Saturday, October 1, 1994

Don’t call me X

Sound Check Magazine  
October 1994

Generation X, huh?

That’s what someone, somewhere, has decided to label me and a few million other young people, ranging in age from teens to early thirties.  At 27, I guess I’m about right in the middle.

We are, Madison Avenue says, a lost generation that is absent of ambition, squandering our intellect, and lacking in direction and identity.

In August, a few hundred thousand of these Xers gathered in upstate New York and tried to recreate the magic of a grand concert that our parents’ generation held 25 years ago. And I guess some feel that we even managed to screw that up, as Woodstock II forgot the little part about getting a powerhouse lineup of great bands.
I don’t buy any of it.

We do have an identity. We do have our own past, our own memories, our own music, and our own heroes.

The Who talked about their generation.

I’ll talk about ours.

Our generation, the one they call “X,” consists of anything that we can recall happening in our lifetime. And, so far, it’s been a pretty cool ride.

I can vaguely recall, as a young child, hearing “American Pie” on the radio and being intrigued by its lyrics. I can remember listening to Elvis Presley albums with my grandfather, marveling at his wonderful voice. I can recall watching old Monkees reruns on TV, and thinking that’s how life for a rock band actually was. And right around that same time, I recall seeing four guys from New York City slapping on the greasepaint, cranking up the amps and becoming “The Hottest Band In The World.”

But music is only a small part of it. There’s much more.

Generation X is Little League, dance recitals and fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Generation X is “Jaws,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Star Wars” and “Dancing With Wolves.” It’s “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Cosby” and The Fonz from “Happy Days” trying to jump over 14 garbage cans.

Generation X is “Batman” with Adam West and Michael Keaton. It’s “Saturday Night Live” with John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Dana Carvey. It’s silly horror movies with 10 sequels and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

Generation X, probably more than anything, is "The Breakfast Club."

Generation X is baseball strikes, free agency, and Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs in one game of the World Series. It’s Super Bowl Sunday with Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Walter Payton. It’s “Monday Night Football” with Tony Dorsett rushing for 99 1/2 yards on one play.

Generation X is astronauts. Remember the blastoffs? The splashdowns? Do you recall hearing those static-filled voices, “Come in Houston. Houston, do you read?” and seeing that tiny little white dot on the TV screen zooming towards the stars and thinking, “Wow, guys are actually in there.” Every little kid wanted to be an astronaut. (Until we found out it was really, really hard.)

Many years later, Generation X saw seven of those brave astronauts die.

Generation X is MTV. It’s J.J. Jackson, Martha Quinn and Adam Curry. It’s “120 Minutes,” “The Week In Rock” and “Headbanger’s Ball.”

Generation X is “Purple Rain,” “Pyromania,” “Born in The U.S.A,” “The Joshua Tree,” “Synchronicity” and “Thriller.”

Forget Woodstock II. Generation X is Live Aid, with millions of dollars being raised by young people to feed starving people.

Generation X is heavy metal. It’s denim jackets, faded jeans and high-top Converse sneakers. It’s Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Guns ‘N Roses and Metallica.

Generation is also classic rock and roll. It’s John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. It’s The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and The Grateful Dead. And it’s grunge, with flannel shirts, goatees and black shoes. It’s Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden.

For Generation X, the guys don’t have to shave every day. A little stubble is alright.  They play softball with their friends and go to ballgames with their dads. The women can wear their hair however they want – long and straight, short and trimmed, or a big, funky perm. They’re smart and they’re ambitious in the workforce, but they still love to talk on the phone with their friends and go to the mall with their moms.

Generation X is student loans and ridiculously high rates on car insurance.

Generation X is Ollie North, William Kennedy Smith, Clarence Thomas III and O.J.

Generation X is the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall. It’s hostages in Iran, Operation Desert Storm, Ronald Reagan beating an assassin’s bullet, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Generation X is concerned about the environment and the future of the world. It’s U.S.A for Africa, Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

Generation X does have ambition. We still study to be scientists, teachers and doctors.

Generation X, like Generation A or Generation C or whatever generations came before it, also likes a long walk on the beach, a cool summer breeze and a beautiful moonlit fall night.

Generation X, huh?

People never really change and our lives, in part, serve as both a mirror and a reflection of what goes on around us. And really, there’s no need to look to the past, or the future, to find an identity. We’re doing OK, right now, and we’re still only just beginning. If you look hard enough, you’ll see. We’re leaving our mark, here and there, slowly but surely. And when we’re all gone, the things that we built, the impressions that we left, and the changes that we’ve made will be even easier to recognize.

Rest assured, X will mark the spot.