When I was 10 years old, my favourite meal was fish fingers with instant mashed potato covered in a well known brand of instant cheese sauce. I would usually be served this on a Friday evening whilst watching Crackerjack on the telly. If you’re not old enough to remember this programme, it was essentially a game show for kids – various rounds of games hosted by (in my era) Ed “Stewpot” Stewart, interspersed with comedy sketches featuring Peter Glaze and Don Maclean (no, not the bloke who sang American Pie). Contestants would battle it out to get to the final round where the prize was often a coveted Raleigh Chopper bike, and runners up got the legendary Crackerjack pencil as a souvenir of their appearance on the show. When I was ten, this was the best thing on TV. The only thing I loved more than Crackerjack was to see my favourite band, Showaddywaddy on Top Of The Pops.
By the time I was in my mid 20s, all of this had changed, Crackerjack ended in 1984, Showaddywaddy were relegated to the Butlins summer season cabaret circuit, and I’d acquired a taste for chicken jalfrezi in place of my fish fingers, mash & cheese sauce combo of the 70s. By then, the music I was into had changed too… I didn’t miss the music of my youth – Showaddywaddy weren’t around and I didn’t care. As a 25 year old I was listening to Pink Floyd, Boston, a little bit of jazz and lots of blues. My taste in TV shows was different, too… I’d developed in interest in current affairs by then so would regularly watch the news (something no normal 10 year old would ever do), and shows like Spitting Image & Auf Wiedersehen Pet would regularly be underlined in my copy of the Radio Times.
Recently I had my 40th birthday… and even more recently, I had my 47th. And guess what…? My taste in TV, food and music has changed again… I watch more documentaries now, eat less spicy food in favour of good old fashioned British cuisine (mince & dumplings… yes please!), and as for music, it’s all about Frank Zappa, progressive rock, cool jazz and symphonies for the most part nowadays.
Where am I going with all this, you ask? Well, I recently caught the end of a TV show about a well known boy-band. The lead singer was surprising one of his fans by singing at her wedding. This lady was in her mid-late 20s, and her favourite music was the same sort of adolescent pop stuff she’d listened to when she was 10 years old. Yes, I know we all have the nostalgia thing from time to time (I dip into my childhood reminiscences as much as any other middle aged old fart), but this was a grown woman whose musical tastes had not matured, or changed, since childhood!
It really shocked me that adults like this existed in (apparently) such large numbers. Once upon a time, parents listened to “grown up” music like (in my day) Dire Straits & Fleetwood Mac, and left the Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue stuff for their teenybopper offspring. These days you’re just as likely to be a Kylie fan at the age of 40 as you are at the age of 14. Is it not natural for our tastes in all things to alter over time? Can you imagine, for example, a grown adult who lists their favourite TV channel as CBeebies or The Cartoon Network? Or how about a 27-year-old going out for a meal to a smart restaurant and ordering Alphabetti Spaghetti because it had been their favourite meal since they were a kid? Why is the idea of someone’s musical taste being so frozen in time in exactly the same way any less discordant to us, I wonder? And what does it say for the future of music as an art form when music industry’s main source of revenue seems to be from promoting children’s entertainment to children and adults alike? Makes you think, doesn’t it?