A Child of Another Time
June 20, 2012
Doogie Howser, Saved By The Bell, Goosebumps, Animorphs, Darkwing Duck, and My So-Called Life are shows that kids of the 90s know well and remember fondly. Yet, these are shows that I, who grew up in the same time period, am only vaguely familiar with. And what I know now, I really only know now because of the Internet. At the time other kids my age were experiencing the 90s, I was in another time altogether. A time where the fifties, the sixties, and the seventies blended together seamlessly.
Before I started collecting music on my own, there were my parents' record and tapes to go through. Beyond that, we had the radio. As a family, we listened to oldies mostly, so instead of Nirvana, Oasis, Liz Phair, and Green Day, I was singing CCR, The Kinks, The Who, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Grass Roots, and Herman's Hermits. These were the bands of my childhood, the songs of my personal generation. The two that stood out the most were The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Over the years, I've noticed in music quizzes that they always want you to choose between The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, as if you're not allowed to have both. While I have come to appreciate the Rolling Stones over time, the Beatles are always first and foremost in my heart. The Fab Four paraded into my life when I was very small and simply never left. My older sister fell in love and took the rest of us with her. Quotes from Help!, A Hard Day's Night, and Yellow Submarine are still a natural part of our family vocabulary. Whenever a Beatles song starts playing on the radio or appears on my iTunes shuffle, my first response is always a smile. I knew Bob Dylan's songs before I knew the man himself, since most every sixties band had covered at least one of his songs. The Byrds and Peter, Paul & Mary were the most popular, as their socially acceptable voices were more appealing to the masses than Dylan's own, oft referred to as "nasal," singing voice style. For the record, I love Dylan's singing voice. Over time, it's become this weathered, craggy, rasp that fits his songs of endless roads and ancient tales.
Growing up, my family never watched real TV, as I thought of it. We'd check out movies from the library or from my grandfather's home collection. My grandfather was an avid movie buff. He had hundreds of movies taped off TV, all neatly catalogued and organized. When we were younger, my siblings and I would borrow three or four at a time, always writing down the number of the name and the titles in the notebook he kept. There were classics like the Marx Brothers' movies and the works of Alfred Hitchcock, as well as a variety of dramas, comedies, musicals, and westerns. Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Lauren Bacall, and James Mason were household names. I remember meeting someone later in life who didn't like black and white movies. This was something that never occurred to me, because black and white movies were staples of my childhood. I enjoyed black and white. It was elegant and classy, leaving room to imagine all the colorful possibilities of the story. But that didn't mean I hated movies in color. As with the Beatles and Rolling Stones, I liked both.
Later in life, I realized I did in fact watch TV growing up, but my TV shows were programs like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rawhide, and so on. While I do think television has gotten better over the years in terms of storytelling and character arcs, I still enjoy these shows, and I loved them wholeheartedly when I was a child. The one-off episodes were enough for me. I wanted adventure, and these shows provided it in full.
Over the years, I've caught up with bits of 90s culture. I watched all of Buffy a year or so after the seventh season ended. Radiohead, Tori Amos, and Garbage are now among my music collection. I finally surrendered and watched Titanic. (Something my ten-year-old self had vowed never to do.) At the same time, I still fail 90s pop culture trivia quizzes, and I still like black and white films. The decades blur together even more now as I realize it doesn't really matter when you experience something, as long as you enjoy the experience itself.