Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rock Around the Clock

Ladies, put on your poodle skirt, slide-on your bobby socks and lace-up your saddle shoes. Gentlemen, perfect that pompadour and throw on your varsity jacket. It's time for a trip to the 1950s.

Now that you have heard the sounds that defined the 1950s, what better way is there to continue our trip back to the decade that gave us the King of Rock 'n' Roll and taught everyone to "SHOUT" than to hear from two individuals who lived it. Born in 1934 and 1937 respectively, Adam and Patricia Roginski experienced their youth and formative years in the 1950s. By experiening such a pivotal era in music during such an important age, I decided to sit down with the Roginski's on February 12 in their home to gather how they experienced the changing of recorded music from the 1950s until the present.

Brianna: Okay, how about we start in the 1950s? Is that the decade you remember best?

Patricia: "That is definitely the earliest era I would remember. I do vaguely remember the 1940s and the "big band" music from my mother listening to it. But I was only eight or nine at that point."

Brianna:  Great, let's start in the 1950s then. Who was your favorite artist of the 1950s?

Patricia: "Frankie Laine and Elvis were some of my favorites. But I loved Johnny Mathis. I even went to see him downtown at the Copa Club. We were working downtown as nurses and me and all my girlfriends went to see him sing."

(Johnny Mathis: "Chances Are)

Adam: "My brother liked to listen to country music on the radio, so I would listen to a lot of that with him. I remember hearing Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb, they were great country singers."

(Hank Snow: "I Don't Hurt Anymore")

Brianna: Do you still listen to Johnny Mathis or any of your other favorites?

Patricia: "I don't like to listen to old music."

Brianna: Oh, really? Why is that?

Patricia: "I don't know. I guess it makes me sad. It reminds me of younger times."

Adam: "I will listen to older country music on the XM Satellite radio like Ray Price. It's Willie Nelson's country music station. I still enjoy hearing country music."

Brianna: I noticed you have XM satellite radio. That's a big difference from the musical devices of the past. What type of musical devices did you use in the past?

Adam: "Mostly record players. We had 78 rpm records."

Brianna: What do you prefer? The 78 rpm records or XM radio?

Adam: I liked the sound of the old records and how the sound used to fill the houses, but I love the XM. I can listen to older country songs all day long."

Patricia: "We didn't have a record player until I was older. We used to listen to the radio for our favorite songs. I used to listen to KDKA in high school." 

Adam: "We definitely listened to the radio too. We all used to drive in our cars with the radio as loud as you could turn it up."

Brianna: "That's definitely something that hasn't changed." 

Patricia: "We used to watch a lot of variety shows to see our favorite singers, too. Shows like American Band Stand, the Ed Sullivan Show, and The Hit Parade were a big deal to watch on television. Especially for me. We didn't get a television until the late 1940s."
Brianna: When you were watching these variety shows, did you have a favorite genre that you always tuned in for?

Patricia: "I always liked romantic music, the slower songs. That's why the '50s was a great decade. All the songs had meaning to them. Every verse. New music doesn't have that.

Brianna: Speaking of new music, how would you describe music after the 1950s?

Patricia: "Terrible (laughs). Like I said, I always liked slow and romantic songs. The '60s and '70s were too fast. But now that I'm older and I listen to songs from the '60s and '70s like Elton John, I like them much more. But I always still relate to the songs I grew up with the most."
Brianna: With that strong tie to the '50s, what do you think is one significant moment in music history?

Patricia: "I think Elvis was definitely the biggest star of the decade."

Adam: "The Platters were also really big and popular, especially when Sam Cook was still with them."

(The Platters: "Only You (And You Alone)")

Patricia: "One of the biggest moments I remember is when the movie "Rock Around the Clock" was released in the mid '50s. Before that, all music was the slow and romantic kind. After that, Rock 'n' Roll really took off and music became faster and more upbeat. I think it changed music."

(The trailer of "Rock Around the Clock")

Brianna: With so much change in music from movies and artists like "Rock Around the Clock" what is the biggest difference from the music of the 1950s and today's hit music?

Patricia: "I only watched the beginning of the Grammy's the other day and I saw Taylor Swift open the show. She has a good voice but all her songs sound the same. I can't tell the difference from one to the other. They all talk about her boyfriends."

Brianna: (Laughing) That's pretty much all her songs in a nutshell.

Adam: "What about that British girl that's a new singer. What's her name?"

Brianna: Oh, you mean Adele.

Adam: "Yeah, she has a great voice."

Patricia: "Now Adele is different. She has a great voice and her lyrics make sense and have meaning. They remind me of the romantic songs I liked from the '50s. Music has gotten much better recently with artists like her. The music in the '90s and early 2000's lost me. It had no meaning."

(Adele "One and Only")

Brianna: That's pretty much all I have for today as far as questions. Thank you for you're great answers.

By having both Patricia and Adam point out how artists like Adele are channeling older styles and genres of music, I decided to complete outside research to find out just how similar today's music is to the music of the past. In a July 2011 article entitled "The Songs of Now Sound a Lot Like Then," author Simon Reynolds describes how many modern artists like Adele have had great success mimicking sounds of the past. Just as Patricia and Adam pointed out Adele's similarity to older music, Reynolds explains that Adele's hit song of 2011, "Rolling in the Deep," is a perfect homage to an older time. Reynolds specifically explains that "everything about “Rolling” — its melody and lyrics, Adele’s delivery and timbre, the role played by the backing vocalists — gestures back to a lost golden age of soul singers like Etta James and Dusty Springfield" (Reynolds, 2011). The author continues to list examples of modern musical artists who have emulated genres of the past, such as singer Cee-Lo's 1970s influenced "Forget You" and Lady Gaga's hit "Born this Way" similarity to Madonna's hit of the '90s "Express Yourself." 

While many of the "Gen Yers" may believe that we have moved far from the past, the music of today has shown that the two generation gap between Twentysomethings and individuals like Adam and Patricia Roginski is not as distant as they may think. Change is always present in society, and music is no exception to this constant of humanity. Just as Patricia explained how "Rock Around the Clock" changed music in the 1950s, other artists in almost every other generation have helped to change history through song. In a 2010 article entitled, "Music That Changed History and Still Resonates," author John Pareles explains that artists like Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp have helped to bring social change through song lyrics. Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing," which possesses lines such as “Come senators, congressman, please heed the call,” is the perfect example of just how much influence a song can have on a culture to promote change (Pareles, 2010). Just as we learn from the wisdom of our elders, music continues to learn from the lessons of music greats of the past. Despite differences in technology and cultural values, one thing remains the same from the 1950s until the present: good music is never forgotten. 

Pareles, J. (2010, February 10). Music that changed history and still resonates. The New York Times. Retrieved from
Reynold, S. (2011, July 15). The songs of now sound a lot like then. The New York Times. Retrieved from