Teens Save Classic Rock



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

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. trader75 commented on Feb 21

    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?

  2. slg commented on Feb 21

    More evidence for the trend is that my 17 year old son always has the car radio tuned to the local classic rock station. It plays 60s and 70s only, no less!

  3. David Silb commented on Feb 21

    Proves that music is, truly universal.

    And Records Execs must die. And I mean in a painful way.

    I know, lets lock them in a room and play the junk 24/7 they currently pump out now until their heads explode.

    This is just more proof that with all the great music ever produced in the world and the best the music industry can find is what’s playing on the top 40!

    And kids are finding Cream, Beatles, Zeppelin, Floyd etc.?

    I feel no sympathy for record co’s when they complain about sales down. My answer: Produce something worth buying.

  4. Steve commented on Feb 21

    I can testify to the strength of classic rock amoung male teens. My sons are 15 and 17, the 15 year old play bass, the 17 plays piano, accordian, drums. The music they pick to play tends almost exclusively to classic tracks ( Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” seems to be a number one hit, as are Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, and the Who’s “My Generation”).

    I take guitar lessons at the same place my 15yo takes bass. I have the oppurtunity to listen to the selections of the teen students as I wait for my lesson, and its almost exclusively classic rock among the boys. The girls tend to select more recent songs.

    On the musician side of thing one instructor suggested that if you wan to play an instrument an be in a band its a bit uninteresting to “cover” Jay-Z, and most of the current emo, etc bands do not have songs with a fun hook. Nervana is popular for playing, but not Death Cab for Cutie.

  5. DG commented on Feb 21

    Lets be clear about some things here:

    1) Radiohead is a band of legendary status, and will, in the end, be considered one of the most progressive and forward thinking bands of all time. Their skill and ability on their respective instruments certainly do not make them Jimmy Page, however as a group, they are on the level of any of the classic rock bands mentioned.

    1a) “I can’t think of a record recently that blew people’s minds,” says Jeff Peretz…—anyone who has not heard Ok Computer by Radiohead is missing the single greatest album, from a musical standpoint, of the last 25 years. As well, I can name a whole slew of albums that have, in recent times, blew people’s minds. Not from a guitar standpoint, as 70s musical acts did, but from a variety of other vantage points. That is an uninformed, and flat out incorrect statement to make by Jeff Peretz.

    2) “And there aren’t really any guitar heroes around anymore. Kids don’t come in and say, ‘I want to play like John Mayer.’—-John Mayer absolutely rips on the guitar. Admittedly, he’s not writing guitar riffs ala “Sunshine of Your Love” but he is quite accomplished.


  6. TA commented on Feb 21

    If Rolling Stone cast their net somewhat wider, I suspect they’d find that some of the acts that teens aren’t buying — like CCR and Cat Stevens — are being picked up by music fans in their 20s and 30s. CCR enjoyed something of a revival during the circa-2001/2/3 garage-rock revival that birthed the White Stripes, for example. And Stevens is finding new listeners thanks to the renewed interest in folk because of the indie popularity of artists like Devendra Banhart.

    Here’s hoping all these kids finding the Zep/Floyd/Aerosmith gateway break on through to the Stooges/Velvets/Eno side. THAT’s a classic rock revival I could really get excited about.

  7. Steve commented on Feb 21

    This same situation existed when I was a teen 20 years ago (graduated HS in 1988). You had your punk kids, your top 40 kids, and a whole lot of classic rock listeners — in fact, the “cool” kids (both jocks and stoners) were way into hippy and classic rock.

    Maybe things changed in the intervening years and teens stopped listening to classic rock for a time, but this is hardly the first classic rock revival.

    There may not be new guitar heroes here in the states, but the UK has brought us genuises like Johnny Marr (Smiths), John Squire (Stone Roses) and Bernard Butler (Suede) as well as Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. But these guys are “new”-style guitar gods because they serve the songs (and write ’em!) more than they wank all over them. Still, if today’s kids want some guitar heroes, they’re out there….

