What makes music classic, timeless?

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I think we can agree that a lot of pop and rock from 50+ years ago (counting the Chuck Berry era) is still respected and enjoyed by today's youth, and young musicians. Clearly it's because much of the music the kids and their parents and possibly grandparents listened to, has that certain something, whereas the kids growing up in the '60s and '70s generally didn't find the same enjoyment from the music their parents listened to just 20 or 30 years prior.

What makes a pop/rock song so classic and timeless, that the original recording holds up across generations? When a band plays Brown Eyed Girl in a bar, how is it that both 60-year-olds and 20-somethings dance with the same love for the music?

One thought is that when rock drumming became a thing, the beat forever changed and is universal for baby boomers and newer generations.

Another concept is that the beat changed then - late '50s, let's say - and really hasn't changed much since.

Were the old songs really that great? I think most of them were, and like today, there was no lack of sappy stuff ("Seasons In The Sun" was probably the "Friday" or "Call Me Maybe" of its day.) But there was certainly more invention and creation, and it was exciting.

It's interesting and somewhat affirming that the excitement has remained, but it's not just on the casual listener's part. Up & coming young players have a healthy respect and reverence for musicians and bands from the past like Hendrix, Bonham, Jimmy Page & Led Zeppelin, Moon & Townshend, Stevie Ray, Beatles, Cream, etc., many of whom had stopped releasing "new" music (for obvious reasons) long before these young players were born.

So is it the musicians that played the music, or is it the songs themselves that were really that good? Sure, the older folks have an obvious throwback to their youth and the specific music they grew up with, but today's kids don't have that, so why do they dig the old stuff?

Can we expect a time where today's artists, even the one-hit-wonders, will be considered classic, and be played by bar bands in 20-30 years? Will classic songs from the '60s and '70s still hold up, or will they eventually be considered ancient?

Bermuda
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Yes, great discussion !

Here is one idea that might answer the question.

When I was growing up in the 1950’s my parents would listen to and sing songs at home from the 40’s like Chattanooga Choo Choo, White Christmas, I'll Be Seeing You, Mona Lisa etc. Those were some catchy and beautiful melodies. I still remember those tunes.

My daughter was born in 1982. She is now 33 years old. When my daughter was growing up (in the 90’s) at my house we were always listening to oldies music from the 60’s and 70’s. She is now a huge huge Beatles fan. She knows every word to every Beatle song. She also loves Led Zeppelin, Cream, etc.

She told me a few years back that she does not like the rock music from her generation (1990’s) and newer rock music. She says there is very little melody to it. You can’t easily hum the tune as you go about your day. The songs don’t “stick in your head” like the older stuff does.

Based on this I think the newer stuff lacks “the Hook” that older songs had. Of course there are exceptions. Once in a while a new song comes out that you find yourself humming during the day. I am only talking generally and I’m talking about “most” songs.

And I don't really think the drum beat for pop, rock and country Western songs has changed very much over the past 60 years.


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Derek

Silver Member
Bermuda, I think this question has a very multi-faceted answer, and I can only touch a few possibilities.

As for the music, it can depend on the artists or even to some extent the era (late 50's vs. late 60's and 70's). Much of the music WAS that good; a lot of it was that FUN.

The 50's brought us rock and roll. First it was all about having fun. The early "rebellious" stuff was about your parents and teachers, but it was pretty mild.

When the 60's came along, rock & roll changed. Challenging and not trusting authority took on a whole new level. And it got louder and "edgier".

But we have to give credit to the musicians and songwriters. . They turned it up a notch. Not to say that the earlier guys weren't up to par, it just wasn't done yet. The guitarists led the way in the 60's and 70's. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbon (whom Hendrix sited as an influence on his own playing), Pete Townsend, the list goes on. These guys had an influence on, and inspired each other to push the envelope. The drummers and other musicians upped the game as well.

Another part that may have a role in this is that we're talking about the baby boomers music. The largest percentage of our population and their music. I don't mention this to trivialize, but it may be a small part of the equation.

Aside from Jazz, wasn't this the biggest, most sweeping change in popular music?
 

shemp

Silver Member
Great Topic....

