Created on Thursday, 10 January 2013 05:04 Written by Claire Eckroate \ Columnist
It’s always a bit sad to return to campus after winter break. The dawn of 2013 has launched us back to reality. Trees are untrimmed, and as we finish the last of the holidays, snacks and caloric delights, we come to the shocking realization that the second semester has officially begun.
Amid this transition from Christmas to the ever-dreary January, radio stations have stopped playing holiday tunes and have returned to regularly scheduled programming. There is a piece of this normalcy that is worth noting: It is a phenomenon I like to call the Pittsburgh Soundtrack.
The Pittsburgh Soundtrack is the music you would hear at a bar, a restaurant run by locals or a sporting event. The guy you see quietly singing along, nodding his head to the music, is most likely wearing a Steelers jersey. The songs are from the 1970s and 1980s, and your parents know the lyrics by heart. If you’re a Pittsburgh native like me, you know them, too.
Think of synthesizers, drum solos, repetitive guitar chords and recognizable riffs — I’m talking about songs like “Carry On Wayward Son,” “Hello Again,” “Renegade” and “Paradise City.” These earworms pop up everywhere in this city, especially on radio stations such as 102.5 WDVE-FM, which might as well call itself “The Pittsburgh Soundtrack Station.” Pittsburghers’ communal music taste is stuck in the past, to the effect of nearly three decades.
But why? Let’s assess that time period and what it was for the ’Burgh.
Pittsburgh was a sports success in the 1970s. Specifically, 1979 brought champion status to the city with the Steelers’ fourth Super Bowl championship and the Pirates’ second World Series title of the decade. It was much better than what we saw in 2012.
Around the same time, Pittsburgh was entering its “Renaissance II” project phase, a follow-up of its first “Renaissance” after World War II. This was a revitalization effort to develop urban neighborhoods and culture, including the construction of notable buildings in our city’s famous skyline, such as the U.S. Steel Tower and the Oxford Centre.
“Paradise City,” perhaps? Pittsburgh was doing well.
Then, as all are aware, the steel industry took a turn for the worse. A mass exodus out of the city due to the industry’s layoffs scarred the mid- and late 1980s. Pittsburgh officially stagnated.
Just like our tastes in music.
We are singing the songs that topped the charts the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates were synonymous with “winners,” rather than “disappointments,” trying to enjoy the triumphs of yore. Karaoke favorites of ex-steelworkers dealing with high unemployment are still heard in sports bars of the new millennium’s second decade. We have yet to move on.
For some, the music has a warm and fuzzy “home” feeling to it. It’s just a little quirk that comes with the territory: If you visit our city, be prepared to enter a time warp back to when the music matched the mullets and acid-washed jeans of the day.
But 2013 should be the start of a new era for Pittsburgh. Different industries, such as education and medicine, have succeeded in recent years and continue to grow with our local economy. The air isn’t thick with pollution from the mills anymore, and significant green initiatives have begun. In the past three years, both “Forbes” and “The Economist” have named Pittsburgh the most livable city in the United States.
Stop ignoring the great strides Pittsburgh has made. It’s time to celebrate our new successes and leave the city’s recession in the past. We can start this transition by picking some new favorite songs to listen to while wearing our black and gold with pride.
My suggestion is to consider songs by The Black Keys. With similar rock ‘n’ roll beats that define the Pittsburgh Soundtrack and that Pittsburghers seem to crave, this is a solid band we can use to modernize. Released in 2011, the band’s latest album El Camino features the raw garage-rock style that one can liken to the familiar sound of the Soundtrack.
Don’t get me wrong: I love classic rock, and there are some awesome tunes on the Pittsburgh Soundtrack that will never grow old. But when songs that are 10 years older than the average college senior define a city’s music, it’s time for something new.