Music History

Are We at the End of Music Revivals?

Keep something long enough and it’ll inevitably come back into style. That applies to music, too. Nostalgia for the music of specific decades follows a rough cycle.

  • If you’re of a certain age, you might remember the 50s rock’n’roll revival of the early 70s, a time of American Graffiti, GreaseHappy Days, Sha Na Na and Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.” It was a time warp so…warped that it drove some young people of the day to rebel, leading to the creation of punk.
  • At the end of the 70s and early 80s, the 60s came back, perpetuated by movies like The Big Chill, Viet Nam films like Apocalypse Now and Rambo and the endless musical memories of Baby Boomers.
  • As we got close the end of the 80s, radio started promoting classic rock, breathing life into the giants of the 70s: Zeppelin, the Stones, Pink Floyd.
  • I started doing retro 80s nights in clubs around 1993 (which seemed awfully early at the time, but in retrospect, this was a reaction to the darkness of grunge and the more intense forms of alt-rock like industrial and goth). I did those retro nights for close to a decade.
  • A few years later, Madchester and Britpop mined British music heritage from the late 60s and early 70s.
  • Today, there’s a lot of interest in the 90s, driven largely by Generation X and their Millennial kids.
  • On their own, some Millennials find themselves pining for the music of the early 00’s.

Sounds like a perpetual thing, right? Well, maybe not. We could be coming to the end of the nostalgia cycle. This is from Wired:

Once we’ve burned through this current boom of early-’00stalgia, though, the future of the past gets a bit fuzzy. By the early ’10s, our tastes and pursuits had become far more far-flung: Netflix and Amazon moved into original programming, adding more must-sees to an already overtaxed content-grid; YouTube, Instagram, and Vine gave creators their own platforms-turned-provinces; music became a field of streams, making it possible to avoid hearing even the most over-played Top 10 hit; and the big studios became dependent on established franchises that pleased die-harders, while giving long-time moviegoers an excuse to remain on the couch. Our shared moments of cultural consciousness—the massive series finales, the unavoidable pop smashes, the summer-dominating blockbuster—are becoming rarer and rarer, with only a few truly galactic-sized phenoms left (think Minecraft; Game of Thrones; Marvel movies; pretty much anything released by Rihanna, Bieber, Adele, and Beyoncé). Years from now, when we finally gaze back at the pop highlights of this modern age, will any of us even be looking in same direction?

Interesting, no? Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38569 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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