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Nostalgia’s Role In Music

Weezer EWBAITE Cover

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  It’s what keeps acts like The Rolling Stones selling out shows worldwide, and on a less fortunate end of the spectrum, keeps Axl Rose employed.

I started thinking about nostalgia after reading a recent article about Fleetwood Mac.  After an extended absence, keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie is back to complete the classic lineup.  Fans are ecstatic, never mind that this woman is now 71, and initially left in her mid-50’s because she could no longer keep up with the touring lifestyle.

I think that as musicians, we take nostalgia to a whole new level.  All music lovers associate certain songs with feelings, emotions, people, or locations from their past.  But as musicians, it’s often deeper than that.  We associate with bands or albums who changed our lives, who made us pick up an instrument and start a journey, who made us the people we are today.

My musical journey started when I was 12 years old. The year my mom got the blue and red Beatles Greatest Hits albums for Christmas.  That same year I got my first CD player and I used to it metaphorically wear those CD’s out.  It was all I listened to, and those songs (or hack-job renditions of them) were the only things that touched the strings of my catalog-special Synsonic electric guitar.  It had a built-in speaker and it was awesome!

Synthsonic Guitar

Then something happened.  The year was 1994, my older brother’s friend came over and popped in a bright blue CD.  What followed were some of the crunchies riffs and nerdiest lyrics I had ever hear.  I was completely floored.  I had never really associated with the whole 90’s grunge music, but this was something else, this spoke to me, this was Weezer.

Weezer brought something to me that The Beatles couldn’t.  They were from my generation and my parents hated it.  With my trusty pirated cassette in my Walkman, I headed to the junior high library, the only place to access the internet at the time.  I used to download all of the tabs.  This now became the music that graced the Synsonic.

For the next several years, Weezer was my band.  Pinkerton became the soundtrack to my pathetic dating life in high school and college.  Later on The Green Album and Maladroid blasted throughout my college apartment.

 As an aspiring rock star, Weezer became my go-to band for cover tracks.  As much as I wanted to play my music, I didn’t have the fanbase to justify a straight hour of me.  Consequently, I peppered in Weezer tracks, and every time I did, ears would perk up and people would sing along.  I can’t even count how many shows I ended with “Undone (The Sweater Song)”.

Unfortunately, at some point in their career something changed about Weezer.  Some fans say it happened post-Pinkerton, others, myself included, think it happened more post-Maladroit.  The days of listening to an album from start to finish ended.  Occasionally a great song like “Perfect Situation”, “The Angel and the One”, or “Run Away” would come along, but they were now stuck in between disasters like “Can’t Stop Partying” and “Where’s My Sex?”.

It’s tough to be such a huge fan of a band, yet be embarrassed to share their latest music with your friends.  That is the situation I found myself in for much of the last 10 years.  This is where nostalgia kicks in.  Most of my friends had long since abandoned any hope for Weezer.  The few of us who remained had one thing in common, we were awkward, unpopular teens from the early 90’s who learned how to shred on songs like “Say It Ain’t So”, “Only In Dreams”, and “The Good Life”. Weezer was more than just a band from our childhood.  They were our band from our childhood.  They were the band that made us who we are today.  Sure, we all hoped that one day they would return to their glorious sound, but even if they didn’t, we still had that connection.

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  It takes us back to the best times in our lives, but can also make us suffer through years of being disappointed fans.  But, everyone once-in-a-while, our heroes return to form and the years of waiting pay off.  While writing this article, I have been listening to my newly released (we’re talking within the last hour) digital download of Weezer’s latest Everything Will Be Alright In The End (don’t worry, the pre-order CD should be arriving any day).  As a fan from the beginning, I’m happy to say that nostalgia isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, tonight is the first time in 10 years that I’m going to put on my thick black frame glasses, get out my Boss DS-1, and let my 14 year old self come out to learn some new Weezer riffs.

About the author

Tim Hemingway

I want to be a rockstar when I grow up, at least that is what I have been putting down as my career goal ever since I was first introduced to the Beatles at 11 or 12 years old. Shortly after my introduction to the Fab Four, I picked up an old classical guitar and started learning every Beatles song I could. It was right around that time that the nickname "GuitarGuy" Tim originated. While I don't remember the exact origin, it was basically how kids at school differentiated me from the other 4 or 5 Tims in our class. Starting in Jr. High, with an arsenal of Weezer and Green Day covers, my friends and I began "performing". Over the next 10 years I played guitar or bass in various alternative, punk and acoustic bands. Somewhere mid-way through college I realized that although I had the desire to be a rockstar, maybe I didn't have the songwriting abilities, so I moved my passion for music behind the console. I then spent several years working in a studio by day, and at night running everything from local concerts to community musicals. Without all of the boring details, my studio work eventually led me into advertising and marketing which is what I now do during the day. But when I come home at night, I still pull out my guitar and put on concerts for my kiddos (I’m raising up the next generation of Guitar Gods). I met up with the Rev while I was in grad school and was working on my thesis: Turn it up to Eleven: A Study of Guitar Hero and Rockband gamers. Why they play and how marketers can use this information. Yes, it is true. I have several academic publications about Guitar Hero. At that time in my life I had decided to pursue a career in marketing within the music industry, but the Rev had a better idea. He gave me a shot at reviewing gear, and ever since then I have been a regular here as part of the Live2playNetwork dysfunctional-family. When it comes to music, I'm a jack of all trades. While I'm not an expert at anything, in a pinch I can play guitar, bass, drums, sing, or I can mic up the drum kit, edit in Pro Tools, or solder up a new patch cable.

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