Why Has 70's and 80's Music Remained Prevalent in Our Culture?

OK…if this has been addressed before, I apologize, but I’ve wondered about something for awhile:

The other night while watching the American TV show “The Americans”, they used the song “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, released by Elton John 44 years ago. When I am in stores, I hear many 70’s and 80’s tunes on the music system. One I heard recently was “The Joker” by Steve Miller Band.

When I am at sporting events, I hear a smattering of Taylor Swift and other current artists, but also 70’s and 80’s tunes. In commercials, 70’s and 80’s pop/rock is everywhere.

Even as I write, the concert outside my building has a band playing Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, and now Journey.

My question is: Why has that era of music been able to stay with us so long? When I was a kid in the seventies, we didn’t hear Glen Miller or the bands of the 30’s and 40’s–anywhere. Yet today 30-40 year old music is all over the place. Why has it held up so well?

Any and all opinions are welcome, and again, apologies if someone else has a similar thread here…thanks!

'cuz it was good? (mostly 70s tho).

Baby Boomers.

Okrahoma’s post immediately addressed one of my theories: it’s real music, played by people using real instruments. In short, it’s authentic, unlike much of today’s music, which relies on sampling and other techniques which at times can almost make the musician secondary.

Because it has influenced a lot of the music of today, so it has resonance. And because the teens of the 80s are the decision makers of today.

There was famously a generation gap between the baby boomers and their parents. Music, fashion, politics, the economy, religion, world view…everything changed. People listened to the music of the 30s and 49s in the 70s and 80s…in nursing homes.

But that generation gap, which some people figured would be a permanent social feature forever, was actually a one time thing. The people who came to adulthood in world War 1 and the Depression and World War 2 couldn’t understand the kids who grew up in the prosperity of the 50th and 60s. It was almost literally a completely transformed country.

There was no such radical social transformation between the 1970s and today. Sure there have been plenty of changes, you’re not going to find many baby boomers who listen to hip hop. But nothing like the generation gap has existed for 50 years.

Actually, there was a LOT of big band music around in the '70s. You weren’t listening because you were a kid, but there were entire radio stations devoted to it, The Lawrence Welk Show was a haven for it on TV, the Glenn Miller Orchestra was still touring (hell, it’s STILL touring!), Bette Midler was putting at least one song from the '40s on each of her albums, and CBS even reran Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve specials for two years after Lombardo died in 1976!

By the 1980s PBS fundraisers were featuring recording artists from the 1950s and Billy Joel did an album that was an homage to doo-wop and R&B.

And of course, long into the 2000s, everyone who wasn’t a Baby Boomer was complaining that we’d never get rid of '60s music.

So the trend is that popular music stays popular for 30-40 years. Watch for Taylor Swift and Katy Perry to patch up their feud and go on a world tour in 2041.

I grant you it was around. I recall well Bette Midler making a hit out of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” in the early 70’s. I also remember Ray Stevens" “Hen House Five Plus Too” clucking their way through “In The Mood”.

So yes, it’s true I didn’t listen to it, largely because of my age…forties music wasn’t on our list of music we liked. The difference is today, I know of more than a few young people who include 70’s and 80’s bands among those they listen to often. I have a 22 year old extended family member who’s loved The Eagles and Aerosmith since his teens, which covers roughly 2008-14. You didn’t have much of that in the 70’s. When my elders would ask what music I listened to, I would never have said “The Andrews Sisters”, so I think it’s amazing that that 70’s-80’s pop music has stayed around for so long.

Well, the latter part of them, at least. We used to be awash in 50’s-60’s Rock n’ Roll. It was all over movies, and there was at least one station in large markets that played nothing but that. 70’s music was largely viewed as an embarrassing pale imitation at the time.

Nowadays, their primary crowd has mostly moved on to the nursing home, so it’s pretty uncommon. There’s not even a radio station in my town that has a format that’s going to play a Beatles song before 68 or so. The same nostalgic time frame will probably keep moving slowly along to later eras. Even now, we have less 70’s music saturating our culture than we did 25 years ago.

Another factor not mentioned yet is the advancement of recording technology. By the late 1960s, recording technology had improved considerably from the immediate post-WW2 era. Multi-track recording, microphone technology, better speakers and amplifiers, etc. came out of the early stages so that recordings from 1967 sound not very different from current recordings. This is not true of music recorded in the 1950s and early 1960s (or even earlier recordings), which are usually easily identified because of the particular fidelity that the recording equipment of the day provided.

Songs from 1967 and 1987 and 2017 can often sound contemporaneous, whereas a song from 1944, for example, thrown into the mix will sound out-of-place, if only for the production values in the recording.

In more flowery language, much music made since the mid-60s is, in a sense, timeless.

A little, related, anecdote.

A couple of years ago, I was at a Culver’s restaurant, and a group of teenagers (probably around 15 years old, give or take a year) were sitting across from me. Among them was a couple; the boy was wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, and the girl was wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt.

