Generation X. The 1970s British punk band fronted by a young Billy Idol were a bit too pedestrian and formulaic to compete with their contemporaries like the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Damned, the Adverts, the Slits and the Vibrators. But in my opinion, their biggest fatal flaw was in failing to address the real factors underlying the angst that defined their namesakes, or those of us born between the early 1960s and early 1970s.
I’m not speaking of the political climate into which we were born, nor am I referring to the existential suburban ennui with which many of us were afflicted. No, I’m talking about something far more subtly insidious than all that. I’m talking about The Brady Bunch. Specifically, Greg Brady, the aspiring musician of the fictional clan. You remember the episode where he smoked a cigarette between classes to appear cool in front of his new band mates, setting off a chain reaction of melodramatic events in the Brady household. Come on, you can admit it. We’re all friends here. There’s no judgment. Not only do you remember it, you can probably recite the script word for word.
A scene from that episode has Greg playing a new self-penned song for Bobby and Peter in their overcrowded bunk-bedroom with the sad clown picture hanging by the door. This little masterpiece entitled “Till I Met You” was the song he was planning to play for his audition with The Banana Convention, the newest rock and roll sensation of Westdale High. Barry Williams actually wrote this song himself and I have to wonder if he currently performs it live as part of his sad-nostalgia cruise ship stage show. Here’s the lyrics:
Clowns never laughed before
beanstalks never grew.
Ponies never ran before
Till I met you
Surf never broke before
Artists never drew.
Snow never fell before
Till I met you.
Phones never rang before,
Wise men never knew.
No one ever loved before,
Till I met you.
Uh huh. It’s all coming back to you now, isn’t it? Now that we’re grown and have mostly made peace with our collective neuroses, I think it’s time to take another look at how responsible Sherwood Schwartz really was for our fucked up generation. How could we possibly have grown into well-adjusted adults when an abomination like The Brady Bunch was supposed to be one of our premier pop-culture gauges of “cool”?
Phones never rang before? What the fuck? A reference to beanstalks in the opening verse? Ugh. I am now certain that this is what caused me to become an alcoholic. Sherwood Schwartz was a diabolical monster and Barry Williams was his willing accomplice. And after taking in countless episodes of this tripe at a very impressionable age, we were all primed and ready to unquestioningly lap up all the garbage MTV would feed us just a decade later.
There. I’ve just abdicated responsibility for every stupid, reckless, self-defeating thing I’ve ever done. Got a problem with that? That’s fine. Take it up with Johnny Bravo. If you don’t have time to do so in person, just give him a call. In case you weren’t aware, phones ring now and have been doing so since 1971.