Brian Arsenault Takes On: The Gratification of Alienation

By Brian Arsenault

I heard Tony Bennett when I went through the little shopping square today. I always feel a little sad when I hear Tony because I dread the day when I wake up and the bobble head brunette on the news says he’s dead. But of course that’s all sentimental nonsense because Tony is living one of the great lives and doesn’t need me to worry about when he dies. I should be worrying about when I die probably. Hell, he might outlive me. Better to not be worrying about death at all. Yeah, sure, bravado in the morning.

Toy Bennett
Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett is a last connection with something that now exists only in memory and on those weird period television stations. My parents, television variety shows, Sinatra and his bunch in Vegas and kids who wore Sinatra hats. (Was that weird even for 1960?), cars that were truly beautiful.

I’m starting to feel the lost connection to the generation of music that still dominates a lot of FM radio. For another weird refrain, do ya find it strange that Led Zeppelin is playing somewhere only three station clicks away. Memory radio is starting to move on to the 80s and 90s but still always tags in the 70s, which for the most part were an extension of the mid to late 60s. There’s that big bubble of a generation that is gray but listens to “classic” rock because it doesn’t seem like there’s anything else to listen to. The medium was taken as far as it could be by 1975 and even the good new stuff is essentially derivative. At least to me.

That’s why we are seeing the development of “roots” music and other rather odd offshoots. New hippies on fiddles and mandolins. Singing hipped up country songs and saccharin shit. Please. Spare me. Saw that too.
As to hip hop, it’s another language. Great for the kids. They are welcome to it. But I can’t hear it and I don’t want to listen. If you give me the finger, I’ll just shrug.

Jazz too seems stuck in patterns of the past where the musicianship is terrific but the daring creativity is at a minimum. All media betray in the end.

So that’s it in less than a lifetime. Rock getting back to the fringes. If you grew up in a small media market five decades ago, you might not have even had a rock station. Had to get in the big city broadcast that sometimes faded. At the worst times.

James Dean
James Dean

It was despised. Persecuted. Outlawed. The children should learn the sad and glorious tale of Alan Freed. Yet that was the best part. That first feeling of cool alienation. God bless James Dean. He gave a face to what was a feeling. Even after he was dead. Especially after he was dead.

Rock is fading from the mainstream as it once couldn’t bang its way in. But of course it did and changed the world. Or didn’t change the world. Maybe just had its run and tick tock tick tock time goes by. Anyway, the musicians are starting to go, seems like one or more a month. There must be a dead pool somewhere on old rockers. And once the big boomer generation goes, well . . . But we get to be alienated again before we go. And that is a fine thing.

That’s how I feel today anyway. I may feel differently tomorrow.


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