  8. TA commented on Feb 21

    Speaking of guitar heroes and consumption, how many Whammy pedals you think Jack White has sold?

  9. todd commented on Feb 21

    Good call on the Sufjan Stevens, BTW! I love “Chicago.” Other good stuff if you have time to it check out–

    Arctic Monkeys “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”
    Arcade Fire “Rebellion”
    Editors “Munich”
    Fiest “Mushaboom”
    Aberdeen City “God Is Going to Get Sick of Me”
    The Rosebuds “Leaves Do Fall”
    Rogue Wave “10:1”

    Back to the article… I host a nightly radio show in Houston for the pop station, so all of this is very much on my radar screen. I find that people start heading to classic rock when the current music starts to suck (which the article implies). The last time this happened was in the early 90s. Hip hop isn’t what it was 3-4 years ago, and it is leaving a HUGE void.

    The indie/underground scene is REALLY picking up some steam with the younger crowd (middle school/high school). Fall Out Boy is the biggest group right now and bands like Panic! At the Disco and The Arctic Monkeys (these guys are huge in the UK) are gaining big momentum.

    Old and Busted: our band was put together by some big bucks producer dude.
    New Hotness: our band got together in high school and we practice in the garage.

  10. David Silb commented on Feb 21

    Oh I’m sorry I thought this was a discussion about “Good” music. But since DG wants o mention Radiohead and John Mayer, fine but let me list a few not metioned.

    Van Halen, Rush, (Old) U2, Stephen Vei, Jeff Beck, Triumph, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, AC/DC (But everyone counts them as a “fun” band and not that serious), Foo Fighters, (I hate to admit it but….) Guns and Roses, Metalica, and Nervana (if they can count Cream that broke up than Nervana can be counted as well)

  11. Robert Cote commented on Feb 21

    All I can say is that my 15yo is the darling of her peer group. I loaded her iPod with my 70s classic rock and 80s progressive/punk and now her friends and newfound friends all want to listen in. Dad gets some props for… well not being cool but maybe having once been cool.

  12. CDizzle commented on Feb 21

    I think DG is a bit off the deep end with Radiohead, but that’s what makes an opinion and opion so let’s keep it friendly regarding what is/is not “good music,” okie?

    I’m 30. I was very sheltered from “rock music” until my teens. When I was 15, Nirvana broke. I, like everyone else, bought “Nevermind”. At the same time, I was introduced to LZ, Floyd, Hendrix, Morrison, etc. Nothing about Nirvana held me the way that music did. As I went to college, the staples that were the Dead, Phish, DMB and so forth came into my life. Stalwarts such as Dylan, the Beatles and the Stones will always have a seat as such debates.

    I believe that any generation of kids (9-15) for the foreseeable future (i.e. my lifetime) will “discover” these groups for what they are and always will be: among the best in rock history. Period. If you want to debate that Bonham had no tempo, fine. If you want to say it’s blasphemous (sp?) that Page and Garcia are in the same league, fine. We all differ on our opinions. Hence, we have a free world!

    My thoughts on legit (albeit mainstream) tunage over the last 25 years:

    U2 REM 311 Kravitz (early stuff) Weezer Nirvana Pearl Jam White Stripes DMB

  13. howard commented on Feb 21

    me? i wonder what’s wrong with the kids. i mean, good grief, i grew up with these bands, but the idea that in the late ’60s and early ’70s i would listen to benny goodman and count basie (for the chronological equivalencies)?

    i mean, rock and roll has exactly one function in the universe: to epateur the bourgeoisie. what kind of world is it when the teenagers love the music of their bourgeois parents?

  14. todd commented on Feb 21

    BTW- What kind of doofus can’t figure out that of all classic rock albums sold to teenagers today, Led Zeppelin is more popular than Cat Stevens. LOL No wonder I cancelled my Rolling Stone subscription years ago.

