Driving by myself I can get lost in thought, so I turned on the radio to the classic rock station. Tom Petty’s Refugee was on. It made me think about how since I started listening to the classic rock format in 1992 nothing has changed. They still play the same songs. One could argue that a classic is a classic and so as time progresses the song content of a classic rock station shouldn’t change so much. But you’d think some new songs could be added to the canon.
Tom Petty’s Refugee was released in 1979 and by 1992 was already a staple of the station I listened to. So by that precedent any song from 1998 should be eligible for inclusion on their current playlist. Before I could think of what songs that would qualify, Refugee was over and a new track came on. I could tell from the production value that this was a song from the nineties. I was guessing The Black Crowes, but as the vocals began I realized it was a song I once hated, Aerosmith’s Cryin’.
As a twelve year old I loved Aerosmith with the scantily clad vixens in their videos and their singer Steven Tyler’s silly antics. But by the time Cryin’ came out in 1993 I was fifteen and they were dinosaurs who had become extinct in my mind for the cooler A Tribe Called Quest or the more angsty Smashing Pumpkins. Whenever Cryin’ would come on to MTV (which was quite often) I would groan and switch the station. But this time I left the song on and something strange happened, I found myself enjoying it.
Some of the pleasure was nostalgic as I remembered going into a pizza parlor from my youth when that song came on and a friend told me the nasty things he’d do to the girl in the video. But I also found myself actually liking the song for the song right down to the bluesier than I remembered harmonica solo.
I wonder what caused my change in taste. Was it because the song no longer had the values added to it from its unfavorable status in a teenager’s hierarchy or was it because it reminded me of a time and place I will never be able to access again outside my memories? Or maybe a song is just a song and that’s why radio thinks they can play the same ones over and over for decades on end.