There was a certain time and a certain place. For me, it was South Florida in the late 70s. For you, it could have been up to ten years hence.
During that epoch youth were actually non-conformist. We had thrown off the debilitating herd ethos of Woodstock and embraced with vigor the freedom, individualism, and joy of the upcoming Reagan Revolution.
Our music, that of new wave, epitomized the new era. I remember it all happening in the summer of 1978. Gone then were the disco lounges, to be replaced by the sounds of the Knack and the Cars.
Which brings me to my main point by way of my attendance tonight at an Elvis Costello concert here in DC. I say here, even though I don’t live here, because I’m sitting at an Irish bar on Capitol Hill writing this article at midnight, and drinking Smithwick’s.
Arrayed around me at that concert was the last generation of free thinking American youth, 40 years later. Not that there weren’t and aren’t outliers now. But it wasn’t the majority. We were.
We were the children of Reagan who tossed away liberalism and with it the animating ethos of the popular culture. And you know what? We didn’t care. To the left we were an anomaly because we didn’t buy into the leftist approved narrative. Young people voting Republican? How could they!?
That individualistic spirit drove Costello tonight to sing his standards, which I love. It also compelled him to do a lot of his new stuff, which drove numerous audience members, including me, to repair to the lobby bar for nourishment. The thing is he cared more for his own art than the sensibilities of the audience. Hell yeah. No panderer is Costello. He’s a bloody genius. Take him or leave him on his own terms.
That concerns politics today, as culture is always upstream from the political process. We who enter gingerly into our 60s are not fooled by the silliness of utopian liberalism. We were individualists who lived through the Carter administration. We remember what it meant. That accident happened. We took note.
As Costello sang his songs of snotty nerd rebellion the old energy charged anew through the audience. His music shed away the years and for about two hours the glory of a new day, ascending out of the chaos of Watergate, Vietnam, and Carter, was fleetingly real. But alas, time is short, as are concerts. Plus we had drunkenly left a credit card at a preconcert bar. So we had to beat feet back to the joint.
Thus gone in a seemingly brief moment of music was the summer of 1978. We now returned to the world of adolescent indoctrination and programming to ponder: Will youth ever again challenge the reigning orthodoxies? Or will they sink deeper and deeper into mind-numbing woke conformity? Elvis Costello probably doesn’t know. But we, the rest of us not graced with his aesthetic brilliance, can hope.