Sticking it to the Man – Six Decades of Teen Angst (The 70s)

by Sarah Gray

It is in the 1970s that teen angst music really becomes angsty.  Its focus shifts to flouting conformity and the American dream for the first time.  Punk rock, which would really take off in the 80s, takes its first baby steps in the 70s.  Teen angst music starts taking a broader look at the life ahead of you in the 70s and does not like what it sees.

By the way, you guys are doing a terrible job with the Congress.

1 – The Modern Lovers –Dignified and Old – 1976

This is classic teen moping.  Melodramatic whining about how you hate yourself and girls never like you.  Someday you’ll be dignified and old and you have the sneaking suspicion, based on the adults you know, that it is going to be terrible.  And you’re right.

2 – The Clash – I Fought the Law – 1979

And the law won.  Which is why you have a job and debts and kids now.  Remember when you were badass?  Remember when you fit into your skinny jeans?

3 – Alice Cooper – I’m Eighteen – 1970

This is a song that is all about being all about being eighteen.  And why wouldn’t you be?  Your hair is cool and you’re sexy in a way that is largely accidental.  The world is your oyster.  Bonus: great song to practice your over-enthusiastic air guitar routine.

4 – Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall – 1979 (Parts 1, 2 and 3)

Education is equated with thought control, which every experience you’ve had in middle school and high school seems to support.  You don’t want to be just another cog in the system, but you kind of already are.

5 – Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run – 1975

Best song I can think of encapsulating the irresistible urge you have in your late teens to run free, to see everything, to test everything you’ve been told.  My personal favorite Bruce song, which is not unrelated to the fact that I took this song pretty literally.   (You know your teen angst is bad when it lands you in Cambodia in your early 20s, but that is a whole other story.)  Nevertheless, the sentiment here could not be more true.  This is your last time to run free.  The rest of your life has already been decided for you, soon you will have college debt and an entry level  job that makes you fantasize about suicide all day.

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