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.
Page 2 of 5   <       >

'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)

His home computer, the one with the John Lennon pop-art image as the background screen, is brimming with thousands of carefully catalogued classic-rock songs, including every Pink Floyd album, plus the solo projects. "I have more songs than you'll ever hear on the Arrow," Zeke boasts, referring to Washington's classic-rock radio station WARW-FM (94.7).

Last year, as a junior at the brain factory that is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Zeke and his friend Bryce Basques formalized their shared love of "Comfortably Numb" and "Whole Lotta Love" and "25 or 6 to 4" by starting the Classic Rock Appreciation Society.

The group meets every Friday, except during those weeks when paunchy, balding rock stars spring to life from the pages of the liner notes and stop by for visits: Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, in the area last month for a gig, came to the campus for a midweek chat about "one of the most awesomest bands of all time" (per Basques) and the meaning of "Aqualung."

Jethro Tull?

"What's next, Emerson, Lake and Palmer?" sneers Charles R. Cross, author of several noted rock biographies, including the new "Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix." He adds: "But maybe the ultimate offense -- the new, best way to offend your parents -- is to listen to the music they were embarrassed to listen to. Like Jethro Tull. When it's Hendrix or the Beatles or the Stones or the Who or Zeppelin, no parent is embarrassed that their kid likes that stuff."

After Anderson's chat and a brief, decidedly un -rock-and-roll flute recital, for instance, the Tull frontman was mobbed by wide-eyed students, many of them holding Tull CDs and cassettes and decades-old vinyl LPs. And no, the students insisted, they were not getting the autographs for their folks.

"I'm a classic-rock guy," says John Jaskot, a 16-year-old Zeppelin-shirt-wearing junior whose CD copy of "Aqualung" bore Anderson's loopy signature. "It all started in sixth grade, when my sister played 'Bohemian Rhapsody' [by Queen] for me, and I was like: Whoa! I started going through my dad's CDs. Now I listen to Tull with him. My whole family does -- including my brother, who's 6."

From there, though, they split, what with Pops having betrayed his classic-rock roots. "There was a time when our interests were perfectly aligned," John says, "but he's into country now." Pshaw!

Says Cross: "Rarely do kids ever want to admit that their parents are right about anything. So it's really surprising that kids are discovering this music as teenagers."

Cool Again

Jurassic-rock concerts, for instance, are becoming ever more populated by folks who weren't alive when the bands really mattered.

And radio stations that play "-rock" prefixed by blues, prog, psychedelic, folk, hard, Southern, acid, country, etc., are recording upticks in young listenership: The percentage of 12-to-17-year-olds listening to classic rock stations increased from 2 percent in the summer of 1999 to 2.4 percent during the same period this year, according to Arbitron, which gathers ratio ratings across the country. While that might not seem like a huge jump, an Arbitron spokesman says that 2.4 percent represents the format's highest level of teen listenership since the fall of 1998, the first period for which data is readily available.

"We've surpassed the level we ever thought we could get to in the ratings, and that's primarily due to younger people making this their music," says Bob Buchmann, program director for the New York classic-rocker WAXQ-FM (104.3). The whole thing happened swiftly, he says. "Five years ago, it wasn't cool for kids to listen to their parents' music. But now all of a sudden, it is."

<       2              >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company