Is rock & roll nostalgia out of control? Celebrating Elvis and the Rolling Stones is one thing, says Evan Serpick, but They Might Be Giants and Chicago?
Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, ...
Credit: The Rolling Stones: Kevin Mazur/

Is rock & roll nostalgia out of control?

Have you looked at the music chart lately? The two top-selling albums are Elvis Presley’s ”30 #1 Hits” and The Rolling Stones’ ”40 Licks.” The Elvis collection was released to mark the 25th anniversary of his death, while the Stones best-of set celebrates the band’s 40 year anniversary — proving, yet again, the power of nostalgia.

Every day, it seems, we hear about the 904th anniversary of SPAM or Keith Richards’ 114th birthday or whatever, all in an effort to create excitement, evoke nostalgia, and, ultimately, spur sales. But the anniversary-mania has gotten out of control. Elvis and the Stones are one thing, but do we need to mark the fact that They Might Be Giants have been around 20 years? I mean, I stopped liking them about 12 years ago — can we mark that?

This year everybody has an anniversary CD or tour to shill: Run-D.M.C. (20), New Edition (20), Naughty by Nature (10), the Cranberries (10), etc. Below, I’ve listed some of the more ridiculous ”anniversaries” that were ”celebrated” this year.

1. It’s bad enough that They Might Be Giants tried to get attention by releasing an album and participating in a documentary celebrating 20 years of existence — especially since, by my estimation, there was an 11-year stretch in there without a decent album. What’s worse is that no less esteemed a publication than The New Yorker bought into their publicity ploy and wrote a five-page feature calling the band ”seminal.”

2. At least 20 years is a round number, a multiple of 10. The spotlight-seeking ancients in Chicago (the band) recently embarked on a tour to celebrate their 35th anniversary. If the gift for 25 years is silver and 50 is gold, 35 must be a sack of Fritos. Eat up, boys.

3. Okay, TMBG and Chicago are pathetic for asking us to indulge their need for attention and nostalgia (they just play music, for God’s sake — you’d think they invented penicillin), but at least they have fans who might care how long they’ve been around (still checking that out for Chicago). But does ANYBODY give a rip about record-label anniversaries? Indie Thrill Jockey recently had the chutzpah to hold a series of concerts/celebrations marking its 10th anniversary. Thrilling.

4. Now, I like ”Wild Style.” Cool movie. Really, the first hip-hop movie ever, with legends like Fab Five Freddy and the Rock Steady Crew, but come on…do we need a two-day festival to mark the 20th anniversary reissue, complete with a reenactment of the final scene? Well, that’s what we got.

5. In perhaps the most disturbing trend, bands are no longer content to just mark their own anniversaries — now they actually have to mark the anniversaries of particular albums. Last year, media outlets clamored to mark the 10th anniversary of Nirvana’s ”Nevermind,” which seems to deserve some recognition. But Joe Jackson? The dapper Brit and his band are planning a new studio album and tour to mark the 25th anniversary of ”Look Sharp.” Just wait, in 25 years, we’ll all be reliving the momentous release of Elvis’ ”30 #1 Hits.” Mark your calendar.