This morning on my bike ride into work on a glorious morning the song Blitzkrieg Bop came on the I-pod. Nearly 35 years after it was released Blitzkrieg Bop is everywhere. You hear "hey ho... let's go" at the ballpark when the home team is in need of a rally. You hear it on commercials for video games and in movie trailers. Eight year olds and 60-something grandma's could probably hum a few bars or would admit that they are familiar with the song.
Of course it wasn't always that way. Being a teenager in the suburban hinterlands in the late 70's one heard of the Ramones and punk rock but it was some scary, forbidden music played only in New York City or Los Angeles. Sure you'd see a picture of a punk rocker in the back pages of Rolling Stone or Creem but there was really no way to hear the music. It's a very different world now where the internet allows someone to easily call up a song and at least hear a snippet of the song, if not its entirety.
Hearing Blitzkrieg Bop this morning reminded me of the first time I think I actually heard the song. It was in 1981 (5 years after it was released! I'm telling you it was a different time). I was listening to the radio show Progressions on NPR. Now Progressions was a way for new music to get out to the rest of the country. I think it was produced in San Francisco (sorry I couldn't find anything on the interwebs about Progressions) and was played late at night on some NPR stations. It had an early 70's FM radio vibe with a mellow, educated DJ who would spin the latest and classic punk, new wave, and other unplayed music on the radio from London, Manchester, NYC, and Los Angeles. Sometimes Progressions came across as a music professor playing music as some sort of anthropological study, showcasing this weird music for those intrigued by what was going on in the music meccas of the world. But for an 18 year old, it was just fun listening to music one never heard before.
I was completely enthralled when I first heard Blitzkrieg Bop. It was loud, short, but it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. It was actually fun rock and roll, just sped up a little. It was definitely a marker in my realization that what was passing as popular music was actually quite lame and that there was a whole wide world of music that I was missing, and not only was it good, but it was quite accessible. For that reason I have mixed feelings when I hear Blitzkrieg Bop on a video game commercial. Sure it's nice to see that our culture has changed so that music like this is now considered mainstream (and believe me it would never be played at the ballpark if it wasn't mainstream). But on the other hand there's just a small part of me who wishes there that songs like Blitzkrieg Bop were left undiscovered by the mass marketers and instead were shared only by those who truly love the music and are willing to go out and listen to something new, different, and a little off the beaten track (even if it takes them five years to discover it).