately. But the Aerosmith frontman can hardly disapprove. "I walk by at night and my son is listening to Zeppelin stuff, like 'Black Dog,'" Tyler says. "He's turned all his friends on to Cream, and they're all into [Aerosmith's] Toys in the Attic. I told him, 'I can't believe you're listening to this.'"

Though classic rock is in no danger of edging out emo and hip-hop on most teenagers' playlists, a growing number of kids are also making room for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. At the same time, electric-guitar sales are soaring, with the cheapest models nearly doubling in sales from 2003 to 2004. "Kids go through hard rock, hip-hop and pop very quickly, and then they're hungry for something else," says E Street Band guitarist and garage-rock DJ Steven Van Zandt -- who gets hundreds of e-mails from teens thanking him for introducing them to bands like the Kinks. "They always end up coming to [classic] rock & roll."

Nine percent of kids ages twelve to seventeen listened to classic-rock radio in any given week in 2005 -- marking a small but significant increase during the past three years -- with a total of 2.3 million teens tuning in each week, according to the radio-ratings company Arbitron. And some markets have seen more dramatic growth: Teen listenership at New York's Q104.3, the nation's largest classic-rock station, has jumped twenty percent since fall 2002. "It really started in the past five years," says Q104.3 DJ Maria Milito. "You get these boys calling to request Hendrix whose voices haven't changed yet." Van Zandt's Underground Garage, heard on 140 radio stations across the country on Sunday nights, draws a third of its audience from listeners under twenty-five.

There's an irony to this: In a recent discussion of music, I wondered aloud if all the favorite bands of my youth were really that great, or was I merely looking at things throught he rosy glow of nostalgia. Turns out that they were pretty great:

For teens, not all classic rock is created equal. According to the market-research firm NPD, kids ages thirteen to seventeen bought twenty percent of all Floyd and Zeppelin albums sold from 2002 to 2005, and seventeen percent of Hendrix and Queen discs but accounted for just three percent of Creedence Clearwater Revival sales, six percent of Rolling Stones sales and a paltry one percent of Cat Stevens sales. "There's such a force and power to a band like Zeppelin," says Rhino Records marketing vice president Mike Engstrom, adding that young buyers drove sales for the label's 2003 DVD collection of live Zep.

Young fans' enthusiasm helps evergreen discs such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and AC/DC's Back in Black sell thousands of copies a week. "Week after week, a whole new group of people are discovering these albums," says Jeff Jones, executive vice president of Sony BMG's reissue label Legacy Recordings.

And, it turns out that, the diveersity of the long tail notwithstanding, there is an actual reason for theis mass consumption of classic rock:

Why would kids born in the Nineties turn to timeworn guitar anthems? For all of the vibrant rock recorded in the past ten years -- from pop punk to neogarage to dance rock -- no new, dominant sound has emerged since grunge in the early Nineties. "I can't think of a record recently that blew people's minds," says Jeff Peretz, a Manhattan producer and guitar teacher. "And there aren't really any guitar heroes around anymore. Kids don't come in and say, 'I want to play like John Mayer.'"

"There is such a drought that kids are going back and rediscovering the Who and Sabbath," says Paul Green, who runs the Paul Green School of Rock Music, which has expanded from a single Philadelphia branch in 1998 to schools in twelve other cities.

At the same time, the Internet has made forty-year-old hits as accessible as current chart-toppers. "I started to see this as a real trend when Napster started around 1999," says Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, who has two teenage sons. Last year, teens even started believin' again in Journey's power ballads: They pushed the band's 1981 song "Don't Stop Believin' " into iTunes' Top Ten after it popped up during a romantic moment on MTV's wildly popular reality show, Laguna Beach. It has since sold more than 200,000 digital singles. "It makes me so happy that a new generation would embrace something we believed in," says former Journey singer Steve Perry. "Back when we were first successful, we were dissed -- but time has told a different story."

Old rock has become fashionable, too. The years-old couture and thrift-shop vogue for vintage rock T-shirts recently trickled down to mall retailers catering to teens, with Doors and Rolling Stones shirts selling fast at stores such as Hot Topic.

"It's almost a cyclical thing -- as music ages, it can become cool again," says Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis, who covers the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle With Care" on her new solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. But Lewis also sees a simpler reason for the trend: "It's called classic rock for a reason -- it's classic. It's just really great music."


Teens Save Classic Rock
A new generation of fans turn to Hendrix, Floyd and Zeppelin
Rolling Stone, Posted Feb 09, 2006 10:43 AM

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 | 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (36) | TrackBack (0)
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It might take another 100 years to produce a band on par with Pink Floyd.

If it ever happens at all. Who's stepping up to Shakespeare?

Posted by: trader75 | Feb 21, 2006 11:48:11 AM

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