My take is that back when Chuck, Elvis and The Beatles hit the scene....it was a discovery phase. New rhythms and types of progressions and harmony were beig unearthed and formed.

While new music has amalgams of different styles, I don't think we are so much in the discovery phase anymore. New styles of music are being created by combining other styles, yes, but not that original discovery of new sounds.

I believe older recordings move us rhythmically in a different way because of the dynamics....and the space around instruments...I mean dynamics of the mix and lower mastered levels, but more dynamic headroom for a floor tom to go from 0 to 1000 because it is not compressed so much so that the overall mastered level can be at 0dBfs. Too much compression and hot mastering imho today; those old Beatles recordings really have space, man.

Last thing, I think the overall tone and message of music was, on the hole, happier back in the discovery phase....sure there were negative topics but many times they were craftily presented through great and not immediately apparent lyrics...
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
I have three daughters, 20, 16 and 12 and none of them like music older than 12 minutes ago. They grew up with rock music playing constantly and none of them care for it. To my kids Nirvana is classic rock. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Who, those bands dont even register on their radar. To them the 50's might as well be the stone age.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
IDK, I think it's because Top 40 music has become so formulatic and money oriented. Money is driving the industry, not music. Electronic handclaps are cheaper to use than a guy playing a real snare drum. It seems nothing is organic in Top 40, it's all sounds artificial. I mean money drove it before, but at least the musical standards were high. Profit and art....profit corrupts art everyday. People aren't dummies. They know what's good and what's not. The ones that care, look to when music was dictated more by musicians, not accountants. The ones that don't care will happily lap up anything you put in front of them.

I chalk it up to profit being the be all end all of every single flipping facet of life, at the expense of beauty, human-ness and basic quality.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
My daughter was born in 1982. She is now 33 years old. When my daughter was growing up (in the 90’s) at my house we were always listening to oldies music from the 60’s and 70’s. ... She told me a few years back that she does not like the rock music from her generation (1990’s) and newer rock music. She says there is very little melody to it. You can’t easily hum the tune as you go about your day. The songs don’t “stick in your head” like the older stuff does.
That's kind of my feeling as well, there are far less memorable (hook laden) songs today than there were even 20 years ago.

Another part that may have a role in this is that we're talking about the baby boomers music. The largest percentage of our population and their music. I don't mention this to trivialize, but it may be a small part of the equation.
Certainly we've held onto the music we grew up with, but why would the kids also happen to like it, some with the same passion that we did when that music was new and often cutting-edge?

I have three daughters, 20, 16 and 12 and none of them like music older than 12 minutes ago. They grew up with rock music playing constantly and none of them care for it. To my kids Nirvana is classic rock. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Who, those bands dont even register on their radar. To them the 50's might as well be the stone age.
Wow, even the 20 year old? I wonder what they'll expect to hear in bars & clubs in the future? With dance and rap becoming so mainstream over the last 20 years, is it possible that bar bands won't be needed to play live music at all? Well, maybe Country, although that's become particularly modernized and 'produced' lately.

Bermuda
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Can we expect a time where today's artists, even the one-hit-wonders, will be considered classic, and be played by bar bands in 20-30 years? Will classic songs from the '60s and '70s still hold up, or will they eventually be considered ancient?
Kids still know the words and melody to much of Yankee Doodle.
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
My oldest son is in his senior year in college. Last year, he took a Beatles class. Since he took the class, we have had many interesting conversations regarding their - and their counterparts - music. While he hesitates to compare The Beatles (or other bands from the impressionable 60s and 70s) to their modern day contemporaries, he is very quick to point out how the times and/or society has affected or affects each generation's music. If you could travel back in time and plop a tune or two from The Gin Bloosoms into the top 40, those songs just might have a chance to make it due to the time-tested formula on which the music was produced. But go the other way (past to present) and put The Beatles "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in today's Top 40 (presuming nobody ever heard of The Beatles), it probably wouldn't stand a chance. It would sound immature and too simplistic for today's musical audiences.

