The Boomers Won Again with Electric Light Orchestra

 

One of the running themes of Young Americans, my Ricochet podcast, is the stubborn half-life of Baby Boomer pop culture. The movies, TV, music, etc., that were popular when the Baby Boom generation was growing up, and the pop culture they created, still seem dominant even as that generation ages into retirement. Star Wars movies still clean up in theaters. Bruce Springsteen tours sell out. Hawaii Five-O gets a TV remake. Et cetera.

Ordinarily, it is my job as a 25-year-old host of a podcast of young people to resent this fact. I bristle beneath the bridle of the Baby Boomers, who refuse to relinquish their stranglehold on pop culture. And I call on younger generations to start creating their own pop culture to liberate us from the Boomer reign.

Yeah, this is what I’m supposed to do. But I’ve got to hand it to you Boomers: You made some good stuff. And so, when I recently appeared on Political Beats, a National Review podcast that performs deep dives on the favorite bands of political personalities (which is what I guess I am now…), I chose Electric Light Orchestra.

ELO is a great, underrated band, as I have written before. Driven mostly by the Beatlesque creative energy of singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Jeff Lynne, ELO generated a steady stream of hit songs and albums in its original incarnation, particularly in the band’s peak years of 1974-1979. You surely have heard some of them: “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head,” “Evil Woman,” “Telephone Line,” “Mr. Blue Sky,” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” are some of the more famous, but there are many others.

I don’t want to say much more here, because you should just listen to what Scott Bertram and Jeff Blehar, the show’s co-hosts, and I talk about on the episode.

I just want to admit defeat, for the time being. For despite being a Millennial, when I had the chance to discuss my favorite music, I chose the band of a man born in 1947, whose commercial peak came while my father was in high school and college.

You win this round, Boomers.

There are 22 comments.

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  1. Jeff Petraska Member
    Jeff Petraska
    @JeffPetraska

    Excellent choice, Jack.  Good music is (largely) timeless.

     

    • #1
  2. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I bristle beneath the bridle of the Baby Boomers, who refuse to relinquish their stranglehold on pop culture.

    I question the analogy to the extent it suggests Boomer intent.  Nobody really put a bit in your mouth.  If Boomer culture actually remains prevalent, it’s because little worthwhile has come along to replace it.  Nature abhors a vacuum.

    But ELO is VG–there’s a nice concert video out there on one of the streaming channels.  Still, real boomer influence would be felt if you were listening to The Move. 

    • #2
  3. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I question the analogy to the extent it suggests Boomer intent. Nobody really put a bit in your mouth. If Boomer culture actually remains prevalent, it’s because little worthwhile has come along to replace it.

    I agree that the idea that Boomers are somehow imposing their cultural tastes is a little off. There are no laws imposing a Woodstock on Millennials. But Butler’s assertion is a bit subjective in that it is he stating he thinks that ELO is good, I would happen to agree, but that does not make it true of Millennials in general nor does it apply to most Millennials to my knowledge. So even though it may be great music and has been used in some current culture mediums it does not have the appeal, or usage, of current popular culture. It will become like Bach and Mozart in that it is enjoyed by a segment and not the whole of current and future societies–as far as we know now.

    • #3
  4. JackButler Podcaster
    JackButler
    @JackButler

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I question the analogy to the extent it suggests Boomer intent. Nobody really put a bit in your mouth. If Boomer culture actually remains prevalent, it’s because little worthwhile has come along to replace it.

    I agree that the idea that Boomers are somehow imposing their cultural tastes is a little off. There are no laws imposing a Woodstock on Millennials. But Butler’s assertion is a bit subjective in that it is he stating he thinks that ELO is good, I would happen to agree, but that does not make it true of Millennials in general nor does it apply to most Millennials to my knowledge. So even though it may be great music and has been used in some current culture mediums it does not have the appeal, or usage, of current popular culture. It will become like Bach and Mozart in that it is enjoyed by a segment and not the whole of current and future societies–as far as we know now.

    I would argue–and I will!–that you don’t need a law, other than the law of public opinion (which Locke called the strongest), as embodied by the Boomers who still control our pop culture’s commanding heights. I wrote about this in 2016: https://acculturated.com/baby-boomers/

    • #4
  5. Neil Hansen (Klaatu) Inactive
    Neil Hansen (Klaatu)
    @Klaatu

    The Boomers (I may or may not be one depending on how they are defined) are responsible for many ills in our society but with entertainment their contributions cannot be discounted.  My kids (31-22) can sing along to the Beatles, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen,… as readily as anything recorded in their lifetime.

    • #5
  6. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    As a Boomer, I will not take responsibility for Big Bang Theory.

    • #6
  7. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    Heh, I was in high school in the 70s, and of course the name EOL was everywhere … but …

    [brace yourselves]

    … I don’t recognize a single one of those song titles you mentioned.

    • #7
  8. Blue Yeti Admin
    Blue Yeti
    @BlueYeti

    Fredösphere (View Comment):

    Heh, I was in high school in the 70s, and of course the name EOL was everywhere … but …

    [brace yourselves]

    … I don’t recognize a single one of those song titles you mentioned.

    If you were listening to the radio in the 80’s you would recognize all of them if you heard them now. They were all giant hits. 

    • #8
  9. Mister Dog Coolidge
    Mister Dog
    @MisterDog

    Fredösphere (View Comment):

    Heh, I was in high school in the 70s, and of course the name EOL was everywhere … but …

    [brace yourselves]

    … I don’t recognize a single one of those song titles you mentioned.