The first thing I thought to myself was, “that’s cool, they’re old-school.” And, then, I started thinking; at that point, it’d been over 30 years since either of those acts had released any music. Which made me think of myself at age 15, in 1980…and not only could I not picture myself wearing, say, a Benny Goodman or Les Paul t-shirt then, I can’t think of any of my peers who would have been listening to that sort of music. We may have been aware of it, might have heard it on occasion on TV (or on record albums that parents or grandparents owned), but it just wasn’t something any of us would have sought out.

I might have occasionally listened to “oldies”, but for my generation, the birth of rock & roll in the mid 1950s was a bright line, dividing what came before and what came after. And, thus, “oldies” was “1950s rock”, not swing or blues or anything else that came before.

Blame Casey Kasem’s disputed corpse.

Rock music was a conceptional break from the music of the 40s. Yes, there were occasional instances of covers of earlier music making the charts, and older people continued to listen to the music of their youth, but rock was different, most notably in the change from brass and woodwinds to guitars.

Music today has not made that sort of change (other than rap/hip-hop). New music is just following the paths set out in the 60s and 70s. Because current popular music is just a variation on the older music, the old stuff still sounds fresh. No popular artist today has a horn-based sound; many still have guitars.

I feel like we’re still in this rock era. We marvel at its length, but it’s been relatively short as far as big history flows.

I mean, I very much recall the presence of American Songbook singers, swing, Rat Packers and Mel Torme, etc - pre rock music was very present up through the late 60’s. Look at Ed Sullivan’s guests up through then :wink:

The point being that the older rock is still present because it’s still relevant to the youngest boomers, and it still has much in common with many genres of music today.

Will that persist another 50 years? seems very likely no.

My two musician children both love the older stuff. I wonder how many kids will learn to play actual instruments 50 years from now? That will be part of it.

[Homer Simpson]EVERYBODY knows rock music achieved perfection in 1974! This is Grand Funk Railroad, who paved the way for Jefferson Airplane, who paved the way for Jefferson Starship. Now, the stage was set for the Gram Parson Project…[/Homer Simpson]

My guess is streaming services and cable radio stations that play 24 hour content. In the olden days (the 1980s), if you weren’t a musician, the only way to listen to music was commercial radio (playing songs that were current hits) or buying the album from a record store (which likewise tended to stock records by contemporary artists). If you were an aficionado of a particular, older style of music, you’d have to seek out a specialty record store. Nowadays, any type of music you want can be accessed from your phone.

Also, factor in mind that while a lot of the 1970s rock music, while good and listenable, was pretty MOR. Musicians were businessmen and made music that had a slight ‘rebel edge’ to it, but was really safe and palatable enough for the widest range of listeners. In that sense, you could say the music of the 70s/80s was specifically designed to have lasting appeal. That went out the window in the late 80s and the rise of demographic marketing, and music was then being written to cater to specific groups of people rather than the largest audience possible.

As self-(generation)-serving as this sounds, I think I agree. I absolutely concede that each generation’s pop music appeals to that generation and only by chance to prior ones, but I find most pop music of the last two decades to be thin, highly processed, cookie-cutter and of little more appeal than commercial jingles. I’ll take Carole King over Beyonce any day of the week, and the second Tuesday as well.

Music is a very useful advertising prop, but to reach the maximum market you need well know highly recognisable songs, result is that certain songs are used again and again.

It doesn’t matter what you age is, if you are constantly exposed to advertising you are going to keep rehearing these songs.

Then you look at the demographic of the advertisers market, well they want folks with control over spending, that’s gonna be parents and above, especially for household products.

This means that even those not in the spending market also get constantly exposed to this music, and since the more memorable music is used, it stays alive.

Unfortunately a large amount of mainstream music these days seems to be easily forgettable similar sounding stuff - and without that distinctiveness it is not as attractive for advertisers to use.

You also notice that mainstream chart music seems to have a very short life - its up in the charts for maybe three weeks and then its gone and forgotten - whereas older music tended to take far longer to rise and fall through the charts, resulting in better recognition.

Lastly, the more modern stuff sells to very narrow niches, it could be for boys aged 131/2 to 14 years olf who like dance troupes, etc, music is no longer very much of a national shared experience, which makes it less of a commercial venture, we do not seem to have that collective memory of more recent music.

There was a time when the latest hit chart show was on that schoolkids would all gather around a little transistor radio that someone had smuggled into school, just to be the ones to hear the latest progress on the charts - well we all live in our own little worlds of entertainment now - we don’t seem to have that shared experience.

The only shared musical experience we all seem to have is to hear older music in stores, on adverts, etc

Welp, except for all of that “lo-fi” stuff going around now…

Boy, have you got that right! I remember talking on Mondays with kids in school about listening to American Top 40 over the weekend with the aforementioned (upthread) Casey Kasem. Shows like that–as did radio in general–appealed to listeners across the spectrum, creating the shared experience casdave wrote about.

Now it’s all about niche programming…along came Itunes and Ipods in the early 2000’s, and now even I have to admit, whenever I listen to music in the car, it’s usually on my Iphone connected to my car’s USB port!!!

Yeah, I thought about that but it’s just another example of how advanced recording technology has become: we are now able to make modern recordings that mimic the recording techniques of any time period or type of equipment.

Heck, there are now several genres of Rock & Metal that rely on an older-sounding aesthetic.