...Hope I Die Before I Get Old

As the first and second wave of rock 'n rollers reach their twilight years, it raises the question, should there be a mandatory retirement age for rock musicians? If Elvis Presley hadn't sh*t himself to death 29 years ago, he'd be 71 years old. Roger Daltrey, the man whose lungs belted that mantra 40 years ago is now 61 years old. The former is currently making secret appearances at bowling alleys in Macon, Georgia while the latter is hawking golden oldie compilations on TV.

Culturally, we Americans give the venerable and primordial very little regard. Old buildings are abandoned in grand old cities as cheap, sh*tty office centres spring up in the suburbs. Our parents and grandparents are shoved into nursing homes. The perfecly good 32" Magnavox television that's provided our family countless hours of entertainment for the past 11 years is donated to the Salvation Army as the new plasma flat screen is delivered. Out with the old is the norm, here. So shouldn't this apply to geriatric rockers?

The past two Super Bowls, for instance, have featured Paul McCartney (aged 64) and the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, both 63, Charlie Watts 65 and Ronnie Wood, a sprightly 59). Of course, this was likely in response to the exposure of Janet Jackson's 39 year-old t*tty, but regardless, when should these old horses be put out to pasture? I for one did not particularly give a flying rat's ass whether or not Jagger could get 'satisfaction'.

The argument could be made that these 'artists' still have a lot to offer. I'm sure they do, but very little in the way of the visceral, the disquietude and the bawdiness that are the essential elements of 'rawk.' When Elton John (57) sings about cartoon lions instead of kickin' ass and drinkin' beer ("Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting") a red flag goes up.

When the majority of your live repertoire is ten years older than your supporting tour guitarist, it's time to hang them up. When your children have voted in the past four presidential elections it's time to throw in the towel. When your daughter sees you in your leather pants to pick her up from middle-school, lowers her head with her hand on her forehead, while giving an embarrassed, "Daaaaaad...", it's time to head towards Exit Stage Left.

When you fall out of a coconut tree...

Eventually, all good things must come to an end. Sure there's money to be made in the county fair circuit (Styx's J.Y. 'Not-So' Young, 57 - REO Sh*twagon's Kevin Cronin, 56), but wouldn't it have been more dignified to burn out than to slowly fade away? I'm talkin' to you, Steven Tyler (56), and you, Def Leppard (Joe Elliot, nearly 47) and you, Brian May (59). Thank you for making my Jr. High School days rebellious, but I have a family to raise now, and you've got grandchilden to visit.

Then again, we should also establish an exam akin to law's Bar Exam to determine if some tuneless hack should even become a rockstar.

"Explain how each drummer in Spinal Tap perished?"
"During which interview did Gene Simmons use the word
'timbre', and in which context was it used?"
"Name at least six current artists who you might consider heavily influenced by Gram Parsons. On what basis have you drawn this conclusion?"
"When is it not okay to throw a groupie off the bus in Wisconsin?"

Perhaps then we could weed out sh*theels like Rob Thomas, James Blunt and Dave Matthews.

Rob Thomas: Um... Gene Simmons was interviewed by.... ummm. Oprah Winfrey?
Assessor: Eeeerrrrnnnnt. Sorry. Go back to Florida, you p*ssy.
Rob Thomas: Uh... but I can sing!
Assessor: Mmmm... no you can't. Isn't that right, Bono?
Bono: What did you shay, shonny?
Bono: Shing? Shure... "I know a girl... a girl named paaah-ty. Party girl..."
Assessor: (Aside) Can somebody please get this old f*cker out of here.


Atul said...

I always wondered what made some 60+ year olds become "normal" parents and others become rockers who never hang it up. I think what drives this is that teh baby boomer generation keeps wanting to relive their youth through rock and roll. So they pay crazy prices for tickets to Stones concerts. We see this in the auto industry too. Look at all the retro cars that are out there like the Charger, Mustang, PT Cruiser. And since they're the people that have the money, (it's not Gen X or Gen Y) they keep getting what they want since they can afford it.

Sereena X said...

Most musicians have a limited amount of original (or "good") material in them. Some of them just don't realize it, and keep going on producing mediocre recordings and giving lackluster performances. Others, like Rod Stewart, end up doing those piano standards.

I say we kill them all.

Joe said...

I think this really only applies to musicians whose music is supposed to be the soundtrack of rebellion. Daltry, for example, didn't die before he got old, so he should shut up. McCartney is 64 and his wife didn't need him and doesn't feed him.

But Paul Simon has never been a "rock" musician, and I don't mind the stuff he's doing now. Johnny Cash put out some really strong albums in the years right before he died.

So I don't think there are any hard, fast rules about when you should be banned from performing. Just don't wear leather pants after age 30.

Claire said...

Interesting views...I like both the old-timers you mention and also the newbies music.

