The other day I heard “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer on the radio twice. It’s a song that I never skip over when it comes on; I very distinctly remember getting the Blue Album as a kid—it was the first thing I bought after I upgraded to a boombox with a CD player in it.
That was 20 years ago. That figure by itself is crazy to me, only because I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I was in sixth grade. But it got me to thinking about a much more interesting fact regarding the history of rock music.
Consider this: the two stations that played “Say It Ain’t So” were both of the modern rock format variety. Their regular rotation consists of mostly new music with a smattering of older tracks, but there’s no traditional classic rock being played here—the older songs are only by artists that are either still active or still relevant by today’s modern rock standards. This means a lot of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Weezer, Offspring, etc.
Now let’s go back 20 years to 1994 when “Say It Ain’t So” was fresh and new. The stations that played the song then are the same stations (or at least the same category of station since many have changed names) that play it today in the modern rock format. To see why this is significant, we have to go back another 20 years to 1974 and see what was big on rock radio then. Here’s a sampling:
“Band On The Run” — Paul McCartney & Wings
“The Joker” — Steve Miller Band
“Dancing Machine” — Jackson 5
“Bennie and the Jets” — Elton John
“Time in a Bottle” — Jim Croce
Notice something here? These are all songs and artists that would never, ever get played on the modern rock radio stations of 1994. Because of the momentous shifts in music that happened in the ‘70s and ‘80s, things like punk rock and hair metal and grunge, the gulf between 1974 rock and 1994 rock was so wide that their music exists in completely different worlds, whereas Weezer is actually pretty close to equally relevant on modern rock radio today (taking into account both their old and current releases) as they were 20 years ago. In fact, they have a whole new generation of fans based entirely on their output over the last 10 years or so.
The same span of time. A vastly different landscape of music. Have things really changed that little in the past two decades? Was innovation and revolution in rock music much more prime for the picking back then simply by virtue of the relatively young age of the artform?
I’ll let you decide. I’m gonna go pop in the Blue Album and pretend I’m 11-years-old again.