    And for those of you surprised that your kids are listening to “your music,” I think music trends are more rebellious between sequential generations. Each generation tries define itself musically from the next. For a generation to be influenced by music from 3 decades ago isn’t really that shocking.

  15. Steve commented on Feb 21

    Howard — it’s your philosophy that keeps me buying 50+ new releases each year. I may not be able to keep up with the kidz, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them lap me.

  16. howard commented on Feb 21

    steve: good to see someone else feeling the same way! hope i die before my ears get old…..

    todd, i don’t mean to be difficult, but yes, it is that shocking. there weren’t a lot of teenagers in the ’50s listening to louis armstrong recordings from the ’20s; there weren’t a lot of teenagers in the ’60s (as i noted) listening to count basie; there weren’t a lot of teens in the ’70s listening to bob wills and charlie parker; there weren’t a lot of teens in the ’80s listening to jerry lee lewis, chuck berry, and elvis.

    now, it may be that there’s something specific about the music of the ’60s and ’70s that has led to a change in listening habits, and maybe things will be different going forward, but it hasn’t historically been a norm since the birth of popular recorded music.

    PS. i doubt there were many teens in the ’30s listening to enrico caruso recordings, either….

  17. calmo commented on Feb 21

    Must be a good connection to the Dubai Company to risk amplifying the already embroiled executive powers issue.
    Is the same DHS guy in charge of ensuring the safety/security issues on this one that was in charge of hurricane relief?

  18. Amur commented on Feb 21

    From the Onion:

    Father Doesn’t Understand Teenage Son’s Obsession With Classic Rock

    February 20, 2006 | Issue 42•08

    SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA—Phil Poole, 42, said Monday that he is coming to grips with his 15-year-old son Carter’s taste in music. “I thought he was playing it as a sarcastic thing, and I was like, ‘Hey, kid, your mother and I dated to Boston and Journey,'” Poole said. “But after I overheard him talking about it with his friends, I realized he actually likes it. Then I got worried—I mean, his mother and I dated to Boston and Journey.” Michaels added that he will not give Carter $30 to buy a Hot Topic rip-off of the Asia T-shirt he bought for $10 at Spencer’s Gifts in 1982.

  19. howard commented on Feb 21

    Amur: awesome.

    and steve, i should note that jenny lewis’ band rilo kiley is a fave of mine (try “portions for foxes”).

  20. Amur commented on Feb 21

    My take:

    Well Barry, let’s do our research, with controls.

    First off, balding old geeks that we are, lets assume that we’re old enough to wonder what exactly those damn kids are up to.

    Secondly, you may be a classic rock throwback; I’m a classic punk throwback. This includes both The Clash, Sex Pistols, etc., and Husker Du, X, Minor Threat, etc. of the second wave (1980s).

    I think my bald spot may be more useful to our analysis.

    First off,were them kids today playing some kind of new groove entirely foreign to our now hairy ears, well, this would surely give me some pause. I mean, maybe I’m too bald and fat and old (38 for Christ sakes), to dig what the kids are saying (and they are alright after all).

    But todays music is retread punk, retread hip-hop, or retread grunge (and grunge wasn’t exactly a new set of tires to begin with). It’s a bad imitation of what I used to listen to, not something new.

    Which gives me the authority, balding old geek or not, to officially confrim that it sucks.

    Which is why so many young un’s are turning back to classic rock.

    Yay classic rock.

    Of course, this dramatically decreases the likelihood of anything relevant coming along anytime soon.

    Still waiting for the 2006 equivelant of the Sex Pistols to come along and kick balding old geeks like Barry and me to the curb.

    But I think Genesis will still probably get a few more 3 night sellouts at JFK in Philadelphia before that happens.

