Cross-Cultural Exam #9: Boomer v. Xer. (With PRIZE!)

Monday, 8:28pm
Reno, NV
Just take those old records off the shelf, I’ll sit n’ listen to ’em by myself…” (Bob Seger)


At the end of this post, I’ll explain how you can win a bitchin’ prize that will make you the envy of all your friends forever.

First, though — let’s learn something about marketing to humans, whadya say?

Here’s two quick “how to deal with the screaming chaos” tips for everyone in business today who’s just a tad freaked-out at the way things seem to changing so damned FAST:

Screaming Chaos-Dealing Tip #1: If you’re older, you need to cultivate solid relationships with younger folks who can help you understand the Zeitgeist of the dominant culture out there.  (Yes, even if you hate it.  Especially if you hate it, actually.)

And I’m not talking about having your nephew program your TV remote while you mow the lawn.

Nope.  I’m talking about entrepreneur-minded young adults, who just happen to be totally wired into the Grid…

… and can translate current trends while offering you some solid, smart perspective.


Screaming Chaos-Dealing Tip #2: If you’re a young entrepreneur, you need to cultivate relationships with geezers who can give you some perspective on how we GOT to this current state of affairs.

Key thing to remember: You must limit your cross-generational relationships to smart, aware, and open-minded people.

Which means you’re fishing in a VERY tiny pool.

For the most part, the generations despise each other.  Partly because of the tendency for folks to stay within their peer group both socially and economically… and partly because most old farts get grumpy, and most young studs develop an intolerable arrogance right after their first flush of pubescence.

I was an arrogant little punk when I was young.  And I remember meeting some girl’s father at a party, who took me aside twice during the evening.  The first time to admonish me (with finger waggling in my face) for having long hair and a bad attitude (and I did), which he insisted was gonna ruin my chances for living a good life (and also negate any chance I had with dating his daughter)…

… and the second time — after he’d drained a bottle of Scotch — he took me aside to tearfully explain how much he wished he was young again (sob, choke) and how us kids had it right about life while his generation was a pack of fools…

… and could I maybe move in with him and his wife and daughter, cuz I was such a wonderful, awesome dude?  (I respectfully declined.)

That pretty much summed up my youthful insight toward the elder generation: Conflicted, embarrassingly creepy when they tried to “rap” with us, and kinda sloppy with the booze.

And I hoped I died before I got old.

Then, one day I was in a big business meeting… and realized I was ten years older than the next oldest entrepreneur in the room.  I had, in what seemed like a freakin’ blink, gone from the young hotshot kid in the room, to the grizzled veteran guy.  Twenty years had passed.

Lemme tell you, I now have some solid respect for the weirdness that is growing older in American culture.

My saving grace is that I’ve never been an “ageist” — defined as someone who discriminates against others on the basis of age.  It’s a stupid concept… but the culture kind of ensures it happens, because there are precious few chances for the generations to legitimately interact and fairly judge each other.

I lucked out.  Back in college, my anthropology prof forced us to get out into the community, find people in the very late stages of life… and record their stories.  (Or flunk her course.  She was an early mentor, and knew how to get stuff done, tell you what.)

THAT was a genuine wake-up call for me. The older generation wasn’t much for trying to communicate with the younger one, and vice versa… (our motto:  “Don’t trust anyone over 30”)…

… and yet, once all the bullshit labels were yanked away, and real listening occurred…

… well, hell.  These were fascinating people, brimming with life experience I could only hope to encounter myself.  And they had fallen in love, suffered tragedy, made mistakes, lucked into a few good things, and had adventures that made the sci-fi stuff I was devouring look shallow and dull.

It’s not across the board, of course.  Some people never do anything worth telling a story about, and others are just plain boring zombies mad at the world.

But then, this applies equally to many of your peer group, no matter what age you are, or what segment of the socio-economic-ethnic culture you’re from.

So it’s important to always be on the lookout for people of all stripes and thinking that can add value to your life.  Regardless of anything else that defines them.  The real wealth in this all-too-short ride is to enjoy the full gamut of what’s on the menu.

And this brings us to the subject of this post.

Which is very much NOT earth-shaking…

… but is, rather, one of those interesting “little pieces of psychology” that nevertheless work their way into the top of your Bag Of Tricks as a salesman.

The lesson here will help any marketer trying to reach across the generational divide… and give you a hint as to how people have changed in the actual ways they measure each other up.

Here’s the story: Michele’s nephew David is (and I can back this up) among the savviest and most intensely-geared-toward-success entrepreneurs of his generation.  And he’s in his mid-twenties, for cryin’ out loud.

He’s my go-to dude whenever I have questions about how the younger generation thinks and acts.  (His biz is Next Big Sound, a company he started while still at Northwestern that is working with all the big music companies.  It’s basically a focal point online to measure how hot new bands spread their music far and wide.  Very hip, very ultra-modern, very cutting-edge… and taking complete advantage of the Web.)

And yeah, David has helped me program much of the various computerized and mechanical crap I’ve stuffed into my office.  (He’s been a life-saver, especially when I switched from PC to Mac.)

He is as deeply grounded in his generation’s psyche and habits as anyone you’ll meet.

And I’m a glutton for observing the cerebral changes constantly happening in our culture. I like to find sneaky shortcuts to understanding how people in my target markets THINK and ACT.

So… while the following may seem trivial to some readers…

… let me assure you that the underlying psychology is profound for any marketer looking to connect with an audience.

Here’s the exchange David and I had a short time ago:

Yo, David…

In my time (last century), you could walk into someone’s living quarters, spend 5 minutes perusing their record collection and the books on their shelves…

… and pretty much know what you needed to know about them.  Straight, square, hip, cool, interesting, or boring.  (Or how much dough they had, based on the number of new albums vs. used record store buys.) (And how obsessive they were, by how well they treated their collections, and what kind of stereo/turntable/components they had.)

