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Topic: Sir Mick: A New Look for an Old Road (or what's happened to counter culture?) Return to archive
06-22-02 01:03 AM
Jaxx Sir Mick': A New Look For An Old Road
P&D Managing Editor

"I hope I die before I get old." -- "My Generation," The Who, 1965

Let's look at this title one more time and see if it reads any better than it sounds: "Sir Mick."

Knighthood and Mick Jagger -- two notions that should be completely incompatible with one another. There was a time when in the minds of many people, including those with a "Sir" or "Dame" dangling in front of their names, this Rolling Stone stood for much of what was wrong with the young generation, circa the mid- to late 1960s. Jagger was crude, coarsely sexual and irrepressible, a "bad boy" rebel with the parent-angering swagger who mocked social institutions and crusty rules of behavior

But now he is an honored, titled subject of the British crown. He is officially "establishment," a rather dated term that nevertheless came to mind when I read about Jagger's new nobility.

Such developments don't surprise baby boomers much anymore. In recent years, we've witnessed the boat-rockers and iconoclasts of our youth become part of the so-called "establishment" that these rebels once either thumbed their noses at or railed against. We've ALL become establishment, you see, and perhaps the sight of such laurels bestowed seems more like a reaffirming victory lap than a compromising leap of logic.

Jagger is only the latest example. Paul McCartney, whose relatively long hair in 1963 generated outrage as well as Beatle-mania, is also a knight. So, too, is Elton John, who used feather boas and campy theatrics to rattle stodgy cages. Ozzy Osbourne, lead singer of the Satan-tinged Black Sabbath and notorious for biting the head off a live pigeon, has become a popular TV dad. David Bowie -- whose androgynous, strung-out Ziggy Stardust persona was among the most startling images of the 1970s -- is doing TV commercials. And KISS concerts, once renowned for their theaters of blood, fire and thunder, eventually became nostalgic events the whole family could enjoy.

When The Kinks were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame several years ago, lead singer Ray Davies, decked out in a tux, looked at the other tuxes, gowns and jewels in the room and mused that rock had become a spectacle. He was mourning the fact that rock and roll as HE knew it and lived it had grown up, and it had been overcome by time and temptation.

Without question, the seductive rock and roll danger some of us revered in our youth isn't so dangerous anymore. It was when it first arrived because it was different and fresh, and more importantly it was ours, not our parents'. Now it's cleaned up and "classic," a benign echo from a safer, more comfortable age.

What happened to the counterculture of old?

Well, it literally GOT old; it grew up along with the rest of us. So perhaps the "rebellion" failed. The musical heroes of any generation really don't save the world; they can only shake it up briefly. But then again, perhaps it succeeded: Those poetic agitators gained acceptance in a melting pot society that gradually redefines itself with each generation. Thus, Jagger, the 1960s shock trooper, can become part of the old guard 40 years later. It's the consequence of both long-term success and ongoing social evolution, and it does reflect change.

Now, one wonders if the late Kurt Cobain ("Teen-age angst has paid off well/Now I'm bored and old") will someday be seen as a musical martyr on the same nostalgic par with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly or even Glenn Miller. Will Marilyn Manson eventually be honored for his lifetime contributions to the performing arts? The unlikely possibilities of this moment tend to become more likely with the passing years.

It's a sign that people change and, consequently, society changes.

More than that, it's also a clock -- with each generation racing to its own second hand -- that tells us the "old road is rapidly aging," as Bob Dylan once declared. But sometimes it's rather jarring to discover just how much the times have already changed.

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