  21. alex norman commented on Feb 21

    Apparently the Song really does Remain The Same…

  22. kennycan commented on Feb 22

    I disagree with the comments that not many people were listening to music 20 years old years ago. In the 70s there was a huge 50’s revival. In the 80’s the Beatles were selling a ton of albums. 90s grunge owed a deep gratitude to late 70s punk which in turn took its cue from late 60’s bands like MC5. 60’s? Clapton, the Stones, Beach Boys and the Beatles were listening to and playing Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, the Orioles and Robert Johnson! 50’s? Chuck Berry was inspired by Louis Jordan and Chuck and his piano player were listening to old 40’s blues players and Louis Armstrong.

    It’s the easy availability and technology today that is allowing kids to jump over the middlemen and go straight to the source. So rather than listen to some copy Zeppelin why not listen to Zeppelin. Even better, jump another generation and go straight for the roots. I think that is the next trend. I think that is the reason for the swing revival a few years back. People like Squirrel Nut Zippers could get their inspiration directly from Louis Armstrong himself rather than derivatives, which meant that late 90’s saw a 50 year nostalgia jump! Incredible!

  23. dsquared commented on Feb 22

    so this is a Rolling Stone article, which sources Steven Tyler, Little Steven, a guitar teacher and Joe Perry, and it concludes that classic rock is the next big thing.

    On the basis of similar analysis, I looked in my wardrobe today and discovered that the next big thing in fashion is going to be pinstripe suits and cufflinks. I asked my tailor and he said that this was certainly what he was seeing too.

  24. DG commented on Feb 22

    “Oh I’m sorry I thought this was a discussion about “Good” music. But since DG wants o mention Radiohead and John Mayer, fine but let me list a few not metioned.”

    First of all, all I said about mayer is that he can play the guitar. I made no comment about his music. Secondly, you can knock Radiohead all you want, but I am far from the only one who feels the way I do. The list of magazines, websites, and prominant critics that cite Ok Computer (not to mention three or so of their other albums) as the single best album of the 90’s is longer than my arm.

    “I think DG is a bit off the deep end with Radiohead”

    From Pitchfork media: “unadulterated genius.”

    Rollingstone (review by David Fricke): “Radiohead’s third album is one of the best rock records of the year ”

    Spin Magazine named it its #1 album from 1985-2005.

    From Wikipedia:

    #1 placing in a 1998 Q magazine readers’ poll

    In 1997 it was placed at number 7 in a ‘Music of the Millennium’ poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM;

    The album also came as Number One in the Top 100 Albums program broadcast on Channel 4 on April 17, 2005 in Britain.

    In 2004 it placed number 3 on MuchMusic’s best 50 albums since 1980

  25. DG commented on Feb 22

    And lastly, I would add, that based on the ages listed in this thread, I, at 28, appear to be among the youngest, and therefore, most in tune with the music of today.

    And based on Barry’s lists of albums on the side of the page, Id say he is more in tune as well.

  26. David Silb commented on Feb 22

    Oh DG you at 28 makes you an authority on what is “in tune” with music. Hmmm….. That’s a bold statement.

    No No All you dude’s out their please pay attention we have a self proclaimed authority on music and he says we need to have Radiohead in our music collection.

    Let me clear this up in one statement. The only reason RadioHead is discussed is because Oasis totally fell apart.

    All I hear is the continuation of Oasis in RadioHead.

    If it wasn’t for the demise of Van Halen aka Diamond Dave leaving/kicked out none of the “hair bands” would have had a shot.

    Same hear if Oasis could keep off the sauce than Radiohead would be a great coverband.

