I’m what is commonly known as from Generation X. Here in Australia, we could also be called the Countdown Generation. Countdown was a popular one hour weekly music show on the ABC from 1974 to 1986, hosted by former music producer Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum.
It usually featured as guest host some popular musician or band, had at least one act pretending to perform live in front of the studio audience, a few music videos, a chartbusters segment, and, at the very end, the eponymous countdown of the top ten songs of the week.
Meldrum became well known for his interviews with various rock stars on the show. (His post Countdown interview over a decade later with a visibly stoned and off his face Liam Gallagher still makes me chuckle at the memory.)
In this era, when music videos were first coming into their own, and way before the internet was more than a rocket scientist’s private preserve (to borrow from Joseph Conrad, kids, ‘the darkness was here yesterday’), it was the main way that teenagers like me were to discover new music.
There were other shows too. Channel 7 had the 3 hour long Sounds Unlimited (from 1981 simply Sounds) hosted by Donny Sutherland, and there was a brief attempt on channel 10 in 1982 with something on weekday afternoons called WROK. I guess that music videos made for some very cheap programming options.
What I am getting at is that it is now, for people like me who no longer have a working TV set and haven’t regularly listened to conventional FM radio since the mid 1990s (I once tuned into Fox FM in the mid 2000s just after I had gone through a break up and was disgusted at the lack of empathy of the DJs with the silly fools who rung up to bemoan their love lives, such that I decided it was now far too toxic to listen to) it is hard to discover any new music.
When did I last adopt any new favourite artists? Tori Amos is so 1994, Alanis Morrisette is 1996, and Live is the late 1990s. I somehow missed Pearl Jam (when I first heard someone play a guitar based version of Better Man at a birthday party in 1999, it was totally new to me). I was never really a Spandau Ballet fan, but when they toured Australia ten years ago, it was the best concert I had ever been to (and there was no one under 35 in the audience – ha!). And I have seen Suzanne Vega and Kiss tour twice.
So how do I discover music now? In the age of the iGen, iPhone, iMac, iPod, iPad, iTune, people like me are dinosaurs, wondering about where to go to find a replacement for my kaput CD player. (Finding smart speakers for the lounge room to sync with my iMac or iPhone seems to be a bit beyond me.)
What brought this reflectiveness on, you might ask? Well, I was watching Dickinson this afternoon (episode 2 – I am savouring them one at a time) and realised that they did not stop making good music in 1996 (although I think I could safely say that Suzanne Vega did, alas). There seem to be a lot of very good artists out there producing music that I could really enjoy, and someone is finding it and putting it into the Dickinson soundtrack. For example, Mitski, whose song Your Best American Girl plays as the credits roll on episode 2.
But it is challenging. Music Video shows on free to air TV are a thing of the distant past, even if I were to own a working TV (I don’t anymore), and FM radio DJs are not the funny loveable jokers they were when I would listen to whilst doing my homework in late high school or whilst writing my essays at uni.
And one way or the other, Apple Music is not all that user friendly or easy to use.