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Do we have to hear classic rock <I>everywhere</I>?

| Thursday, April 22, 2004

I'd been out of the country a little over a week when it hit me. My brain had relaxed to the point where even the approach of a week with a half-dozen deadlines and a pile of overdue bills were of no matter.

But my mellow state of mind was due to more than just a week in Europe. Chalk it up to the total and complete absence of classic rock tracks in my life.

For once.

Unless your ears mercifully stopped working sometime after the latest Eagles reunion, there's nary a bar, retail outlet, restaurant or muffler repair shop in this country that doesn't torment its customers with an endless stream of 20- and 30-year-old rock songs.

This unsettling, semi-subliminal practice started sometime in the early 1990s, when consumer marketing groups realized that shoppers, drinkers and even people trying to relax at motels would be more likely to part with their dollars if they felt comforted by something familiar.

For some of us, a glass of scotch or a pint of beer is sufficiently familiar for kicking back and spending freely. Apparently, that's not enough anymore. Try as you might, the last public space in America not conducting business to the tune of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" disappeared back when people still cleaned their pot on double-gatefold album covers.

While visiting London last week, I asked several pub owners why there was no loud rock music playing over their public address systems. This question brought pained smiles of misunderstanding and some frank answers.

"But this is a bar," one publican replied. "You want music, go to a night club." There were also no big-screen TVs blaring an endless stream of overhyped professional sports events, fostering the weird concept that people should -- gasp -- go out for a drink or dinner and actually engage in conversation.

For all my kvetching and complaining about the constant presence of Don Henley in the air, I must confess that I didn't notice his absence until I'd made it back to the States. It was about three steps into a sports bar at Philadelphia International Airport when the opening chords of AC/DC's "Back in Black" thrummed through the tavern's speakers. It was loud enough to drown out boarding calls from the busy airport concourse, my inner thoughts and all nearby conversations.

Rock 'n' roll, as Chuck Berry said, is apparently here to stay. Too bad it never takes a day off.

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