For example: A single Carpenter’s record (or a Yanni cassette) was like 3 straight strikes, if you were dating.  And more than one Yes album (or not owning Dark Side of the Moon) was a sure clue you were dealing with a nerd.


… is there an equivalent for YOUR generation?  Do you hop on Facebook and check out anything specific, say, the way my gen studied albums and bookshelves?

Seems like most iTunes libraries are too large, and too casual, to get much info.  But maybe I’m wrong.

See, my generation didn’t spend money easily.  If you bought an album, you agonized over it.  It meant something.  Same with books.

Now, at 99cents per tune, your Iggy Pop and Queens of the Stone Age mixes don’t necessarily mean you even like the music.  Does it?

Or would you look for more general things, like emo, or trance, or hip hop vs rock, or something like that?

Thanks.  This might be a great blog post (for my generation, and for the marketers in yours).


David’s reply (and I’ve left his random capitalization and slang intact… another clue to his gen’s writing style, which reflects their agile thinking processes):

Hi John.

Spoke with a friend about this yesterday and debated the various cultural things we consume that also represent us… came up with a few things:

iTunes library / iPod

What’s in someone’s iTunes library doesn’t mean anything. Our libraries have gotten so stuffed with random hard drive dumps of music over the past 10 years that browsing someone’s library is impossible (it’s too big) and determining their taste from that selection sucks. You nailed it with the ‘costs money to buy an album’ argument that used to hold true, now everything’s so free/cheap there isn’t enough scarcity for it to matter. That is, until you sort someone’s library by play count. Seeing the Top 100 songs someone has listened to is totally telling. Which leads into… scrobbling is a sort of popular social network around music that CBS bought for a ton of money a few years back ($280mil). It’s pretty simple – anywhere I listen to music that has the ability to ‘scrobble’ reports to what I’m listening to and then shows me all sorts of cool stats and my musical affinity with another person. It’s always a good proxy for if I’ll get along with someone.  Here’s my profile:

fragmentation/long tail/top 40/the radio/the internet

After writing all that I realized two things. There’s been so much talk about the long tail and the internet fragmenting things and there never being another Johnny Carson because how the hell would all of america crowd around our TVs all the time when we have the internet now. That’s the first thing – there’s some fundamental thing that prevents massive selling albums and everyone the same age liking similar stuff. But the second thing is that I think there are really two types of people – those that still listen to the radio and know what’s on the Top 40 and those that only consume via the internet and have no idea what’s ‘popular’. There’s hybrids, of course, but that’s the bigger thing that separates people now – are they ‘internet’ people or normals? My view is probably skewed since I’m pretty much always surrounded by internet people – they find their music on Mp3 blogs and Hype Machine and started subscribing early to rdio like I did.

what blogs they follow in google reader

Seeing what someone chooses to read on a regular basis, and if they choose to read on a regular basis beyond facebook status updates and gossip sites at all, is pretty big.

who they follow on twitter

I like seeing who I follow in common with someone on twitter. That’s telling. They opt-in to these streams… and who they choose says a lot, i think..

So is there an equivalent in my generation? no, probably not. and that’s a bit unfortunate… but you figure it out pretty quickly by putting some music on and seeing how they react. lucky for me I always have an excuse to talk about music because of NBS and that helps figure it out quickly…


All right… so is this a huge wake-up call for marketers?

Perhaps… if you’ve been cross-marketing to generations and you hadn’t yet realized how differently each one “measures up” new people.  Or communicates with their peers.

The main lesson: You’re never gonna be totally hip to someone in a different generation.

I mean, I still think the current crop of pop stars are embarrassingly untalented twits… and I will never, ever understand how rap became a cultural mainstay.  (Though I like hip-hop.)

And this comes from a guy who — in my own youth — worshipped garage bands who could barely play their instruments (the Seeds, the Stones, the Ramones, etc)…

… and who remained oblivious of my father’s discontent with “that damn racket“, which was so awfully different than the smooth swing jazz he grew up with in the 40s.

Still… you should try to at least know the fundamentals of how current market segments communicate (or fail to communicate) with each other.  And how peer groups spread the message on anything (your old-school “word of mouth”).

Just don’t be that old guy with a comb-over trying to be hip around the kids, getting all your slang wrong.  (“Hey, kiddo’s, I’m a hip jivester, too, gimme some skin, man…”)

And please — if you’re a kid — don’t tell me your favorite Beatle’s song is “Yellow Submarine” and expect that to start any kind of bonding process.  I was Kinks’ kinda dude, anyway…


Okay, time for the game.

Here’s the task, and reward: The first person to name all the albums in the photo up top, in the comments section (don’t try to trump anyone by going to Facebook, now)…

… wins a free copy of my book “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel“… personally signed by me.  You’ll be the coolest kid on your block.

This is easily the toughest task I’ve ever had in this blog.  Some of those albums are freakin’ obscure… and there are a couple where all you can see are small bits of the cover.  (If I have to start dropping hints, I’ll start in a day or so.)

I imagine some Boomer who lived a life parallel to mine will scoop this one quickly.  Or some kid who grew up surrounded by Daddy’s tattered album collections…

Anyway, the comment section is open for any thread you wanna start, besides the contest.

Got any good stories or tactics to share on quickly evaluating someone?

Stay frosty,


P.S. I might be a big slow to respond in the comments — next week is Golf Week with my old pal and partner Stan Dahl.  Five days of scurrying around the finest links we can locate, with no distractions.

We’ve done this every year for around 15 years now.  Done it in Key West, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orlando, Phoenix, the California coast near Big Sur, Tahoe, Las Vegas…

… all over the freakin’ map.  It’s killer fun.  And I knew we were on to a good tradition when I noticed that other golfers we mentioned Golf Week to always got this misty-eyed look, obviously wishing they could come along.  Or have their own tradition going.