  27. Anonymous commented on Feb 22

    For what it’s worth, I’m 28, and I’ve been listening to Classic Rock (as well as Hard Rock) for 10 years. I went through a brief stint with Country, Hip-hop, and crap like that (1-2 years), and finally decided it wasn’t for me. So I listen to Pink Floyd, Metallica, Disturbed, and Barry Ritholtz. :-)

  28. dukej commented on Feb 22

    It should be no surprise that bands the major labels gave lots of time, money and artistic freedom have much deeper, long-lasting sales than recent artists. If a new band has a flop, they’re put out on the sidewalk. The Who didn’t have a real breakthrough in the States till Tommy. Pink Floyd had many poor sellers before “Dark Side”. David Bowie had albums that sold in the sub-40k range in the mid 70s, but the labels kept him on. It just wouldn’t happen today.

    I wonder what the labels think their back catalog will be doing for them 20 years from now.

  29. howard commented on Feb 22

    kennycan, more because this is fun than anything else, the point that i disagreed with was whether teenagers listened to 30-year-old music as a norm, not 20-year-old music.

    and the fact that the young keith richards and mick jagger and brian jones listened to the relatively new-at-the-time muddy waters doesn’t tell us anything: a.) they weren’t the “norm;” b.) as i’m suggesting, muddy waters wasn’t “old” music when they were listening to it.

    nor was the ’50s revival of the ’70s that big, putting aside that it wasn’t 30-year-old music.

    obviously, some of this is simply sloppy term definition on all of our parts – what is the most representative music of the ’50s, after all? elvis? jerry lee? frank sinatra? pat boone?

    amur, although i’m slightly older than you, i’ll hold my punk-rock street cred up against anyone: i saw janis joplin on her first tour of the east coast; i saw hendrix 3 times; but i also saw the clash on their first show in america; black flag on their first east coast tour; and husker du some 10 times.

    i do think the digital music revolution has made a difference in terms of classic rock, since it’s no harder to listen to led zeppelin than it is to listen to Three6Mafia. I also agree that there’s nothing in punk rock today to equal the ’70s and ’80s.

    but i don’t agree about hiphop: the stuff i like most these days are hiphop singles, and the explosive growth in popularity of the likes of Daddy Yankee suggests that there’s still plenty of teenagers doing the right thing!

  30. jsquaredone commented on Feb 22

    i read quickly through the main post and many of the comments. i might have missed something but i am shocked that there was not even a mention of the genius,robert zimmerman aka bob dylan. the body of work he produced from 1961 through 1974 shall never be topped ….his music will last forever. jjj

  31. kennycan commented on Feb 22

    I think a thought came together after my post and then reading your post. I think in the past the conduit for young people to exposure to “old” music was through young and hip musicians, who were a minority and were listening to the old music and then updating with new technology, fresh approaches, better recording techniques or combining styles (rockabilly – country swing and R&B). No kid in the sixties was going to pick up their Dad’s Louis Armstrong 78RPM vynil record and listen to it for long. It was 20 years old so it skipped, popped, crackled and sounded like it was recorded through a megaphone. Only those with patience and an ear for music perservered enough to learn to appreciate it. Then they recorded it again but in their own updated style. Viola! Crossroads by Cream. A music revolution and 30 years old (or more?) at the same time.

    Study any music, even music of today and see that not much of it was truly revolutionary as evolutionary. I think the last revolution perhaps was Jazz itself. My own odyssey in music has been over the past 30 years that I keep going back further to the roots both because the old is new (ie remastered old records even going back to the 40’s have been cleaned up enough that the sound quality is listenable), but also because the new is old! When I do listen to Hip-Hop, which I admit is rare, I hear the Sugar Hill Gang and the Clash and Aerosmith in there. After all, the root of hip-hop is punk and rap, closing in on their 30 year anniversary. Rap has talking blues, brought to my ears the first time via the conduit of Bob Dylan (Johnny’s in the basement mixin’ up the medicine) and Barry White!!

  32. Bob Smith commented on Mar 1

    i agree compleatly and as a person listening to this music i like the idea of locking music exec’s in a room.

  33. Bob Smith commented on Mar 1

    i agree compleatly and as a person listening to this music i like the idea of locking music exec’s in a room.

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