There is a moment in one of my favorite Simpson's episodes (the one where Homer goes on tour with a Lollapalooza like music festival), where Homer realizes that Bart and Lisa and their friends don't know who Grand Funk Railroad is.
Homer (speaking to the kids in the car):
Nobody knows the band Grand Funk?
The wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner?!
The bong rattling bass of Mel Schacher?!
The competent drum work of Don Brewer!?!
Oh Man! (in a tone of disgust)
I bring this up because I had a very similar moment a couple of days ago. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my 21 year-old cousin, Toby, is visiting from the UK. I am 35 so I don't usually spend a lot of time around people his age. We have a lot of similar interests and cultural overlap, contemporary art, graphic design, old school hip hop, etc., but fairly regularly I discover that he has never heard of bands or films that I sort of assume everybody has at least a basic working knowledge of. The last thing that blew me away was that Toby had never heard of Van Halen! I felt like Homer: You don't know Van Halen?!, Eddie, Alex, Jamie's Crying, Eruption, Jump, Panama, Tapping, the tour rider that specified only red M&Ms, David Lee Roth's insurance policy against paternity suits, David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar, that angel smoking on the cover of 1984...
It's not that I am a huge fan of Van Halen, I just find it amazing that a band can be dominant for a decade plus (they sold 80 million albums) and then basically be as obscure to a 21 year old as the Guy Lombardo Orchestra. It's a perfectly normal process, but now I'm getting old enough to appreciate the mechanics of it. The video of Eddie Van Halen (below) really does seem like something from a very different era, very far away from where we are now. In terms of the time line of rock, we are now as far away from Jump (which came out in 1983) as Jump was from Jerry Lee Lewis' Great Balls of Fire, which was on the charts in 1958.
Toby was a good sport about me telling everyone I saw on Friday night that he had never heard of Van Halen. Everybody (all in their mid 30s) had the same shocked reaction I did. We tried to fix the situation by playing a few songs on the jukebox at the Essex Street Pub, it was a start.