Ah, the stories Stan and I have.  Can’t share ’em here, of course.

Still, I’ll be checking in through the wonders of the World Wide Web.  So, carry on.


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  • Well I am missing two.. but posting these for now… I have seen that black album with the inkblot design before… and can’t place it… The headheaded woman.. nothing…

    -Little Feat Dixie Chicken (LOVE IT)

    -Quicksilver Messenger Service Happy Trails

    -Elvis costello My AIM IS TRUE

    -Tom Waits SMALL CHANGE album

    -Traffic Low Spark of High Heeled Boys! (LOVE IT) . BEST album!!

    -Flamin Groovies Shake Some Action

    -Commander Cody and his Lost Planet

    -The Modern Lovers Original

    -Django Reinhardt with Stephane Grappelli

    -Emerson Lake and Palmer or King Crimson or Deep Purple, ?? (black album with Inkblot image)

    • John Carlton says:

      Pretty close, Amy. But no cigar… (Hint: I didn’t haul out my Robert Fripp stuff, don’t own a Deep Purple album — though I bought the single “Hush” back in the 60s as a kid — and never really took to ELP…)

  • Thomas Fouts says:

    As usual, a real eye opener and a mind challenge. Being about your age by the looks of your albums, I still “thought” I could be groovy with the young set until I checked out a rave party and instantly knew I just came from a cave.
    But being a caregiver for my old 92 year old uncle and now 92 year old mother, I constantly get them to relate what they can of their childhood and what important lessons they learned…fascinating. Starting to understand.
    Thanks John, again.

  • Noah says:

    One more album to go and I think I’ve got them all…..

  • Noah says:

    Candy-O – The Cars
    My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello
    The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
    Happy Trails – Quicksilver Messenger Service
    Dixie Chicken – Little Feat
    Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
    Shake Some Action – Flamin Groovies
    Small Change – Tom Waits
    The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic
    The Quintet of The Hot Club Of France – Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelly
    Look Sharp – Joe Jackson
    Please Warm My Weiner – Old Time Hokum Blues
    Quicksilver Messenger Service – Quicksilver Messenger Service

    • John Carlton says:

      You’re very close, Noah. This is truly an evil contest, though… there’s a couple you missed, which are just hinted at in the photo. One is so obscure, you’ve got to apply detective skills. The other should be obvious to any Boomer, though…

      • Noah says:

        OMG. You want the little speck of red at the top the one at the bottom as well? That is just evil. Plain evil. 🙂

        I’ll see what I can do but I’m not holding out I can get those from just a speck.

        Regardless, it was fun this morning figuring out the rest…

        • John Carlton says:

          I remember radio contests where they would drop the needle into a record groove, just a note… And you had to guess the song. And you could– cuz songs have tone, audio nuances, all idiosyncratic to the song. Same with album art. That red is iconic — a sizzling debut album. Another hint later…

          • Noah says:

            I don’t want to post the rest until I’m absolutely sure. I’ve already done a lot of the grunt work for most folks.

            The last two, which I’ll be honest I didn’t even really think you’d consider part of the contest, are going to be really tough.

            I MAY have figured out the red one. Entertaining to say the least! If it is what I think it is….

            I’ll be watching for your clues. 🙂

            P.S. You know, I’ve read your blog for a while as a silent observer. I’m not sure what provoked me to get involved this morning and try and figure out the contest. Either way, glad I did.

          • Amy says:

            Did Noah get the black album with the inkblot image? I’m not seeing it.. I really want to know what that is. it looks SUPER familiar!

            Come on Noah.. get that one!

          • Noah says:

            Amy – that one is Quicksilver Messenger Service – Selt Titled Album.

          • Noah says:


          • Amy says:

            Noah so there are TWO Quicksilver Messenger Service albums up there? Happy Trails and this one? Threw me right off! LOL Great job!

  • Interesting post, John. This reminds me of a very recent thought. I was reading either Wired or Fast Company (otherwise known as Wired Lite) and there was a quick 1-page article about these 20 somethings who had just released a new app that recommends new television shows based on your personal profile.

    The prevailing thought for the software is, “Channel surfing takes too much time. Why don’t YOU tell me what you think I’d like to watch?” (with the “you” being the software, not a community)

    Stories like this come out all the time, there’s really nothing special about that. This software is just one flavor in an entire Television Show Prediction boutique.

    However, I had the striking realization of the future to come based on this new adult generation that’s just behind me – how incredibly different their brains catalog the world – and even how intensely opposite the soul of their products are from the ones my business delivers.

    My twenties are behind me. My generation is the one raised by ex-hippies (and I’m talking about ‘Hair’ hippies, not these new-fangled New Age hippies) – we ARE individuals dammit. Don’t you DARE put me in a box. I’m powerfully unique, just like everyone else. 😉 Our anthems were anti-establishment grunge rock songs from Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. Our fight wasn’t against the government, war, the previous generation or anything in particular – it was against conformity as a whole. Morphic ‘Authority’ was our bogeyman.

    Now there’s this new generation of adults just behind me striving for advanced ways to be predicted – ways to be tracked, understood and homogenized by software. These are the Digital Adults.

    They freely admit and accept what my generation so adamantly stood against… They say, “Yes, I am predictable. I have quirks and traits, but at the end of the day, I can be cataloged as such..” .. even if the “cataloguing” is across a myriad of different things making them unique from their friends, they are still “Box A, E and F” to the software.

    And not only do they accept their own predictability, but when the software gets it wrong, the Digital Adults work harder to make new software to recognize their predictability in more advanced ways.

    Here’s the beauty of it and how they are teaching my generation new forms of freedom – they don’t want *people* to predict them, they want *robots* to predict them.

    People cataloging other people is rife with blanketed judgements, personal bias and every other reason why I had such angst as a teenager.

