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Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene

Sticker Shock

Bill Walsh, Contributing Writer
E-Mail: WillWalsh@aol


I must be getting old.

I just got one of those record club things in the mail, and instead of being excited by the possibilities, I'm either bored or confused by the selections. It's a sign of rapidly approaching old age, I'm sure. When a record club offering 12 free CD's doesn't interest me at all, even I start to get worried.

You must know the kind of offer I'm talking about. Around 50 years ago (it seems), I joined a record club - one of those clubs that sends you the selection of the month automatically if you forget to tell them not to (Anybody want a copy of "KC and the Sunshine Band's Greatest Hits"?). I quit about 48 years ago, and they've been trying to get me back ever since. So they've just sent me their umpteenth "We want you back offer." I get 12 CD's free (14 if I take advantage of the special offer included).

And in case I'm incapable of reading a list of offerings, they printed up 320 little gummed stamps, each one representing a record. They only require me to tear out the 14 I want and paste them on the enclosed postage-paid reply card, and then all I need to do is to buy 4 more CD's at regular club prices to fulfill my agreement. That's right. Eighteen CD's in all, and I only need to pay for four. Such a deal!

Then I started looking at the stamps. I mean, I'm sure that the stamps represent a wide variety of musical tastes and were carefully chosen to appeal to the largest possible audience. That's why I'm so discouraged that nothing there interests me.

Cake? Korn? Poe? Who ARE these groups? Nine Inch Nails? (Actually, I've seen their hats and T-shirts around the high school). The Goo Goo Dolls? I mean, I'm not making fun of the names - anyone who ever listened to the Strawberry Alarm Clock gave up THAT right YEARS ago. I've just never heard of these alleged "artists."

There's a healthy dose of rap in the choices: The Jerky Boys, M.C. Hammer, Coolio, Case. There's a lot of country music, too: George Strait, Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam.

The only artists I've ever heard of are such dinosaurs that I either already have their records or am afraid of what a 70-year-old rock singer sounds like. Barbra Streisand? Jimmy Page (Is he still alive?). Jimi Hendrix? Cher? Liza Minelli? The Village People?

I'm hopelessly out-of-touch in the world of popular music, it seems.

I remember when I was much younger, I used to buy at least an album a week. The release of a new record was a cause for celebration or excitement (or at least something I knew about). I never would have thought it possible that rock and roll would be irrelevant to me. There was stuff I liked and stuff I hated, but never stuff I was apathetic about. Rock was the language of the times, a unifying and important facet in my life. I couldn't imagine that it would ever be less. Sure, tastes change, but rock would ALWAYS be there. With us. With me.

Or so I thought.

I don't mean to be an old fogey.

And I'm not saying that today's music is terrible (It IS, but that's not what I'm saying). I'm certain that rock music is as important to the lives of young people today as it was to me.

I guess I'm just realizing that I'm "out of the loop" nowadays, and I'm as uncomfortable with that thought as I am frightened by the prospect of turning into a rock-and-roll oldie myself, excited by the release of 25-year-old Beatle out-takes or a Monkees TV reunion.

It's just that I don't care about Porno for Pyros (great name, but lousy music). Or Eric Clapton unplugged (an acoustic version of "Layla" is as good an example of blasphemy as I've ever come across). Or Van Halen's Greatest Hits (You mean there was more than one?).

Three hundred and twenty album stamps, and I couldn't find ANY that interested me, not even a little.


Perhaps this is a harbinger of old age. Or maturity. Or even of good taste. Whatever it is, I don't like it.

Bill Walsh is the A/V Media Specialist at Billerica High School, Billerica, MA.