Great observation Barry.
I think there's a couple of things going on here - Terry Hall sumed it up well: All you punks and all you teds, mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads...
I'd say today's kids don't have the benefit of the tribalism that 'youth culture' had back in the 60s & 70s: you were a mod, ted, skinhead, soulie or into your reggae or jazz funk etc - and you took that music very seriously - it went hand in hand with your identity and style - and you did your homework, you read the right magazines - you listened to the right radio stations: you could have gone on Mastermind you knew that much. In the 70s politics got thrown into the mix too, so hippies, oi punks added to the mix - NF marches, CND, feminism, rock against racism, Thatcher etc... all shaped musical taste to certain extent for young people. Kids in the 70s that were into prog rock, glam rock, Bowie were replaced by kids in the 80s that were into synths, new romantics, goths alonside all those other tribes. Add to the mix those tribes that didn't really dig music but went along for the journey: casuals, foootball hooligans ICF etc and you get the idea. Then something really strange happened - it even silenced Morrisey for a while: the ecstacy tablet and the nightclub conqured all (well almost all - there are some exceptions). That tribalism seemed to vanish. Even the anarchists got into the rave scene - and football hooligans hugged each other on the terraces. Who would dare to be different? Post the House and dance boom there's not been much to unify or separate kids in terms of 'youth culture'.
A second factor which is probably more fundamnetal and has been the way kids now get hold of thier music - that illeagal or legit download verses a purchase of physical record changes your relationship with music. When I first started buying records in the late 70s it was a spiritual experience - the smell of the vinyl, taking care of the disc, the actual visit to the record shop - nothing could compare. Kids just don't have that emotional relationsip with music anymore. They don't have to store their stacks of 7"s or have many shops to buy them in - they just make sure thier Itunes library is up to date with whatever is doing the business. That's also reflected in the music media which has gone the same way - online as opposed to print format (were even doing it online here) - and a really narrow choice when compared to even 5 -10 years ago - even Smash Hits folded and ToTPs and MTV took a hit as broadcasters. This change had a massive affect on the music industry which clearly didn't see the MP3 revolution coming. Profitabilty went out the window - and so did big marketing budgets and all those big advances for second rate dance tracks (that's not knocking the dance scene either). Major labels were in real trouble in the early 2000s as illeagal downloading began to bite and artists realised that they could easily sell their own music online. The solution for the record compaines was to change tack - use cheaper online channels for targeting youth market rather than CDs and vinyl - YouTube is now one of the most important marketing channel for major labels. Just look at what's happened to PSY's Gangnam Style over the last month - online driven and picked up by the mainstram media - a fairytale for some record exec!
So where does that leave kids today? It's not surprising that XFactor is so popular - most kids wouldn't know where to look if they did dare to be different. But the WWW is a wonderful thing, very democratic - it can make and destroy Simon Cowell, so who knows what's around the next corner. Long live the revolution!
Three artists that made an impression: Jimmy Cliff, The Clash and The Specials (Jerry Dammers).