But because these songs are ingrained within our psyche and our worldwide society with such affection and reverence, they fail to fade away and die (kind of like Keith Richards) and remain as important to today's younger listener as they once were - and still are - to the "vintage" listener.
 

picodon

Silver Member
I think what characterises classics is uniqueness, or rather, being first of a kind. Trend setting. Classics are written by people who break the rules - in the right way. Of course there is a great deal of luck in there too, a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

I have to politely disagree with the comment about today's song lacking a "hook". I think you can hardly deny the hook in "Gangnam style", or "Lucky", the dozen and a half or so hits by the Black Eyed Peas, and so on and so forth. I think we have only become cleverer and cleverer as to what makes a song stick in your head. The question is, is it enough?

I do think the odds of a song written today still being played/listened to 20, 30, 50 years from now are much smaller than before.

First of all because it has become very hard to stick out of the huge mass of music that now makes it straight from the musician onto youtube. There is SO much music. I don't know how you can be an even bigger global hit than Gangnam Style -- it's definitely a trend setter in the sense of K-pop breaking through to the West -- but 5 years from now there will be a zillion other songs to listen to than play old Gangnam Style once again.

Second because the lifetime of a record is now so much shorter. LP's were passed on from one generation to the next and from one friend to the other. The CD was a major improvement but things are going downhill very fast now. My 20 year old CD player has given up. I can still play CD's on the DVD player but the bulk of my music is now in iTunes and I discover new music now on Deezer since the phone company included it in the subscription -- which means it's not even mine, so how can I even pass it on to the next generation? Yeah, share it on Facebook and it gets 2 seconds of attention... :p
 

Otto

Platinum Member
I think there are loads of pre-modern era music pieces that STILL are recognized by the populace...and enjoyed...and none of them have a 'drum part' as we might identify it.

I think the key to timelessness in music composition is strong hook that includes strong rhythmic implications.


Think Motzart....I can write...

dah...dah dah...dah dah - dah dah - dah dah...

..and most people will understand which piece Im implying.


Why?...it has a very strong hook and the rhythm plays a strong role in that hook....and it has had insane exposure, of course.
 

Dave A

Member
When I used to live in the UK the majority of younger people would listen to radio 1. During the 80's and early 90's they used to have an hours golden oldie section in the morning. They'd play a selection of songs from the 60's or 70's (rarely the 50's) and you had to guess what year it was. It was about the only thing worth listening to. Then during the 90's some toss pot producer at the BBC decided he wanted to aim for a younger audience. They still played the oldies, but now their idea of old was anything post 1983. They even played songs from the year before.
The really detrimental result of this was that the younger people weren't hearing the classic old stuff any more. I don't know how long it went on for because I left the country in 2001, but a lot of youngsters must have missed out on a great musical education.
There are a lot of good bands around now, just as there's always been (with the possible exception of the 80's), but I must admit, I don't find myself humming their tunes.
As has been mentioned, music from the 50's, 60's and 70's was all about innovation and this gave it an edge over modern music. To me a lot of modern music just sounds tiered or disposable. It's lost its cutting edge.
As also mentioned, we are now being swamped in music and it seems to be total overload. Down loading has in my eyes just made the purchasing (or stealing) of music soulless and impersonal. Disposable society. When you used to by records or even cd's you were buying something that meant something to you. The feeling of an lp cover in the hands is magical, especially gatefold. You had an emotional attachment to the record and its contents. This made it memorable and in your mind and many others it became a classic. I may be wrong and just an old fart, but that is something the youngsters are missing now.
 

double_G

Silver Member
Can we expect a time where today's artists, even the one-hit-wonders, will be considered classic, and be played by bar bands in 20-30 years? Will classic songs from the '60s and '70s still hold up, or will they eventually be considered ancient?
woo, my mind is spinning. i am optimistically thinking a lot of the 50s-70s was a renaissance of music. inspiring writing that turned into classics. same thing can be said for the jazz standards from the 20s-50s...but they had to be re-interpreted, redigested to become a pop song. but that is a tough question because what is the secret sauce. "clap hands here comes charlie" didnt have it. "i kissed a girl" by Perry doesnt have it. so there has to be a secret sauce of quality, melody & adrenaline that makes it.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I have a theory....maybe it was video that was responsible for what's happening. All of a sudden, you have a whole visual world to exploit. Up till the early eighties, there was precious few music films for mass consumption. Video obliterated all the rules and a different product resulted. All classic songs had...was audio, basically speaking. Video added a completely different facet and gave audiences much more info to form opinion. It made it into something different. Just a theory.
 

