Correction to This Article
A photo caption with a Nov. 14 Style article misidentified one of the Thomas Jefferson High School students with Ian Anderson of the band Jethro Tull. The student at left was David Zeke.

'Hey Jude'? Duude.

Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson visits with Thomas Jefferson High's classic-rock club, including David Zeke, left, John Sigman and Tom Smilack. (Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 14, 2005

David Zeke -- inquisitive, artistic, analytical and vastly smarter than your average high school senior -- is failing to find the irony here. So he adores the aged song that's exploding from the speakers connected to his desktop computer. So what?

"It's just really good music," the 17-year-old from Vienna says with a shrug. This, as the snarling vocals come barreling out of the time-warp machine: "I'm not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)/I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)!"

It's the Who's landmark youth anthem "My Generation," recorded 40 years ago for a generation that has since turned gray, with adultly concerns and everything else that the song's author, Pete Townshend, seemed to fear when he made that famous 1965 declaration, "Hope I die before I get old."

Townshend was in his mid-forties when Zeke was born. The song itself already had reached the legal drinking age.

And yet, it's Zeke's music now. His buddies', too, as classic rock has become their idiom of choice.

Although reliable numbers are hard to come by, there are indications that Zeke and his pals may be part of a broader trend -- that "Light My Fire," "Satisfaction," "Hey Jude" and the rest of the classic-rock canon may be growing in popularity among teenagers who would otherwise be fawning over Franz Ferdinand, Bright Eyes and Kanye West.

The time-honored adolescent tradition of shaping an identity via music and fashion may well be leading an increasing number of kids to Woodstock and Winterland -- not to mention Target, Urban Outfitters and JCPenney, where vintage classic-rock tees are selling in large quantities, according to spokeswomen from the three retailers.

"The kids are discovering the old music as their own way of being unique," says Mike Engstrom, an executive at Rhino Records, which reissues and repackages oldies music. "It's a personal definition."

Meet the new rock, same as the old rock. (But not the old soul, alas, as the trend -- if it can be called that -- doesn't extend to classic R&B. Even if old songs are frequently recast and recycled by contemporary hip-hop and soul artists, currency remains king in black pop, which long ago replaced rock-and-roll as the primary music of youth culture.)

"I love classic rock," Zeke says. Never mind that it's his parents' music -- and that, in general, teenagers living at home have always had a gag reflex when it comes to the culturalstuffs that bear the Ma and Pa Seal of Approval.

While rock fans have customarily undergone something of an archaeological period, it's generally happened after going to college and/or moving out of the house, when generational differences begin to matter less. But the baby boomer soundtrack of the '60s and '70s has somehow stage-dived over the generation gap and is resonating with Zeke and other kids just like him.

Okay, maybe not just like him, given his extreme and proudly admitted level of classic-rock obsession, which has manifested itself thus: Zeke's instant-messaging screen name is "LedZeppelin" followed by four digits, and he's thinking about downloading Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" as his cell phone ringtone -- if only he can peel himself away from the copy of Bob Dylan's memoir, "Chronicles: Vol. 1," that he's absorbing.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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