    Software cataloging people is really people cataloging themselves – it comes across as impersonal even though it’s literally the complete opposite.

    By cataloging ourselves, we find we *happen* to be incredibly similar to so many other people .. and the only reason there’s no offense to the realization of how incredibly and predictably similar we are to other people is because of the direction we took to get there.

    When people catalog people, you get knee-jerk rebellion – you’re forced into a room with other people “just like you.”

    When we catalog ourselves, we little more than stumble into that same room, look up and say, “wow, there’s a lot of others just like me.”

    This begs the question… HOW did the Digital Adults get this new spark of thought? I blame Google.

    Google showed the world that the internet – the ultimate place of anarchy when I was younger – could be successfully parsed and cataloged.

    This was not done through activism or legislation. It was done through source-code.

    Google successfully created algorithms describing human behavior – further even: good human behavior and bad human behavior. The insanity, the pure weirdness of people can be written out as a series of mathematical equations. This was the ultimate spark.

    • John Carlton says:

      Palyn — the fight of individuality vs conformity is a long and gruesome battle. I can imagine early humans getting snotty with each other over rules in a cave somewhere: “Why do you gotta do things differently? It’s just so much EASIER when we all do it the same way.”

      I chose the world of entrepreneurs, rather than the boring corporate world, when I got my career going because it creeped me out walking into agencies and dealing with people in suits who were terrified of offending the boss. (I remember getting chills talking to two staff copywriters at one agency who had to work in a room with no personal stuff visible, nothing on the walls… and clean desk except for their typewriter and ONE sheet of paper at a time. Orders from the VP, who had never written anything in his life. That sealed the deal for me — I wanted no part of that kind of brain-numbing authority.)

      People conform because it’s safe, it’s easy, and you can zombie-out and just shuffle along with the crowd for your life with little drama. Hollywood thrives on the “loner” or individual-as-hero storyline… but it works so well cuz people are terrified of trying it themselves, so they need to see it in action on the silver screen.

      I hate to bring up Nazi’s, but it fits. When entire societies forfeit the untidy mess of rampant Free Thinking for the safety of “just going along to get along”, they’re toast.

      Individuals will always be in the minority. The risks of being alone like that are just part of the gig, and you accept it.

      Thanks for an interesting post.

  • Ray says:


    I enjoyed your posting, thank you for it. Very insightful.

    I quibble with something though:
    “The insanity, the pure weirdness of people can be written out as a series of mathematical equations. This was the ultimate spark.”

    That is too far a jump, in my opinion. Preferences can be sorted by correlation with other preferences.

    But.. the Weirdness of people is not quantifiable. People can by “understood” to a degree by their preferences, but people can never be fully understood without other humans.

    As an example, this is why the “new breed” of financial geniuses (quants) has fallen on their face on Wall Street. Their models predict a certain event can happen only once in 225 years, but we humans have somehow gotten it to happen 3 times in 50 years (rough numbers, but accurate.)

    An algorithm sees results, it does not see causes, and the cause is where it’s all at.

    The fact that John is more of a Kinks guy than a Beetles guy may be able to be read by a computer/algorithm, but it will never understand why. The computer can get John likes certain patterns of music, or a certain beat. But I can understand why by asking him. I can understand the *human* reasons why a certain band hits home and another misses the mark.

    However, so as not to miss the point of John’s post in my reply, it IS important for us-ns to realize that the younger generation *believes* (and convinces others to believe in) this ultimate predictive power of math and algorithm. You just might not want to live by it. Be vigilant the difference between real truth and what people think is truth.

    • Hi Ray, you’re welcome, I’m glad you found some value in it.

      “That is too far a jump, in my opinion. Preferences can be sorted by correlation with other preferences.”

      Yes, I agree that it is a large jump, but only based on current technology IMO.

      The predictive power of today’s software is about as accurate as dropping a coconut into a trash can 30 stories below – but the mere fact that these sorts of questions are being asked means the answers will come to fruition – and the answer is nothing more than exponentially more complex algorithms and abstract engines. It’s all still source code.

      The next handful of decades will be presenting us with AI that’ll blur the lines in a morally and existentially fierce manner.


      The funny thing about humans is that we think we’re not computers. Sure, there’s this “soul” thing we all argue about, but for as long as we have been arguing about the existence and free-will of the soul, we also been describing ourselves in terms of software and ultra-complex algorithms: numerology, palm reading, “God’s Plan”, Karma

      Our understanding of the universe is little more than input through our senses percolated through our collection of experiences and associations.

      If humans truly do have the power to view the “cause” of something – which algorithms do not, as you say – how is it that we argue so vehemently about said causes?

      Simply: We have no effin clue.


      You may understand the “human” reason why John likes the Kinks, but it’s still your brain running his input through your own associations (and the creation of new associations) with a dash of emotion to make it “feel right.”

      The Ego and the Id are wily sons of bitches. Be wary of their influences.


      Gosh, now we’re starting to get into philosophy. I have too much direct mail work on my desk to get into that, but I really appreciate your intelligent thoughts, Ray. 🙂

  • Ray says:

    Also, as an interesting note, I myself am only 28, but feel about 15 years older than someone who is 21, and about 25 years older than someone who is 18. I suspect this is a natural feeling of growing older, but I also suspect the effect is becoming more pronounced.

    (I also don’t use Facebook or Twitter. If you say that to someone who is 16, they wonder if you also don’t have indoor plumbing.)

    The one thing I always get from this blog about life yet to come: shit, this is going to be interesting.

  • I notice the same differences in the generations as far as not being able to tell much about them by their “record collection”. In fact, in most cases you wouldn’t even be invited to where they live anyway.

    But I’ve also had extensive conversations with my kid and his crowd. Could just be their intellectual snobbishness but they actually spend more time reading and listening to indie music than I ever did. They determine your value by what you’re reading.

