Saturday, March 17, 2018

Classic Rock

I've been a fan of KJR, "Seattle's classic rock station" (what my brother and I call "contractor radio"), ever since last summer when I spent 4-5 weeks hand-laying (literal) tons of stone and gravel to create a backyard "patio." Most of the station's music is square in my wheelhouse, and I can't for the life of me figure out why I never listened to it before (KJR has been around for decades) perhaps that they play too much Pink Floyd and Beatles for my taste.

[the Stones as well, and their songs are a little hit-or-miss for me. I'm much higher on other 70's rock bands]

But as the decades of my youth (i.e. the '80s and '90s) fall into the era considered "oldies," I suppose it's only natural that I'd evolve a taste for such programming. When I was a kid, you'd have to tune into the "Metal" station to hear acts like Metallica or AC/DC. Now that they're considered "classic rock," I roll with KJR when I'm cruising down the highway, looking for cheap tunes to blast out my windows.

Which is one of the reasons AD&D keeps poking its head into my brain.

I've written before how, in many cases, I associate particular music with particular games. There's a good reason for this: it was not unusual for me, in my youth, to close myself in my bedroom with both a new RPG and a new album, listening to the latter over-and-over on my headphones even as I read, reread, and learned new game systems and settings. This is why, for example, I associate Vampire the Masquerade with Faith No More (The Real Thing), and Rifts with Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. Sometimes I don't even remember (usually) what I was listening to at the's actually hearing the music that triggers the memory of a never trigger memories of music, for whatever reason.

So it is that lately I've been hearing a lot of the music from Def Leppard's album Hysteria on the classic rock station and having AD&D flashbacks.

Their best album? Maybe. It's
this or High N Dry.
Of course, I played D&D (and AD&D) long before I started listening to Def Leppard (or any music that was personally opposed to being standard pop radio fare). But by the time Hysteria came out (circa 1987) I was very, very deep into AD&D gaming. There was no B/X in those days; the transition from D&D to Advanced and from pre-published modules to our own campaign settings, story arcs, and adventures was (more-or-less) complete. Hearing its songs, I find myself constantly being surprised by the depths of nostalgia that come gushing out of me. Really startling!

You see, I haven't really listened to that music in decades. When I was a kid listening to it, I didn't even own an official copy of the album, just a dubbed cassette tape made for me by my best friend and co-DM. And can you imagine how long it's been since I've listened to a cassette tape...any cassette, let alone a copy that had been worn thin and tired by constant repetitive play? By the time I moved into CDs, I wasn't listening to Def Leppard anymore, and when music went electronic I never went out and acquired was never uploaded into my iPod or laptop.

Furthermore, it wasn't anything in rotation on the radio since the 1980s. Def Leppard put out that stupid commercial album Adrenalized ("Let's Get Rocked?!") that even my mother bought (I never did) and went onto the pop stations before fading into the background. The metal stations (of which there were never many) played Metallica and Megadeth and (later) stuff like Korn and Disturbed, while "alt rock" stations started a heavy rotation of grunge and indie bands (or later imitators). Hysteria, despite being a huge commercial success at the time, all but disappeared from public airwaves and from my thoughts, save when I heard someone doing a karaoke version of "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

Man, I remember going to Laser Def Leppard at the Pacific Science Center as a young teen (with my fellow AD&D players), almost certainly getting a contact high from the weed being smuggled and smoked by the older folks at the midnight showing. Way back before I had ANY vices to speak of.


I suppose what I need to do is pony up the cash and download the album onto my iTunes app and give the whole thing a solid listen. Probably in a dimly lit room, surrounded by copies of my 1st edition AD&D books, wallowing in nostalgia. I'm not really sure what the effect would be: would I feel transported back to my youth? Or would I simply feel as ancient as I do every time I tune into the "classic rock" station and do a mental calculation of how many years its been since an old favorite was first released.

I'm the one in the chair:
the rotting corpse.
Jeez. This must be something like what my father used to feel when he listened to his "Oldies" station, back in the day. Rocking out to the tunes of the 60's when he was living in the 1980's, complaining at the lack of decent music.

