I Wanna Go Back

It is easy to be fond of the music of Eddie Money. I’ve written about him and his music several times already [1] and will likely do more so in the future, I have always found something immensely appealing about his traditional straight-ahead rock appeal. Like many rock & roll musicians, he began as an artist who appealed largely to younger audiences, and by the time his popularity was on the wane he was mostly charting on the adult contemporary songs with songs that appealed to older people, as his audience aged with him as is frequent with artists. Given that Eddie Money always had a bit of nostalgic appeal with his approach to music, it is little surprise that his music explicitly deals with the issue he and other rockers have had to face as they get older. Popular music and the music charts in general have often been for younger people in particular, and just when the sound of an artist starts being “mature,” it is a sure sign that they will often be suffering for mainstream success as a result of the fact that their material is starting to deal with the concerns of middle-aged people and not young people.

As a person towards the younger side of middle-aged, I find that something to be regretted. There is immense worth in music that is able to relate to the concerns of aging, and it is quite telling and fortunate that Eddie Money is one of the artists who has been able to have a successful hit with a song that dealt with the nostalgia one gets when one is getting older and one realizes the intensity of one’s desires to go back and the inability of doing so. We wish we could tackle the problems of the past with the wisdom of the present, and perhaps also long for a time when our bodies felt less frail and more energetic. If it is hard to imagine a song like “I Wanna Go Back” hitting the pop charts in the contemporary music climate, it is nice at least that in the 1980’s it was possible for a middle aged artist to make music about things that were very easy to relate to for middle aged people and have the song be viewed as energetic enough to appeal to younger audiences as well. That kind of generation crossover doesn’t happen all the time and it is always nice when people can appreciate something while also getting a preparatory lesson for themselves when they get a bit older.

Yet it should be noted, and the real purpose for bringing this is, is that nostalgia as a motivation is a very important and a very powerful one. We live in times of crisis and malaise, where we feel that the promises and opportunities of the past have been denied to those of us in the present. Even if I am more reactionary than most, I would say, I still get the feeling that a great many people look at some aspects of the past as being well worth recovering for many people, just as I do not feel that all aspects of the past are something that we would want to live through again. At least for me, a way I curb my own enthusiasm for restoring the past is to think of what previous generations and societies would do with someone like me, and at least mentally I envision a rather grim fate for me in most past societies, not being someone who does a good job at blending in or keeping my mouth shut. And it appears as if our own society is moving in a direction where that will become increasingly problematic as well. The benefits of elite status have never been so clear.

And it is well worth wondering if the desire for nostalgia is related to the way that we divide what we think about the past into the elite past that we glorify and the past for the ordinary masses of humanity that we shudder to think about. If you are an elite, just about any time and place in history can be an enjoyable place to be. You will have enough food to eat, your opinions will generally be respected, you will have the opportunity to do meaningful work and be well-regarded and remunerated for it, and you will have at least some modicum of social and political power. There is a reason, after all, why it is that elite status of some kind tends to be at the bottom of most historical fiction, since even those who want to write about slaves want to imagine that the slaves were some kind of princes back in the old country who aspired to a return to their high status through violence against oppressors. Who wants to write stories about poor people whose ancestors have been poor forever and who grind along in dismal poverty generation after generation? That is not the past that any of us want, even if it is the past that a huge amount of previous generations actually lived. When we say we want to go back, it is for castles or mighty fortresses or elites in palaces, not for peasants dying anonymously and illiterate in their twenties and thirties in malaria-infested latifunda who live their miserable lives in miserable hovels. And when we envision what a beautiful future is, we always see ourselves as some sort of elite, or else we do not see the future as being worthwhile at all. How can we act so that as many people as possible can enjoy the elite life that we strive for and dream about?

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/07/31/if-i-could-walk-on-water/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2019/08/16/a-preliminary-defense-of-the-music-of-1986/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2019/10/16/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-eddie-money/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

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