    As far as your contest, I suck. I only recognized The Cars Candy O and Elvis Costello because it read Elvis Costello.

    Enjoy your week away!

    Lo (Brat…I actually like that nickname)

  • Darn it! Missed the post again. Sigh!

    John I”m about to hit 30 but if you look at my phone or my account, you won’t find anything on today’s Top 40.

    When i was in school (2000-2003), Napster had just come out.

    Now, take if from a guy who spent all his money on CD”s (and cassette’s before that), and I worked at the awesome and (now bankrupt) Tower Records…

    …what you had in your CD tray (later on ipod) really did sort of define you (you could browse and see what they had ( usually 30-50 cd’s) and then see if you liked their music or not.

    Usually not.

    Then with the ipod-and napster, suddenly ALL these songs were just THERE!

    Napster was so new–no one thought it was illegal–we just could not believe these songs were out there-not locked away in plastic cd bins we couldn’t afford.

    So, after the ipod came out, and then iTunes (it was so new) they even had huge stars like Bono endorsing it.

    A new era has dawned where the single, the track, the records, just don’t last as long in our minds.

    There’s just too much access–and too little time–to digest it all.

    I’ve probably got 2-5k invested in my collection of CDs and now some of that has gone to Rdio b/c it’s got so much music for $10 a month.

    Most albums (unless the artist is established), just aren’t worth $10-$20 for a real CD.

    I love looking at the liner notes (all the producers and session folks become a family after awhile),but not for an extra $5-$10 bucks.

    Oh i got Elvis, David Bowie, Little Feat.

    That song My Aim Is True gets me. The production is so clear and crisp.

  • Ginger Baker just SHOWED UP at Eric Clapton’s house. He had to take him in for Traffic- even though man–he was sick of him after Cream.

  • Ron Mileham says:

    Hi John,

    You can’t ask an old codger like me to think about – let alone remember – a bunch of stuff that has no meaning to me. Just send me the damn book and make me happy.

    I’ve no time to play sycophant, I need to become a better marketer before I die.

  • Robert Gibson says:

    Hi John,
    Nice post!
    My guess?
    The album with just a touch of red is the Rolling Stones Tattoo You.
    Have fun golfing..
    Robert Gibson

  • Hi John,
    A friend of mine just mentioned this video on facebook and I was blown away.
    It’s about the introduction of the dial on telephones — now people would have to dial the phone themselves instead of talking to an operator and they’d have to learn how to use the dial and look up numbers and understand the different tones (dial tone, ring tone, busy tone) and remember to give the other person time to get to the phone (no answering machines).
    I can just imagine the arguments going on at the phone company with technical people claiming that the average person would never be able to figure out how to work a telephone by themselves. I have no idea how they got the entire country to accept such a difficult technological change.
    And this is only from the 1950’s — it’s not THAT long ago.

  • Mano Rame says:

    It’s hard to guess your age from your writing. You always speak like the cool kid from college.

  • Mike Noone says:

    The red album is Dire straits. Making Movies!

  • Rick says:

    Where can I get your book? I know is kinda lazy not to try for the contest but I have no idea what 2 or 3 of those albums are.

  • Hey Johnny,

    Great article, my friend. Really good insight.

    On a similar note, my wife and I recently hosted my young 13 year old nephew for a week here at my home in southern Nevada.

    I was suprised to lean what a tech whiz he already is at his age. He had hacked his Ipod and turned it into a free Iphone, and had all kinds of expensive games and software programs on there, without paying a cent for it.

    We had a long conversation about the ethics of doing this kind of thing. He was very respectful of my opinion, but had contrary opinions of his own.

    Since he was so passionate about the techie side of things, I emphasized that he needed to focus more on schooling and follow his passion for “things technical,” and one day he’d have a very bright career in front of him.

    But he looked at me as if I was from the moon, and asked me “Why do I need school when I have everything I need at my fingertips on the internet?”

    I went into a short discourse about the importance of getting a good education, but again he challeged me. “Ask me anything you think I need to go to school for, and I’ll show you how I can learn that subject, usually in minutes, right on the internet.”

    So I challenged him on a few things I thought would throw him a good curve and prove to him the necessity of getting a good education.

    But he promptly went straight to and looked up videos demonstrating exactly how to do them.

    Frankly, I was kinda surprised. I don’t consider myself a techie by any stretch of the imagination. But…I also don’t consider myself ignorant of the available technology and its benefits.

    To make a long story short, I kept throwing things at him, like how to figure math equations, or how to code a certain function into a program, or how to make a piece of technology work a certain way. And he kept going to the internet and coming up with videos or other instructional material demonstrating step-by-step exactly how to do it.

    This really blew my mind, because by the time the afternoon was over I really couldn’t justify why the danged kid really needed a traditional school education.

    He proved to me that school was pretty much a waste of time for him, and that pretty much anything he wanted to know, or needed to know, he could simply look up and learn on the internet, or contact someone who could direct him to the needed resources.

    Now I realize other kids aren’t that bright. But to me it exemplified the core idea you’ve discussed a number of times, which is that we ain’t in Kansas any more, and we really need to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in society.

    For example, after my adventure with my 13-year old nephew, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that traditional public schooling is already a thing of past — we just don’t realize it yet. But…the kids DO.

    I’m not sure what the next generation is going to look like. But I know it’s going to be fascinating, and I hope I’m around long enough to see some of the additional earth-shaking changes to society at large that are obviously coming down the pike because of the way technology has impacted an entire new generation with new ways of thinking and entirely new ideas about life and living.

    As you’ve so astutely pointed out, the importance of this to marketers cannot be over-estimated. Many of the social changes brought about by technology have already been tidal in nature, and that’s only going to accelerate. Those marketers who can see this and have their finger on the pulse of these sweeping changes will be the ones to make fortunes.

