Because my teenage children prefer music on the car radio (Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, and, incongruously, Tupac and Fifty, in the case of the 18-year-old daughter; a mix of appropriately cool and oddly named bands for my 16-year-old son--the Zutons, the Postal Service), and because television news and even the local newspaper do such a thoroughly lame job of reporting, and because I'm driving a new used car, and have not yet transferred my mix tapes from the old wrecked one, when I have control of the radio--i.e., when I'm driving alone--I usually listen to NPR. But today, I turned my radio dial (metaphorically--it's all digital now) away from my local NPR affiliate and landed on oldies radio.
First of all, there are often great moments to be had on oldies radio--a song you haven't heard in five hundred years that gives you a feeling of great relief, as if you had been waiting to hear "Rocket Man" but didn't quite know it. Also, there are unbelievably serendipitous moments, where you think, I wish I could hear "Blackbird," and then the radio gives you what you asked for--or something pretty damn close, like "Here Comes the Sun." Also, old Rolling Stones loses pretty much nothing with the years ("Start Me Up").
However, there are disturbing moments, moments in which you realize that even music you despised at the time (the seventies), you may have listened to enough to be able to sing along (that Carpenter's song that has this chorus: "Every sha-la-la-la/ every whoa whoa-o/ still shines"). No thought I have summoned up--such as the revelation that many ultra-cool rock stars love Karen Carpenter's voice--has alleviated the frightening dimension of that unconscious and unbidden sing-along, which has brought on a sobering reconsideration of all the happy memories I cherish of my youth.
I'm going back to my old policy, for the time being, of listening to music only under controlled circumstances. It's not safe to drive when you're that weirded out, for one thing.