I was having a bit of a whine about modern music the other day when I was berated by someone younger.
So I pulled myself together. Had sort of an epiphany. ‘Damnit' I thought, I've become that guy. You know the one, the curmudgeonly old git who spends his life complaining endlessly about what the ‘yoof' of today are listening to. And it's either too fast or has too much of those annoying drums or doesn't have a tune you can sing along to or you can't hear what the singer is singing anymore because it's all too loud and there aren't any words that are really about anything these days and anyway they're just shouting and not even singing properly just rapping to a whole bunch of electronic stuff or yelling like a hoon over some distorted noise... Anyway, I don't think, in reality, I'm quite that guy yet. But, nagdarnit, those warbly vocals over-effected by extreme auto-tuning just do my head in. There. I admitted it. My current bête noire. Thankfully, I've been around long enough to realise that this brief blip will soon pass and everyone will be as embarrassed by it as they now are about synthesised drums from the eighties. But this is nothing new.
The historical case
Tracing history back – and yes, it is just one damn thing after another – I was amused to find that the phenomenon of old folk sounding off about music of the young began much earlier than I expected. These days we marvel at clips of DJs in the 1950s smashing rock ‘n' roll records and vowing not to ever play that new abomination. And it had hardly even been named. But that hardly cuts it in historical terms… It would appear to be a Greek gentleman who first got his groove on by bitching about the young. His name was Plato. He actually did quite a bit of famous writing and thinking and is responsible for quite a lot of Ideas Of Significance, some of them very good. Plato's Retreat was named after him, and that was several millennium after his passing, so he was clearly a dude of import. He was also the first notable person to complain that music used to be good back in his day but that kids now will listen to any old junk. And it wasn't just the ‘yoof' that were to blame of course. As has so often been the way throughout history, Plato stuck the knife where it often ends: into the musicians.
Musicians to blame
He whined in The Laws that talentless modern musicians “mix dirges with hymns and paeans with dithyrambs”. Great Scott! No wonder the Greek empire fell. You can tell things are beginning to collapse when people start mixing their dirges with hymns. And as for dithyrambs? It's amazing the civilization lasted as long as it did with such bowdlerisation. And, being the legendary grumpy-guts that he clearly was, Plato had all of the same tired old generational reasons for this artistic decline; the exact explanation given every decade for the misbehaviour of rebellious young artists. He pronounced it was caused by said musicians “being frenzied and unduly possessed by a spirit of pleasure”. Yep, in case anyone wondered, Plato was a boring old fart. And with that, I'll sign off for another year. My thanks for everyone who has been in touch by email or otherwise – if by chance I didn't respond please accept my humblest apologies. Despite writing weekly for The Sun I'm a lousy correspondent and have a memory the size of a goldfish. I would, however, as has become traditional, like to leave you with a New Year's cocktail recipe. It's one of my current go-to drinks, a French Martini. The only difficulty is you'll have to buy a bottle of Chambord, a raspberry liqueur. Here we go: 50ml vodka, 50ml pineapple juice, 20ml Chambord – shake with ice, strain. Enough for one. And that's it. Cheers! Have a great New Year's Eve and I'll catch you on the other side.