    (As an aside, I still remember reading a newpaper op-ed in 1994, predicting that the internet would just be a short-lived fad, and that everything would go back to normal in a few years! I wonder if the prognosticator who wrote that swill is still embarassed?)

    To conclude, I can’t get the things my 13-year old nephew demonstrated to me out of my head. Not so much his astonishing knowledge and use of technology for a kid his age, but the entire mindset that “I don’t really need any of the traditional things your generation has to offer me, because I have all of this technology at my fingertips.”

    He didn’t feel that way out of any sense of resentment or angst toward the older generation, as we did in the 60’s and 70’s. It was more of just a matter-of-fact “this is the way things are now” attitude, coupled with a little bit of polite condescension as he tried to explain, “Uncle, you just don’t get it yet.”

    Well, I get it. Change is here. And more change is coming. If you’re not willing to learn, you’re going to get left behind. And if you don’t embrace change, it will impassionately and without any malice whatsoever roll right over you.


    • Ron Murphy says:

      Hi Steve,
      I understand your concern. If you know how to look you can find almost anything. The internet makes this process faster. You can do the same with the public library system.

      Your answer for your nephew is simple. It may be hard to get him to understand at first because he feels he is advanced beyond us.

      We all went through this faze.

      He simply does not know what he does not know. Teachers are experienced guides in showing us what we need to know to have a decent life in today’s society. The are basics we all need.

      Morals to be able to work together with trust is one example(his usage of equipment and not seeing a problem with it).

      I believe in education. I went to college and eventually dropped out to make more money so I could return and finish.

      Several lay-offs later. well you get the picture. I have been studying on more own and am in the process of attempting a business launch. There is a lot that I do not know. I seek out mentor’s (teachers) to help guide me. It is risky. It takes time to find the QUALITY advice that is truly helpful.

      The Universities make sure to have the properly qualified.

      The internet move fast. There are subjects that I do know about that will be some time in making it to college campuses.

      My self education is over a decade in the making. A solid foundation could have been laid in much less time finishing school.

      Their is far to much trust put into the accuracy of a person’s opinion by a lot of internet user’s.

      Just some thoughts.

  • rob says:

    7:07pm Teusday

    From:Rob Joy

    Dear John…

    First I want to extend my heart felt thoughts to everyone in the state for 9/11
    my thoughts also for those who lost someone special and to those very brave firemen who tired to do what they can.

    I want to say how much I’m begining to really appreciate the posts for some reason…they ‘pop’ with me everytime…

    And this one was again another killer one which will have cogs going to weee hours thinkin bout what you have been so cool in sharing with us all…

    As I age slowly like bottle of wine I begin to really learn what life is all all about…become MORE in tune with stuff…

    I want to share that I now turn my kids as well as you to see what is hip amongst those who are younger than myself ( my kids are 13,10,8)

    So I totally get your connection with your ‘go-to’ guy to see what is happin at other end…

    I can say there are things you jam with that keep me current…with stuff…

    Thank you again very mush for your truly amazing insight I cant wait for next ‘rant’
    the shot of all the covers in the pic look like something you could use for cover of CD for rock band…

    P.S. I dont want to push my luck…but I gotta ask…are you closer to releasing copys of your ‘freelancer’ course anytime soon? (I’m itchin to get copy) later man :O)

  • Virginia Drew says:

    Can’t even begin to answer the question. I guess I’ll just have to hang on to my un-autographed copy (Never was one of the cool kids anyway).

    I never had a lot of records…since I was a horse nut I never seemed to have a lot of spare change. I did have quite a few 45’s. I have an older brother and used to grab one of his when he wasn’t looking. He always got mad at me. He was afraid I would scratch it.

    One vivid memory I have, though…I was in Westport, Ct (a small town near where I grew up) with my sister ans she wanted to buy an album. We went into a record store and after she bought the album the clerk was going on and on, telling us how within 6 months there would be no records any more. The store would have to completely re-stock, because they had this new technology and they would be putting all the songs on these small things called “compact discs”…

  • John,

    Another hipster punk here, born in 1994. Couldn’t tell you what a single one of those albums are – though I did grow up surrounded by dad’s old vinyls. He’s a Beatles kinda guy, and has been riffin’ on his acoustic Ovation guitar for the past 35 years or so.

    Great post, as always.


  • Hey JC;

    Great post, and right up my street. As a rock n roll fan since short trousers (ok, short pants to you!) I always enjoy a little ‘market research’ looking around at who’s in the room with me when I’m watching a band. All sorts of surprises come up.

    Hey, you’re spot on – it is important to combine this kinda ‘old school’ observation of your market – and how to communicate with it – with today’s more systematic cross-referencing of results, categories etc, in both music and marketing.

    I do this a lot with copywriting… know your market, how they talk… and how they listen. You can’t ignore change.

    But… some days it’s great to get back to just asking a buddy what he thought of Neil & the Horse’s ‘Ragged Glory’ before I buy it in the record store.

    Did that just this week… and he was right… it rocks (mostly!)

    Thanks for the post and the interesting discussion it sparked.

    ‘Long may you run…’

    Cheers, Pete

    PS – the red lp cover? Talking Heads’ 77…

  • Carlos says:

    Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelly With Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France
    Candy-O – The Cars
    My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello
    The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
    Happy Trails – Quicksilver Messenger Service
    Dixie Chicken – Little Feat
    Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
    Shake Some Action – Flamin Groovies
    Small Change – Tom Waits
    The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic
    The Quintet of The Hot Club Of France – Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelly
    Look Sharp – Joe Jackson
    Please Warm My Weiner – Old Time Hokum Blues
    Quicksilver Messenger Service – Quicksilver Messenger Service

    Did I get them????

  • I’m guessing the red one is

    Gang of Four’s “Entertainment”.

