As we drove to the landmark in our rental car, the sounds of Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas suddenly filled the car. My daughter makes effective use of YouTube anytime she needs timely access to a song, a movie clip, or a Saturday Night Live skit. The song poured forth from her Blackberry.
After more Elvis Presley than I was inclined to listen to, I asked her to search for my personal favorite rendition of the tune, the one performed by the Dead Kennedys, the seminal punk rock bank of the early 80’s. Another quick YouTube search and shortly, the strains of Jello Biafra, the front man for the DK’s, replaced the King’s.
It was at that moment that I stepped back in time. Twenty-eight years earlier, back in my college days, three friends and I attended a punk rock festival held on the Mall in Washington, D.C., headlined by those same Dead Kennedys. As my friend Jeff would later remind me later, the event had been the politically charged Rock against Reagan concert.
For certain, Jeff, Dave, Andy, and I had attended the concert for the music rather than to deliver any anti-establishment message to the U.S. government. We were ivy leaguers, probably the only ones in the crowd of thousands, and while perhaps not thrilled with the Reagan-era policies, we didn’t feel victimized as I imagine the masses in attendance felt. Still, when Jello Biafra pointed at the Washington Monument that formed the backdrop for the crowd, and declared it the “eternal klansman,” the metaphor somehow seemed to fit. With the sun setting in the background, the monument’s blinking red lights seemed like eyes, and its overwhelming whiteness and pointed top completed the picture.
I shared this story with my family as we took one quick pass through the glitzy Vegas strip before heading out to parts more naturally beautiful. As I did, I thought about our shared love for music as a tie that binds the children and me. Despite the few points at which our musical tastes intersect, we find ourselves discussing music frequently and on rare occasions, like finding gold, we discover a song or a band that the other also enjoys.
My tastes lean toward current and older alternative rock along with a smattering of classic rock. The kids’ tastes tend toward the pop flavor of the month--Party Rock Anthem, Grenade, Forget You. But still, we find common ground. In fact, we have attended Green Day and Black Eyed Peas concerts together. The kids have been exposed to, and fallen in love with, Queen’s Radio Gaga and Weezer’s The Girl Got Hot. And as for me, I admit to a guilty enjoyment of Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night and Pink’s So What.
Sometimes we appreciate each other’s music and sometimes we don’t, but music always gives us something to talk about. I love that.