I am such an old man.


  1. D&D will outlast our kids. But the music of our youth will fade when our generation does. Consider: people in the 60s were not listening to ragtime or even swing. So it will be with our pop music.

    Well that didn’t come out as cheery as I had meant it!

    1. No, it bloody well didn’t!

    2. But people are still listening to music from back then. I wasn't born until '88, yet I and most people I know enjoy plenty of music from before we were born. It does get harder to find good music from before the 60s, though. Don't know too many people into, say, The Big Bopper

      I do know a guy — even younger than I am — who collects records from the 30s and 40s, trying to save them from being totally lost to Time (and from being used for disc shooting)

    3. @ Holly:

      Of course you’re right. I dig on plenty of music that was released prior to my birth. And there will be collectors, aficionados, and historians collecting pop music from all generations long after those generations are gone.

  2. Consider: Mozart was a failure in his lifetime. Bach's own children thought his music was way too old fashioned for their taste (and C.P.E. was a huge commercial success). Yet, their music still survives and drives culture. Watch any Chinese movie from the last two decades and Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is the musical cue that signals "Western Culture."

    When we are all dead and gone, what remains and what will be remembered will surprise us all. I look forward to finding out...

  3. I get what you're laying down, JB. Music and gaming go hand-in-hand for me, as well. It's a common phenomenon, from what I understand - hearing and smell trigger memories. The experience especially strong when the stimuli have not been "worn out," so to speak.

    For me, it's a seasonal thing, as well. Early winter means early '80s rock - Rush, Sabbath (the Dio years), Triumph, Rainbow, Vandenberg, a few others - which in turn means Moldvay Basic. And so it goes, throughout the year.

    Soon, we'll be approaching Cyberpunk season, which means Sisters of Mercy (Vision Thing), Queensryche, Metallica (The Black Album), and others. Talk about being a slave to the rhythm!!!

    1. Sisters of Mercy! Now THAT brings back some memories!

      [hey now hey now now...sing this corrosion to me...]

      Queensryche is probably my all-time favorite band, and cuts across so many gaming eras, I'm not sure I associate it with a single one. Metallica's Black album was definitely Werewolf the Apocalypse, though.

      Sorry...I'm drifting...

      I think it's interesting that you interconnect seasons with gaming and music. Seasons definitely have an influence on which gaming genres and systems I want to play, but it has absolutely no tie to my music-linked nostalgia (so far as I can tell). For me, they are two very, very separate things in my brain.

  4. As a middle school teacher, and college adjunct professor, I have taken a different view from Scott: modern youth seem to be more interested in our music than that of their own generation. My middle schoolers haven even started crushing on Disco!

    Why is this? There could be any number of reasons: easy access to a wider music catalog; music from the 70’s and 80’s being so prevalent in modern soundtracks and samples; or maybe even a disenchantment with the bland, repetitive nature of 21st century music. I personally think it’s a little bit of all of the above.

    And it is little surprise to me that you should have such strong aesthetic associations for certain games. I, myself, played so much Led Zeppelin along with Games Workshops entire catalog, that, to this day, ‘No Quarter’ immediately brings back the sights, sounds, and even smells of that period of High School gaming with my late friend Richard. The same can be said for Battletech and Metallica (which led to my own Barbarians of Heavy Metal setting). Every decade has its own aesthetic, and for the decade of your adolescence, that aesthetic is almost invariably connected strongly to music.

    So, enjoy it. You have something no young person can really appreciate. Being able to ‘feel’ the past through a heady haze of nostalgia is a privilege that one only earns with age…

  5. When the grocery store plays stuff that was "edgy" when I was in high school, like say, The Smiths, that's when I feel old.

    Being a little older than you, for me it's between Pyromania and On Through the Night.

    1. Pyromania over High N Dry? Granted there’re some kick ass tracks on the former (Pyromania hangs out in my driver side door pocket), but I’d still take H&D or Hysteria over the Rock of Ages. One o these days I’ll get around to re-acquiring it.
      ; )