    Noah really deserves the prize because he named all of the ones below (most of which I own, all of which I could identify but I was notified of this contest late)…

    Candy-O – The Cars
    My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello
    The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
    Happy Trails – Quicksilver Messenger Service
    Dixie Chicken – Little Feat
    Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
    Shake Some Action – Flamin Groovies
    Small Change – Tom Waits
    The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic
    The Quintet of The Hot Club Of France – Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelly
    Look Sharp – Joe Jackson
    Please Warm My Weiner – Old Time Hokum Blues
    Quicksilver Messenger Service – Quicksilver Messenger Service

    By the way, most of these albums have recently been reissued on 180g vinyl and sound better than ever. AND all that you say about 99 cent downloads (etc.–no time to regurgitate your keen analysis) explains why kids are buying vinyl and turntables again AND why virtually every indie band today issues on VINYL with great packaging, inserts, posters, etc. and kids who can STEAL the albums on line are putting down the cash to buy the vinyl. And it’s spreading virally, the way MP3s did. Corporate world is following, not leading. There are so many images of vinyl and turntables and record collection in movies, TV shows and commercials…it’s a “loose affiliation of not millionaires and not billionaires” to paraphrase Paul Simon but it’s “trending” upward. I’ve spent 20+ years trying to save the LP and it’s been saved. It’s still a niche, but so was Apple ten years ago!

    • John Carlton says:

      Not Gang of Four. The album here was an opening salvo for a fresh new take on rock… and came from a part of the US blooming with hot new bands…

      • Noah says:

        I agree Michael!

        Not gang of four? Which according to wikipedia was a debut album.

        Talking Heads: 77 ???

        The other one still has me stumped.

        • Amy says:

          Noah, Montrose debut album from 1973
          “Montrose: Jump on it” I think this is the red one with green letterning, though John did not say it was not Talking Heads 77.

          • Amy says:

            oops thinking now that this was not a debut album for Montrose.. hmmmm

            So it my well be the debut album Talking Heads 77 of a group who came out of NYC during the New Wave era.

  • I don’t need any prizes. This blog post is the prize as the gift inside is INSIGHT.

    How you combined inspiration and observation about a generation creates high levels of fascination. WOW!

    Now a question to myself is.. How will I use this?
    Golly I am glad I read your blog!

  • Adil Amarsi says:

    Okay my bad attempt at guessing…

    Commander cody and his lost planet airmen
    little feat dixie chicken
    quick silver happy trails
    My true aim is elvis costello
    tom waits small change
    flamin groovies shake some action

    Anywho, this is quite true… because (borrowing an term from an older generation) as a young whippersnapper I only learned what i know through studying the greats, who are ALL older than me.

    And as the eve of my birthday approaches, I think you’ve already given me the greatest gift possible, John, The ability to sell and a good online friendship.

    Though if I could win a signed copy for trying to name some bands that’d be awesome too :p, seeing as my copy of the book is misplaced :p.

    But, sincerely, I do thank you John – for being a mentor via this blog and your works.


  • Jimmy Curley says:

    Alright, this is great.

    Not gonna bother guessing about the album, but I like that you included “Please Warm My Wiener”. I love any excuse to say that outloud without landing in jail.

    Anyway, been blessed to work in an office with some hip young guys. So I’ve been forced to live in their world — which turns out to be a very positive thing.

    Was watching a comedian describe how you know you’re getting old if you walk into a club and say…

    “Why is this damn music so loud… and what’s with these lights? Jesus Christ, isn’t there anywhere to sit down?”

    What a drag it is getting old.


  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    i miss my record collection, most are long gone… only recognized cars candy-o cover…still have my pink floyd dsom record, and old earl nightingale and sinatra and jazz albums.

    how to evaluate people? by the quality of questions they ask (do they ask level 1 surface questions, or deeper implication-type specific questions showing a lot more depth)

    generation gap:
    the young: a lot of younger folks seem to be faster paced and a small handful also have a keen work ethic, so that’s a plus.
    the older: Prying pearls of wisdom from older people can be more work, but often the information is outstanding, once uncovered.
    what’s most important is the values of the person, combined with their depth of experience and implementation savvy.


  • john lloyd says:

    Excellent post as always John, as a music lover I try to cross both boundaries, I still have an extensive music collection because I like browsing in stores and looking for rarities.

    Particularly Blues, however I also am a member of Spotify in the UK which I pay a monthly subscription and can listen to albums I wouldn’t necessarily buy.

    Take it easy John

  • Scott says:

    Ha ha

    I looked at the image. Paused.

    And then speed scrolled to the bottom to write this.

    I got nothing. Just don’t judge me for it John. I only found a genre I actually liked at the age of 26 (37 now)and I never really did care to remember names etc (my next door neighbour tries to give me an education. He’s got buckley’s chance there).

    Take me to a forest around here though and I’ll name everything that’s green. Plant nerd.

    Peace, Dude.

  • John Carlton says:

    Okay, folks. I’m back from my little vacation…

    … and I see that I need to award the prize… despite no one getting the last album. It was, as I kept saying, a totally unfair question… but still fun, no?

    That red album is, of course, Talking Heads ’77. A very iconic red. Good job, everyone, who got the obscure blues album (with cover art by R. Crumb, btw).

    The last album — which no one got — just has the word “Orchestra” showing, upside down. You’d have to do some serious detective work to use just that one clue (with the color) to uncover the actual album.

    It’s one of several my old pal Art M has been sending me over the years. He finds them on eBay.

    Back story: When I first arrived in Reno as an adult, way back when, I was stunned to see the Harrah’s marquee advertising “The John Carlton Orchestra”. I thought I was hallucinating or something.

    Turns out, there are a couple of John Carlton’s living in the area… and one of them is a very famous orchestra leader from the 50s through the end of the century. He backed up the Rat Pack when they performed in town (or so I’ve heard), and put out multiple albums of instrumental tunes… each album featuring a bevy of pretty women on the cover.

