Former music nerd makes peace with folly of younger self’s expectations – Shaw Local

Somewhere along the line, I stopped being the music nerd I once was.

My younger self would be appalled.

Back in the day, I couldn’t understand why so many people of a certain age would just listen to “oldies” radio stations and keep listening only to the artists they did when they were teenagers.

Of course, the music we grow up with holds a special place in our hearts, but why would anyone stop trying to stay current? That was my rationale at the time.

Not that staying current is an easy task. It requires time and effort.

I’ve never been a big fan of pop music. I managed to avoid the Spice Girls, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift for a long time before I no longer could escape them. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of them.

I just preferred what used to be played on college radio stations, or what was known as indie alternative. Sadly, I have no idea what it’s called these days.

In high school, I had my best friend, Robbie, who had access to MTV and a record collection that helped me stay in the loop. Her parents had a great collection of older albums, and her older sister had more cutting-edge tastes, so we would spend hours poring over great music both old and new.

There also was a radio show, “Rock Over London,” that introduced me to artists and bands such as Howard Jones, The Smiths and Siouxsie and Banshees. That was on WXRT on weekends, and I’d always find myself near my radio when it was on.

When I went to debate camp one summer during high school, I remember buying my first Depeche Mode album on cassette. Right before that trip, I bought Tears for Fears’ “Songs from the Big Chair.” Good times.

Finding new artists was easy in college, since a lot of my friends were into music, too. Between the concerts on campus in Evanston and the venues in nearby Chicago, I had no problem hearing new bands. The Cure, U2, REM and The Smithereens were favorites then.

Things got a little trickier when I entered the working world. For a while, I volunteered to do album reviews for the newspaper’s lifestyle section. I had fun with it and would stumble upon artists I liked.

When one of my co-workers, who was even more up to date on new artists than I, offered to put together playlists of new artists, I jumped at the chance to receive them. I’d burn them on CDs and spend weeks on end getting familiar with anything that caught my ear.

When I was a copy editor, I’d leave the newsroom late at night, just in time for a radio show called “The Big Beat.” I’d often hear new-to-me artists that I would add into my rotation.

These days, though, I work from home. When I learn that one of my favorite artists has something new coming out, it takes me awhile to get around to hearing it.

My younger self is clucking her tongue at me. How could I let that happen?

Life, kid, that’s what happened. Duh.

Still, I do check the best-of lists at the end of every year. I was surprised and delighted when I saw my old stalwart band Tears for Fears on more than one list of best albums of 2022.

I had read and listened to a few interviews when the album “The Tipping Point” came out. However, as often happens with me, I never got around to listening to more than the first single.

Part of it is that I’m usually leery of new music from old bands. Too many times I’ve not connected with the new stuff.

However, I must agree with the critics that “The Tipping Point” is excellent.

I’m even more excited because I’ve heard that Peter Gabriel will have something new out soon. His album “So” remains one of my favorites.

Of course, it might just take me until next year to track it down.

Much to the dismay of my younger self, no doubt.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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