I just learned I’ve been out of it for two decades

My niece Liana determined we needed a Girls’ Day Out and provided the central feature, matinee tickets to the Broadway musical, + Juliet. The “girls” were her mother, her sister Becca and one of her aunts, me.

We had a lovely time. For me, in particular, it became curiously educational — if you consider it “educational” to realize you’ve been culturally asleep for twenty years.

I didn’t know much about + Juliet except that Liana had seen it once and loved it. And I loved it, too. It was a clever idea carried through with wit and feminist power in the personage of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, and conceited chauvinism in the personage of Will himself.

During the musical, Will’s play — the one which cites a Romeo — gets re-plotted by Anne (who doesn’t like Will’s ending) and then re-re-plotted by Will and the characters shoot all over the place because Juliet is trying to find herself with her hilarious nurse and a couple of best friends, one of whom is gay, and later on Will resurrects Romeo but he’s a dolt and…

The show is packed with musical numbers, energetic and pop-rock styled. A sensational young cast (what would you expect? This is New York!) dazzles everyone and made the songs sound almost like big hits, even though in my ears the tunes seemed alike. But I can deal with that; I’ve sat through the fifteen hours of Wagner’s Ring Cycle around four times and the dialogue and lyrics in + Juliet were a heap more sparkling.

It was around the fifth or sixth tune when my perception took a slight skid off the rails. Didn’t I know that song? (It was “Domino,” and even now I have no idea why and how I knew this song, but I did and…) I knew that song.

Several thoughts then banged around in my head at the same time. If “Domino” was a song even I knew, did this mean all the other songs in the show were hit tunes? But if so, why didn’t I know any of them except for “Domino”? And if I didn’t — and I didn’t — why didn’t I?

Where had I been for the last twenty years?

I thought I knew a lot of pop music (I have a ton of CDs). How had I heard all of those songs in the first place? I never went to huge pop music events,* I mean not since I was taken to Aretha Franklin and then Elton John, and when a guy with whom somebody who didn’t know me fixed me up and he took me to a James Taylor concert. (He kept expecting Carly Simon to be introduced as a surprise guest. The surprise guest was a surprise to him: it was Carole King.)

Oh dear. So that’s what the Daily News little paragraph about + Juliet meant when it called the show a “jukebox musical”?

It’s taken me a few days to settle into reality and accept I no longer listen to pop radio stations and, it seems, haven’t for two decades. When I read through the program, I did know the names of most of the pop singers whose hits were in + Juliet. I wasn’t so amnesiac as to be unaware of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, the Backstreet Boys, but had I ever heard any of them sing?

I guess not.

My sister had. She said she listened to all this music with her two girls, when they were young.

So what am I doing about this startling gap in my pop cultural life? I’ve turned to my Music Choice pop channels and am now doing the ’90s. (I first tried the Y2Ks; intolerable.) There are some really lousy groups in the ’90s but now and then something I’d call a tune shows up.

*I got up really really early one winter morning in 1963, drove into NYC and was one of the only people at the Carnegie Hall box office where I bought a bunch of tickets to the first New World Beatles concert, the most memorable aspect of which was getting up really really early. The concert itself was a couple of thousand screaming girls with four guys on the stage appearing to be making music.

I still have and play all their albums, though. They were geniuses.

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One Response to I just learned I’ve been out of it for two decades

  1. Sue Thaler says:

    Love this, Naomi! I, too, am totally in the dark about today’s “music”–quoted because in my humble opinion it’s far from memorable which is what good music should be. I have heard Taylor Swift but only because of my “Swiftie” granddaughter. I’m not impressed. (With Swift, not my granddaughter, with whom I’m VERY impressed.)
    Speaking of music, I’m thinking of having a rock & roll/folk music party for my 85th birthday in the spring. If it happens, I’d love you to come. Can you forward me your email address? Or your actual address? Or your phone number?
    By the way, I totally agree that the Beatles were geniuses. I’ve got Beatles bumper stickers, a Beatles clock, a Beatles shirt, etc., etc.

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