Derek

Silver Member
I'll go back to one of my points in my earlier post. Our kids like the music that we grew on. To answer (in my opinion) Bermuda's question - I think it's both that the musicians who played them were really good, and or / the songwriters were writing some great stuff. Songs not like any before them, and played differently than before. I think that these kids just recognize and appreciate that. You know, good is good.

I guess they're classics because of the old saying, "They just don't make 'em like that anymore." And they're good.

Will today's music be classics played by cover bands 25 - 30 years from now? I don't know. Will people be paying top dollar for a Ford Fusion or a Prius in good condition in 25 years? :)
 

_Leviathan_

Senior Member
To me, a lot of music from the 60's and 70's had an adventurous spirit and an experimental, yet natural quality. These bands were really pushing into the future, to the extent that you can still hear their influence today in bands that took their cues from them. The music Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin make, for example, has influenced so many rock bands that it doesn't sound dated because their spirit is still present in modern day. Natural, no BS recordings without a lot of gimmicks age the best IMO.

Contrast to a lot of music from the 1980's. This is my personal bias, but I hate the goofy effects, lame electronic sounds, and a lot of aspects of 80's music. Though the music obviously is newer than music from the 60's and 70's, I would consider it much less timeless/classic than music from the 60's and 70's because those recordings sound much more naturalistic.

The difference in a nutshell to me is- Timeless= "That still sounds great. They don't make 'em like they used to". Old- "That sounds dated. I can see why they got rid of that stuff."
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
To me there are a number of factors at play:

1. A point of view. From the 60's onwards we get popular music played by the people who wrote it. From Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards to the singer-songwriter genre, the songs meant something to the people performing them. Having a point of view imbues the song with a special something. That's true whether it's Paul Simon using a prizefighter as a metaphor for handling what life dishes out or the Beatles being goofily entertaining with the Octopus's Garden.

2. Musicianship trumps studio cleverness. Sort of. There was a lot of bloaty over-production in the run up to punk, and it was back in some mid-late 80's stuff. But the stuff that seems to last is the stuff where the musicians were in charge. And this is true even where the musicianship is not necessarily technically awesome, as long as that point of view thing holds true.

3. Musicians knew stuff. The guys we dote on from the 60's were disciples of the blues, Paul Simon steeped himself in music from other cultures, Sting drew inspiration from jazz and mediaeval music.

4. We also need to remember that lots of music that was around when the classics were contemporary was frankly crap. The Beatles catalogue includes Yesterday and Obla Di Obla Da.

5. Those of us who love "the classics" do so in part via acquired nostalgia, via discovering our parent's records. Sadly, that's a phenomenon that will die out. My son will discover my CD's, but who knows what my future grandkids will do. Will they stumble upon my son's ancient iPod Touch?
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Lots of good points made here ! My feeling is, the 80's were the dark ages for music. (except for a very few standouts.)

Just for fun I looked up the top grossing concert tours for 2013. Number 1 is the top grossing act and so forth down the list. This is from Billboard.

Note: The Beatles and the Rolling Stones are still making $$$



Don't concentrate on the artists. Just think about the style of music.
All those acts that I think are basic 60's and 70's style music I highlighted.
(I consider country western as old style rock and roll.)

1 Bon Jovi
2 Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour @ Cirque Du Soleil (Not sure about this one)
3 Pink
4 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
5 Rihanna
6 The Rolling Stones
7 Taylor Swift
8 Beyoncé
9 Depeche Mode
10 Kenny Chesney11 Rogers Waters
12 One Direction
13 Justin Bieber
14 Madonna
15 Jay Z & Justin Timberlake
16 Paul McCartney
17 Fleetwood Mac
18 Maroon 5 (Not sure where to put these guys)
19 Dave Matthews Band
20 André Rieu
21 Jason Aldean
22 Lady Gaga
23 Bruno Mars
24 Luke Bryan
25 Iron Maiden


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Derek

Silver Member
You think that The Dave Matthews Band, Madonna and Bruno Mars are basic 60's & 70's style music Hollywood Jim?

Really?
 
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