    I grew up in the 70s too. ELO was always around on the radio, and it’s not like we hated them but I can’t say that I nor any of my friends had any of their albums. I appreciate them more now.

    From the podcast, I thought the fact that the name is Electric Light-Orchestra was interesting. I just always assumed it was  Electric-Light Orchestra.

    • #9
  10. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Fredösphere (View Comment):

    Heh, I was in high school in the 70s, and of course the name EOL was everywhere … but …

    [brace yourselves]

    … I don’t recognize a single one of those song titles you mentioned.

    The O/P omitted the hits Livin’ Thing and Strange Magic, which indicates the pull of Boomer music was not as strong as alleged.

    • #10
  11. Blue Yeti Admin
    Blue Yeti
    @BlueYeti

    Mister Dog (View Comment):

    Fredösphere (View Comment):

    Heh, I was in high school in the 70s, and of course the name EOL was everywhere … but …

    [brace yourselves]

    … I don’t recognize a single one of those song titles you mentioned.

    I grew up in the 70s too. ELO was always around on the radio, and it’s not like we hated them but I can’t say that I nor any of my friends had any of their albums. I appreciate them more now.

    From the podcast, I thought the fact that the name is Electric Light-Orchestra was interesting. I just always assumed it was Electric-Light Orchestra.

    I did not know that either. 

    • #11
  12. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    JackButler:

    Ordinarily, it is my job as a 25-year-old host of a podcast of young people to resent this fact. I bristle beneath the bridle of the Baby Boomers, who refuse to relinquish their stranglehold on pop culture. And I call on younger generations to start creating their own pop culture to liberate us from the Boomer reign.

    I recently had lunch with a 30-something friend, and I was surprised to learn just how deeply he resented the Boomer generation’s hold on culture. The irony is: I think his generation has totally won the battle. They have created their own pop culture, and it rules the airwaves and the zeitgeist.  

    Of course, we riled against the culture our parents created.  ((Frank Sinatra?!) And our parents despised what we created. (“The Beatles aren’t music!”)  But these are all generalizations. My mother came to appreciate the Beatles, and I came to understand that Frank Sinatra was probably the most important pop vocalist of all time.  

    I suspect these generational conflicts have been with us since the dawn of history, to one degree or another.  (Teen-aged girl in 1820, to her mother: “Mozart is soooo boring. Beethoven is dreamy.)

    • #12
  13. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    But I’ve got to hand it to you Boomers: You made some good stuff. And so, when I recently appeared on Political Beats, a National Review podcast that performs deep dives on the favorite bands of political personalities (which is what I guess I am now…), I chose Electric Light Orchestra.

    Do you drink a lot of coffee, too, Jack?

    • #13
  14. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    JackButler (View Comment):
    I would argue–and I will!–that you don’t need a law, other than the law of public opinion (which Locke called the strongest), as embodied by the Boomers who still control our pop culture’s commanding heights. I wrote about this in 2016: https://acculturated.com/baby-boomers/

    The strongest laws cannot be changed in their direction. The laws of nature triumph over public opinion. Public opinion moves with the wind and goes directly to my point that the zeitgeist favors millennials. The Boomers are dying and it isn’t Boomer music or fashion that dominates the catwalks or airwaves.

    Are there Boomers in positions of influence or power? Of course, age and position tend to correlate strongly, but as mentioned above they have not kept the culture in some frozen 1970. And more importantly cultures are not drawn out of thin air. The culture of generations build off and borrow from prior generations. Complaining about the need for a brand new millennial culture because there is an alleged cultural death grip by Boomers strikes me as a solution in need of a problem.

    • #14
  15. Matthew Singer Member
    Matthew Singer
    @MatthewSinger

    ELO was not Beatlesque.  Jeff Lynne is a lip-syncing Beatle wannabe.

    Fire on High is the only tune I won’t turn off.

    (ok ~lip syncing. they same to a recorded track.  same thing more or less)

     

    • #15
  16. Dave Sussman Contributor
    Dave Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    My oldest sons’ vinyl collection is full of every great 70’s rock band. But one of his 2018 highlights was me surprising him with an ELO concert. Lynne’s music is timeless and their performance is studio quality. 

    Image may contain: Ellen Green and Dave Sussman, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

    • #16
  17. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I listened almost exclusively to country music back when ELO was regularly hitting the charts, so they didn’t make a big impression on me at the time.  But as I became familiar with them and really gave their music a good listening, I came to view them as one of the best rock bands of all time.

    • #17
  18. JackButler Podcaster
    JackButler
    @JackButler

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):
    70’s rock band. But one of his 2018 highlights was me surprising him with an ELO concert. Lynne’s music is timeless and their performance is studio quality. 

    You are a good father! 

    • #18
  19. JackButler Podcaster
    JackButler
    @JackButler

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    I listened almost exclusively to country music back when ELO was regularly hitting the charts, so they didn’t make a big impression on me at the time. But as I became familiar with them and really gave their music a good listening, I came to view them as one of the best rock bands of all time.

    And rightly so. 

    • #19
  20. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    Does the opening theme to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg have a bit of an ELO vibe, or is that my imagination?

    • #20
  21. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):

    Does the opening theme to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg have a bit of an ELO vibe, or is that my imagination?

    I do not make that connection at all.

    • #21
  22. Blue Yeti Admin
    Blue Yeti
    @BlueYeti

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):

    Does the opening theme to The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg have a bit of an ELO vibe, or is that my imagination?

     

    • #22

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