Is it true that Shania Twain fans aren’t that crazy about Motorhead aficionados? Are Bob Dylan’s fans leery of Madonna’s followers? Has the KISS Army declared war on the Phil Collins camp?

Although taking sides isn’t exactly new to music fans, as evidenced by the guitar wars in the `70s and the hair battles of the 1980s, as well as the needless injuries and fatalities brought about by grunge laying to waste the metal landscape of the ’90s, poll-takers are returning from the streets of public opinion claiming that our nation is rapidly dividing itself along extreme, partisan musical lines.

“Back in the day a guy might take a swing at another guy in a bar for saying that Eddie Van Halen was a better guitarist than Eric Clapton,” says Dr. Frederick Chilton, author of the groundbreaking 1979 study, I’m Okay, You’re Okay, but He’s a Cher Fan, which foretold the musical culture wars that would run rampant over this nation a quarter of a century later. “Nowadays, if you were to disparage the talent of, say, Britney Spears, to one of her minions, that fan will be all over you like the FCC on Howard Stern. Definitely not a pretty picture.”

What brought about today’s schism in musical tastes? Many point to the rise of talk radio in the early 1990s as the chief mechanism in splitting the population along musical lines. Preaching basic rock & roll ideology, newly ordained radio stars such as Limbaugh and Liddy praised heritage artists such as Aerosmith and the Eagles, while, at the same time, casted suspicions of musical malfeasance at the next generation of performers like blink-182 and John Mayer.

“It’s an `us against them,’ mentality,” says Chilton. “For fifteen years radio talkers have been screaming that their taste in music is better than everybody else’s. That Jimmy Buffett is better than No Doubt, that The Moody Blues could beat up Linkin Park. That Paul McCartney could kick Clay Aiken’s butt. When you consider all the venomous attacks on artists and bands that don’t fall within their narrow definition of `good music,’ it’s no wonder we’re a musically divided culture.”

Is this the future? Will the cultural music wars escalate until it’s brother against brother and city against city? Will followers of the Philadelphia Sound someday square off against fans of Southern California Cool? Or will calmer heads prevail? Will fans of the Dave Matthews Band learn to accept Poison concert-goers? Will Lynyrd Skynyrd fans learn to embrace the proud followers of Vegas Lounge known as Wayniacs ? Will the day ever come that everybody, no matter if they’re fans of Tracy Byrd, Prince or Brides Of Destruction, stands together in the metaphorical Ticketmaster line of life, not only respecting each other’s taste in music, but finding joy and meaning in the vast diversity of the concert universe?

“Don’t count on it,” says Chilton. “After all, we’re talking about extreme differences in musical tastes, where battle lines are drawn and everybody knows where each person stands. Not, say, voting for president.”