I really don't have an opinion of old rockers...I've a huge amount of respect for them but usually only for their older music...which may well prove your point!

Incurable Insomniac said...

I don't know. I'm nearly 55 and am an ex-rock artist. Why can't I still say what I have to say through the music I still write? Am I invalid now that I no longer wear spandex butt-huggers?

Pfui! Let me rock. Let them all rock. Since when does music belong only to people under 30? What is this, Logan's Run?

~A~ said...

Oh that Rolling Stones performance was sad and pathetic. I almost shed a tear it was so heartbreaking.

Good for them that they're still alive to sing, but maybe they should just relax and hang out some where with their skanky groupies where we don't have to see them as they are now and remember them as they were.

Incurable Insomniac said...

Don't look then. I don't really like all the Hoochi Mamas shaking their fat asses in my face every time I turn across a certain video channel late at night, but It's not my place to tell them they should stop. The power button on the remote is called that for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what age has to do with it. I love the old Elvis, the old Sinatra, the old Lou Reed, the old Joni Mitchell, the old James Brown, the old Merle Haggard, the old Johnny Cash. (Even the old Dylan... a little...)

What is rather pathetic is those performers who grow old while still clinging to the image and/or material of their (and their audience's) youth rather than continuing to explore new possibilities.

Like those groups who cash in on retro fashion by reuniting every few years for an overpriced "greatest hits" tour ("Beach Boys", "Queen", "The Who", "Yes", "The Eagles", "Village People", etc. etc. etc.)

But those survivors who grow old and continue to grow as artists arguably have more to say and share in their later years than they did when they were young rebels.

Nettl said...

Good for them that they're still alive to sing, but maybe they should just relax and hang out some where with their skanky groupies where we don't have to see them as they are now and remember them as they were.

What a load of ageist crap! Is that what you think that anyone over 40 or 50 should do? Hang out someplace where you don't have to look at their wrinkled faces and be reminded that one day you'll be old too? How pathetic.

Most of these "old rockers" composed their own music, which is much more than I can say for most of the young performers of this generation. They were/are REAL musicians, not just talentless, over made-up, tattooed, body-pierced sluts shaking their asses on stage. Many of them, including, but not limited to Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Frank Zappa (may he rest in peace) have moved into classical music and are serious composers while some have crossed over into Jazz.

If your's is truly the majority view of the 35 and under generation, I'm really frightened for the future.

JPDeni said...

The music industry is exactly that -- an industry. Musicians who sell tickets and recordings get gigs. Those who don't, don't get gigs. If there was no audience, there wouldn't be a concert. I think they should quit whenever they want to or when no one comes to see them any more.

I remember taking a trip to Disneyland in the mid-'70s with my daughter and my parents. My mother was especially pleased because one of the featured musicians that day was Tex Beneke, whom she remembered from her high school days. Several times during the day my daughter and I passed by the place where Beneke and his band were playing, to see my parents out on the dance floor, having a wonderful time. Beneke was probably in his late 50s at the time and my parents were in their 40s.

There was a comment about how the older folks should stay where "we don't have to see them." None of us ever has to see anything. There's an off button on every television and an exit door in every concert hall.

kontan said...

as long as people are paying they will continue playing...but I really wish they wouldn't

Canadian Mark said...

I just watched (This is) Spinal Tap the other night - I might just pass that exam - not that I have any want to become a rock star. Here from Michele's today.

Sereena X said...

I do adore Mick Jagger.

Donny B said...

What's funny is how there's an actual reversal in the usual age/gender stereotypes. Usually older men like Sean Connery are still considered sexy studs while older women (except the always-sexy Susan Sarandon) are left playing grandmothers and whatnot.

But what about with rock stars? Tina Turner easily looks better than all of her male peers and still rocks the stadiums...she actually looks better than most people, period.

And what of Madonna? At 47, she's in a completely different place, physically anyway, than the aging male rock stars. She looks younger than and outdances many of twentysomething poptarts, and I believe that's without any surgical assistance.

And let's not be mistaken. There were just as many talentless, packaged singers back in the fifties as there are now, but obviously they didn't stand the test of time and are now forgotten. Sure we worship a lot of crap now, but our best musicians will endure just like the best musicians of the previous generation.

Like Kylie Minogue. Surely she will pass the test of time, no?

Carmi said...

Such thoughtfulness from the commenting crowd....I can't even hope to approach the same degree of depth in my response (it's Friday, it's early in the morning, and I've already been up for hours writing something that I'm not enjoying.)

But I would like to think that it's perfectly acceptable for folks to do what they want to do for as long as they want to do it. To wit, I'd hate to think that I wouldn't be allowed to write beyond a certain age. It pretty much defines who I am, and I can no more easily stop writing than a musician can put down his/her instrument and stop playing.

The public is, of course, free to stop buying CDs and concert tickets. Then the oldsters can happily play to smaller venues of fellow oldsters.

Great entry.