    The one in the bottom of the pile here is “All-Time Favorites”, John Carlton conducting the Craftsmen All-Star Orchestra. Craftsmen label, 33-1/3 hi fidelity. Early sixties — covers include “Bewitched” as well as “P.S. I Love You” (a Beatles tune).

    And no, I never met John. I’ve talked with people who know him. We once chatted briefly on the phone (after a horn player left me a message about a job in the new orchestra, obviously for the other JC since I never used an oboe while putting together rock bands).

    So, while I thought someone might have heard of the JC orchestra — they pumped out albums like crazy — the tiny sliver of the cover was just unfair as a clue.

    Thus — congrats to Noah Fleming for staying with it through multiple posts until he finally got ’em all (except for the JC gem).

    Diane will be contacting you by email, Noah. You won.

    Thanks to everyone for playing.

    And this was a REALLY cool thread in the comments. It’s a subject worth visiting again, no?

    • Noah says:

      Thanks John!

      I’ll officially be coolest kid on the block.

      Incredible post. Thought-provoking discussion to say the least… and I had a blast trying to figure this out.

      Here’s the full album art.

      Certainly looking forward to more on this discussion.

      P.S. Related to the post/discussion…I’m 30 BTW. My dad had a few of these records. But I used google and various search methods to find the rest. I’m actually pretty sure I might have even come across the John Carlton Orchestra during a beer and a late night search last night. I want to check out a few of the albums for interest’s sake. I saw Joe Jackson perform about three years ago at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. He was mind-blowing amazing.

      • John Carlton says:

        Okay, now I gotta know: How did Google help you with, say, the first Quicksilver album — which showed only the psychedelic Rick Griffin artwork. Or just having the words “ase Warm” as your only clue for the very obscure blues album? Or just Joe Jackson’s shoes? And why did whatever technique you used to successfully get those albums fail you with the Talking Heads ’77 cover? Please explain… your detective skills are relevant to the post, in fact. Good job. Looking forward to this…

        • Noah says:

          I know it’s relevant. That’s why I shared that info. 🙂

          Here goes.

          Like I said above, not sure why I decided to comment on this post as a long-time lurker/reader of the blog, but I did. And I’m glad I did.

          So aside from the easy ones….

          Django Reinhardt I didn’t know of. Google Suggest however filled out the rest of Reinhardt for me, and then also subsequently suggested Stephane Grappelli. (it even autosuggests the album title here)

          The album here is spelled Grappelly though. So for this one just modifying the spelling, adding the letters LP and then searching Google Images I was able to find the album rather quickly. Or at least get close enough to figure it out.

          The Red Album – Interestingly enough, I have a few songs from this album.

          Looked through this link…

          Checked out Gang of Four – New Wave/Post Punk (Debut album) – Assumed that was it after you mentioned debut album etc etc.

          The John Carlton Orchestra – I did flip the photo in photoshop. Zoomed in and did figure out the word “Orchestra.” But found nothing and kept thinking I was looking at Bob Dylan’s nose – but why the Orchestra? I thought maybe a weird release of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. I gave up.

          Joe Jackson – Had this album in the basement from my Dad’s collection. I grew up listening to Joe and that’s why I chose to see Joe Jackson when I went to the Montreaux Jazz Fest. He was incredible.

          Please Warm My Wiener – This one was the hardest to find….or was it? 🙂 With only “ase warm m” or “ease warm m” – I searched google for “ease warm m” and would get nothing.

          Then I searched for “warm lp” “warm m lp” – nothing.

          Using Google’s suggest turned on I typed in “warm me” and checked a bunch of the suggestions. Nothing turned up. Tried “warm mi”, thinking warm milk or something, and again got nothing.

          Then as a random guess I typed in “warm my”

          Google kicked back the following auto-suggestions…

          Warm my heart
          Warm my cockles
          Warm my Weiner
          Warm my bones beside the fire.

          Checked the first one adding LP at the end – clicked Google Images and got nothing.
          Checked the second one adding LP – nothing.
          Third one, again I added LP – and there it was – Warm my Wiener!

          The other challenging one was the second Quicksilver Messenger Service. Found this on a top 100 albums of the 60s list.


          • John Carlton says:

            You rock, Noah! Excellent detective work.

            Folks, next time you get stuck on something… remember this. The dude or dudette who wins is usually the one who never gives up… and uses their brain and imagination before allowing the “I give up” juice to overwhelm their mojo…

            Great job. Thanks for explaining. I love this shit…

  • John Carlton says:

    By the way, folks… just so you know: That pile of albums was just the batch I grabbed from ONE of the piles I’ve got in the garage. I never took care of my vinyl, so it’s not a collector’s kinda thing — just evidence of periods of music I went through obsessing on. This pile was sorta heavy on New Wave, by accident (though that Power Pop period was one of most intense — and most ignored — few years of rock in history: Late 70s debuted the Police, the Pretenders, the mature Clash, Elvis Costello, the Jam, Talking Heads/Blondie/Ramones from CBGBs… it was just NUTS for good rock on the radio).

    Sometime, I’ll share my “guilty pleasures” collection — all the albums I had to hide from my hipster friends cuz they didn’t meet the strict requirements for “music it’s okay to like”. Music Nazi’s are everywhere. My philosophy has always been to like what you like, and like it BIG. Don’t let anyone else dictate what you listen to…

  • Judy Ransom says:

    John – great insight on the generational resistance. I’m over 50, and it’s never occurred to me that those much younger or older than me might have that kind of generational-phobia. But you nailed it, and it certainly explains a lot.

    One of the reasons I home educated my kids was so they wouldn’t be hammered into only feeling comfortable with their peers. The typical American school system ingrains within kids an artificial peers-only comfort level, which we all have to eventually find a way to break out of. Perhaps too many don’t even realize how they’ve been trained for relationships and business, in order to break free of their ingrained attitudes.

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