CRANKY OLD GEEZER
Progress:n ,A going forward ;advance; development. (The Greenwich Dictionary,
Old Bob Dylan said it all when he sang the words "The times, they are 'a changin' " back in the sixties. That song, and the baby boomer generation that prompted it were the catalyst to an era of social change never before seen. It was an era of vast technological and recreational change that created a whole new view of the world. Man walked on the moon, popular music became an adventure instead of just something to dance to and we no longer took what our leaders told us as the ultimate truth. We didn't need the media to tell us how to dress and talk or what bike to ride for that matter. We were a generation of original thought. Today, that progress we made seems to have hit a wall.
I can list every bike I've ever owned. I, however am scratching the air trying to remember what brand of riding gear I wore. It didn't matter. What I rode did. I was and still am a Maico guy.
My mate was a Yamaha man and another friend rode Bultacos. We were motorcycle loyal to the nth degree. Today, because the bikes are so similar in both function and appearance, our sport has become a fashion show. I've seen racers laying shit on another rider because he didn't have the latest Kevlar pants or shiny new $600 boots. While we were Maico/Yamaha/Bultaco guys, today’s motocrossers are Answer/Shift/Fox dudes. Because there is no need to modify today’s bikes because to be quite frank, only the best pros can use everything the bikes have to offer anyway, changing the graphics constitutes tricking a bike up. Fashion strikes again.
Let's look at some of the things our generation found important and compare it to today’s equivalent.
Motocross: Thankfully, motocross hasn't changed much. It is still the same tough, physical sport we grew up with. The bikes are better, the tracks tougher and the skill factor is getting higher all the time. However, the emergence of Supercross as the main player in our culture is disturbing. Back in the beginning of Supercross I worked for the infamous Mike Goodwin, the promoter of the original Superbowl of Motocross events and I thought that stadium motocross (as it was then called) was the be all and end all of our sport. Little did I realise that the tracks would eventually become so technical and that it would influence every track design, both indoor and outdoor. Today we are burdened with tracks that are little more than jump and whoopfests. This is all very good for the spectator but it comes at the expense of making the sport even more dangerous and difficult for rookie racers trying to learn the craft. Every young potential racer wants to emulate their hero and in doing so many of those racers have suffered nasty injuries largely due to the severely angled jumps they are forced to attempt. Even local backblock tracks now feature Supercross style jumps. Many parents see this stuff and pull their kids from the sport before they get hurt, thereby limiting the growth potential of motocross and depriving the kid of a whole lot of fun.
An offshoot from all of this is Freestyle Motocross. This "sport" is a mystery to me. I just don't get it.
I find it hard to fathom that our sports governing bodies have taken control of it. I think that it is the equivalent of the International Olympic Committee ratifying the Flying Trapeze for the coming Beijing Olympics. Now that back flips are becoming the norm, what’s next? Will it be riders setting themselves on fire, with a rocket up their ass doing a double forward pike? No wonder our sports insurance premiums have risen through the roof. This shit belongs with monster truck rallies, demolition derbies and other redneck pursuits. Freestyle riders are the rodeo clowns of the dirt bike culture. Nothing more.
Cars: In my day horsepower was king. We would buy a V8, stick a lumpy cam, the biggest gas guzzling Holley we could find and headers on the beast and cruise to our hearts content. Wheels were a fat as we could fit under the fenders so we could get that awesome power to the ground at the Friday night street races. A Kenwood eight track player with Jensen Coaxial speakers up back on the parcel shelf fitted the sound requirements admirably.
Today, things aren't quite the same. The big pushrod V8 muscle car has been replaced by a pissy little Honda/Toyota/Hyundai overhead cam four cylinder with a four inch exhaust and as much horsepower as a 250 motocrosser. Now wheels aren't judged by width they but by diameter. Under the hood, the only mod is a remapped computer chip and a bit of chrome. The big money is spent on the sound system. Unbelievable as it sounds, these folks spend thousands of dollars on sound systems that rival the stage set up of circa 1976 Grateful Dead. Whereas in our day you could hear the grumble of big block Chevy’s cruising the boulevards, today all you hear is that nauseating 'doof doof ' coming from their tinny little Corollas. It's all so tragic.
Which brings me to Music: Whatever happened to musicianship? It doesn't seem that long ago that we, just like our motorcycle brand loyalty, had our favourite guitarists/drummers/bands. Many an argument started over the guitar skills of Eric Clapton as opposed to Carlos Santana or Johnny Winter being a better slide player than Dwayne Allman. What do we hear on the radio today? Basically, rehashed shit without a single standout musician. The big stars today are the club DJs and the record producers. Let's examine a few older performers and see how they match up to todays offerings.
The media have the hide to call Mariah Carey a diva. Aretha Franklin would blow her off the stage anywhere, anytime. Trust me.
The Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten and Destiny’s Child have no right to be in the same business as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips and the Ronettes.
Back Street Boys, Five and all of those boy band bullshitters should listen to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Four Tops and the Righteous Brothers for some lessons in how it's done.
All of that 'doof doof ' heavy bass stuff of today had a start with funk bands like Tower of Power and Parliament back in the seventies. They did it without electronics and a shitload more soul.
If better hard rock bands than The Stones, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin have come along, I must have missed them. Green Day? You’re fucking kidding.
I could go on but you get my drift. The number of bad remakes of old songs these days is a strong testament to what I'm talking about. Counting Crows doing Big Yellow Taxi? Pleeeese make it all go away.
I guess the generation gap is just as strong today as it was in my folks day. My gripe with today’s movers and shakers is that they think that they changed modern society. Sorry kids we did. They invented Rock'n'roll. Nope, we did. This generation has, however bought us into a whole new era of technology. I'm writing this on a computer that would have driven the entire NASA space program back in 1969. So, I guess the bottom line is that us old farts have taken on the progress made by the new generation without really thinking about it. But please, spare us Freestyle Motocross and the music and lifestyle that go with it.
OLD GEEZER RANTINGS
One of the pleasures of hitting middle age is the wonderful joy of not having to be cool. No longer does one have to listen to shit music, wear ridiculous clothes or be seen in the hippest nightclubs to be considered cool. Middle age finally allows us to drop the phoney pretence, admit that we still like the Jethro Tull and be satisfied with a few well-poured cold ones at the local watering hole with like-minded mates instead of that eleven-dollar Mai Tai at the Rendezvous nightclub with some tootsie named Jennifer.
Middle age also allows us to sit back and question the “progress” that the post baby boomer generations have foisted upon us. To challenge the notion that everything new is great. Cool even.
Following are a few random thoughts.
Freestyle Motocross is a mystery to me. I just can’t understand where it fits into the dirt bike culture in any positive way. The fact that Motorcycling Australia has taken control of the pastime (I can’t bring myself to call it a sport) is kind of like the Australian Athletic Federation promoting the Flying Trapeze on as an Olympic sport. Now that back flips are de rigueur, what’s next? Naked forward flips with pyrotechnics shooting from the riders ass? The fickle public will see through this crap before long and it will fade away. Trust me.
Sushi. When one is hungry, almost anything tastes good. That is, everything except sushi. It amazes me to see otherwise sane people filling the sushi bar near my house, lining up to eat raw fish and boiled rice wrapped in seaweed. It tastes as good as it sounds.
I always suspected that Linkaged back suspension on motocross bikes was a marketing wank. Back in 1979 when Kawasaki introduced the overly complicated Uni Trac rear suspension the American motorcycle press went loopy over all of this new technology. Pretty soon it was impossible to sell a bike to the fashion conscious motocross public unless it had one of those new fangled linkaged back ends. Of course the fact that the best handling bikes of 1981, the Maico and Husqvarna both featured linkless twin shock back suspension went over most folks heads. Even though Husky hung in there until 1984 with their superb twin Ohlin setup, fashion and falling sales dictated that even they move over to a single shock, linkaged system by 1985. Austrian/American engineer Horst Leitner saw the silliness in all of this linkage stuff and developed a simple, single sided, linkless back suspension for his innovative ATK machines of the eighties and nineties. Of course they were among the best handling bikes of that or any other era. Now, in the twilight of the new Millennium KTM engineers have seen fit to leave any form of link off their products rear suspension.
Once again, we the motocross buying public were conned by the evil god of over engineering. He was the same guy that told us that upside down forks were going to save the world. Don’t start me.
Nightclubs. In my day we went out and saw a band on a Saturday night. Simple fun, live music in a hot, smoky pub. Bands like Radio Birdman, AC/DC (yes, they did once play the local pubs around here) and Rose Tattoo pumped up an atmosphere of pure adrenalin and sex that only live music can produce. Today’s hip young things, avant-garde little possums that they are, line up for hours outside clubs to pay twenty dollars entry, then six dollars for a warm beer to...are you ready for this?...dance to a guy playing records! The “so cool” generation has elevated no talent DJ dorks with names like Grandmaster Pooboy and Slick Tommy D, into celebrities. I just don’t get it. The sight of a talentless Greek geek making scratchy noises and on old Boney M vinyl records causes me to scratch my hairy old chin in amazement. No wonder the punters have to be out of it on ecstasy (speed, to those who indulged back in the sixties/seventies) to appreciate the “art” of these major artists. The frightening thing is that there is probably a brilliant live band playing in the pub down the road for free entry and three-dollar schooners. Alas, the trendsetters avoid real music at all costs and line up to dance to the repetitive doof doof shit played by a celebrity DJ.
And they thought that we, the Woodstock generation were weird.