Ville said...

Hmmm. I so strongly disagree with this post that I am not even sure where to begin.
First of all, at exactly what age did they go from talented to pathetic. I mean where is the cut off? 40? 50? Surely there has to be a specific age right?? After all, how can a statement like this be made without some type of structured schedule to back it up?
Second of all, I would complain far more loudly about those that have no business being "in the business" to begin with. Those that have no talent, at any age. Can anyone say Britney Spears? Our music world is so full of no talent trash right now. It's really sickening.
Third and last (although I could say a whole lot more) Rock and Roll as we know it wouldn't exist without the Jaggers, McCartneys and Turners. These men and women have real talent, which is rare these days, and they deserve respect and credit for the contributions they have made. One commenter stated that there were just as many no talent hacks in the fifties. No, no, no there weren't. There was not the technology to make bad singers sound good as there is today. Can we say Ashlee Simpson?
Bless Neil Youngs pointed head, I say "Keep on rockin in the free world" until you are too old to hold the mic!

Lynn S said...

This comes close to being the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. I'm not a fan of Mick Jagger but I hope he keeps on rocking and drawing crowds til he's in his 90's, if for no other reason than piss off whiny adult brats.

Pickalish said...

This is the real problem: Most aging rock stars just seriously didn't have it goin' on in the first place. They may have introduced a new sound or something that made them SEEM cool at the time, but it was a mistake. There are a few legends who deserve to continue rockin', but for the most part, I agree...hang it up already.

P.S. I just beat your ass in Trivialish. I am NUMERO UNO, haha!

Prego said...

Ah, the price of being an iconoclast. Apparently I ruffled some dusty feathers. Enough so that I've been referred to as a 'whiny adult brat' and, more amusingly, a jackass.

Ironically, I am quite a Stones fan -- enough to know that at some point Jagger himself was inclined to say that "I'd rather be dead than singing "Satisfaction" when I'm forty-five." Perhaps he forgot to mention that singing "19th Nervous Breakdown" at that age would be okay.

Additionally, we all know that Britney Spears can't hold a candle to Shelley Fabares, but hey... that doesn't exonerate that generation from bestowing accolades to Jeannie C. Riley or (shudder) Cher.

jennypenny said...

Wow yet another controversial post by prego. How do you do it man? Humble ol' me thinks that these aging rockers should be respected for all that they have done for the industry and thanked for the influences that they are even today but keep thier again booties off the stage and not try to be eternally young.

keda said...

forget the rest folks but ANYTHING that could get rid of james fucking blunt is well up my street. the arse.

Ravvy said...

my thoughts are as follows...

the AGEING old ROCKERS arent really giving out anything new when they're replaying the old 'hits from the 40's' if you catch my drift, and this wouldnt be so bad if their voices werent so meaty and they still werent trying to be all hip and 19 again.

Then once in a blue moon someone makes them bring out a new track, im sure they got cranky over this and needed to be put down for a nap, only to wake up refreshed and loving the idea... except, the new song aint so good... infact is smells much like their oversized adult diapers...

i think yeah, there are old rockers, and yeah in their hey day they were great, but when theyre nearing 60+ and still managing to marry people way too young for them and their new kids think they're their grammys and gramp's, this is when the plug SURELY should've been pulled from their butt a long time ago...

and new stuff aint so bad if its not sounding like the rest of the new stuff that aint sounding so bad... TIP - be creative cos this 17year old prodigy crap is just making me irk...

conclusion is this. theres a time and a place for everything. the time and place for Mick Jaggers oversized mumma lips has well and trully been and gone...

Killer Kitten 12 said...

Wow, isn't it weird that we seem to feel that older people should please take their saggy, scary ugliness and uncoolness out of our site.

"I can't imagine having sex with you so please stop existing in my reality"
God, how messed up is THAT?

Hello Hubris! Kinda like saying that it's ridiculous for someone black to present herself as every bit as much a "lady" as Grace Kelly because we haven't been TRAINED to accept them in that role and don't have the imagination to figure that hell, the world really is wider than Network TV.
How can any (comparative) child sit in judgement on someone older because they are doing something that mainstream media tells us looks better on young people?
You're gonna get old---if you're lucky---you're gonna STILL possibly be rebelious, against mainstream society's desire to get your ugly face out of their site, if againgst nothing else.
Let people rock as long as they need to or want to and let's be honest...
No freaking soul really *should* wear spandex pants.

But then thank god for the young musicians who bring us things like...
"My hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps."
No satisfaction indeed.

glomgold said...

I guess if the old folks have nothing new to sing about then maybe it is time to go. But only if the young'ns (that doesn't look right) replacing them have any skills/talents. So no, I guess even if Gene Simmons is 100 years old, he's not gettin' bumped off by goddamned 3doorsdownmatchbox20simpson.

Erik Mann said...

great topic, keep up the great posts, MMA