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Topic: Rolling Stones concert raises old question about geriatric rockers Return to archive
August 26th, 2005 03:19 PM
moy Rock of ages
Rolling Stones concert raises old question about geriatric rockers
By Tom Long / The Detroit News

Does age matter?

Who's too old to rock and roll?
It's a long-lingering question being revived once again this week as the Rolling Stones head into town to play Comerica Park. Old jokes about old rockers are everywhere. Does Mick wear Depends? Is Charlie on Lipitor? Has Keith had a blood transfusion?

OK, the last one isn't really about being a senior citizen. Keith Richards was probably ripe for blood transfusions at the age of 26. Still, you get the drift.

And what about the audience? Will there be backups in the aisles because of people with walkers? Will prune juice be the hot item at the concession stand?

The people who used to drive to concerts in VW vans or their parents' Chevy Bel Airs will now drive up in SUVs better suited to service in Iraq, in BMWs that cost more than their first homes or in the same sort of limos that Mick and Keith will be arriving in (sans the blood transfusion equipment, assumedly).

Let's face it: Rock isn't exactly a young thing anymore. Even if it was born on the enthusiasm of young things, rock has gone gray; it's gone bald; it's on its fourth liposuction treatment, and it's just about ready to apply for Social Security.

Pete Townshend of The Who, the guy who wrote "Hope I die before I get old," is now 60. He obviously didn't get his wish. The guy who sang "I'm Eighteen," Detroit's own Alice Cooper, is 57. Crikey, the average age of the original Ramones, a band that didn't even emerge until the mid-'70s, is 53, and three of them are dead.

As For Mick Jagger of the Stones, he's 62. Keith Richards is 61. Charlie Watts, 64. Are they too old for rock and roll?

Their new album, "A Bigger Bang," comes out Sept. 5. It's the band's 29th studio album! The Rolling Stones have outlasted the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union, punk rock, grunge rock, disco, Beanie Babies and three of the four Beatles.

Shouldn't there be some statute of limitations for rockers? Or at least a physical exam that performers have to pass before they're allowed to go on tour? Some universally agreed-upon contract that says no one older than the age of 60 can wear leopard-skin pants, no one who's had triple-bypass surgery can sing about hoochie koo, and if you have to use a wheelchair, you can't go onstage?

Yes, it would all be terribly discriminatory, but it might also save a generation that took its rock and roll very seriously from serious embarrassment.

It's not the same with other forms of popular music, of course. Sinatra was belting out "My Way" long after his vocal cords had left the building. Blues giants such as John Lee Hooker and B. B. King are venerated in their later years. And jazz pianist Dave Brubeck will be headlining this year's Detroit International Jazz Festival come Labor Day. Dave is 84.

But rock and roll was, and still is, the music of youth. It's about rebellion and trendiness, pop culture and fad fashion, rage against the machine and the simultaneous frustration of being young and powerless and young and strong.

In fact, the Stones wrote one of the most essential rock songs ever, "Satisfaction," which was actually about youthful dissatisfaction.

Problem is, the Stones look awfully darn satisfied these days. In fact, they've been pretty darn satisfied looking for going on four decades now. These guys have lived most of their lives as multimillionaires.

It's doubtful that most of the people at the Stones' show will be needy sorts either. The cheapest tickets are going for $60, the high-priced seats are $400 and the scalped seats will likely go for the approximate value of a Learjet.

So we're talking about millionaires entertaining people who are, if not outright wealthy, probably at least plenty comfortable.

Are they too old to rock and roll?

Heck, no.

Or at least they're not too old to pretend -- because rock has always been about fantasy. And the fantasy continues.

All those suburban kids who flocked to Woodstock or Chuck Berry concerts, who grew their hair long or played in rock bands themselves, who put Clash posters up in their bedrooms and played air guitar along with Queen, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, they were never really full-time worshippers at the altar of rock and roll.

They visited the church of rock nightly or weekly; maybe these days it's monthly or every other year. But rock was always a flight away from reality for most.

The overwhelming majority of people get jobs as accountants and sales people. As cops and nurses and cooks and (gulp) writers.

Few people are really rebels, but most have some rebellion in their hearts. Despite its creaky knees and failing eyesight, rock still offers a medium for sharing that rebellion, for expressing youthful frustrations that never really fade away as time moves on, for remembering the sheer, arm-thrusting, head-shaking joy of losing the moment in rhythm and noise.

Rocking out for the great majority is really remembering rocking out these days, and what's wrong with that? And if the best band on earth for bringing back those memories and rekindling those flames happens to be a bunch of guys in their 60s, so what?

Who's too old to rock and roll?

Only those who are dead and those who can't remember.

But Mick, please, no leopard-skin pants.

You can reach Tom Long at (313) 222-8879 or
August 26th, 2005 03:48 PM
Egbert It's the music that counts - if the music's good then the performer's age shouldn't matter.

August 26th, 2005 07:19 PM
Their new album, "A Bigger Bang," comes out Sept. 5. It's the band's 29th studio album!

I count 25 albums with ABB.
August 26th, 2005 07:33 PM
FPM C10 Yeah, and I count two still-live Beatles too. Or 1 3/4, depending on how much credit Ringo gets.

That article was a piece of crap. I want the three minutes of my life I wasted reading it BACK!
August 26th, 2005 09:04 PM
Sir Stonesalot I give Ringo full credit.

Did you know that Ringo was the first ex-Beatle to have a solo #1 single?

I also happen to think that he was a fine, although unspectacular, drummer. His efforts should be fully recognized.

I do agree that the article is trash. There is better writing here on this board, on a daily basis, than is represented in that article.
August 26th, 2005 09:53 PM
Trey Krimsin Actually, it was George Harrison that was first. "My Sweet Lord" was number 1 on the week of December 26, 1970. Ringo Starr's first number 1, "Photograph" peaked on November 24, 1973.

August 28th, 2005 07:22 AM
corgi37 An extremely bad article. But, worst of all, it's pointless.
August 28th, 2005 07:33 AM
Ten Thousand Motels
corgi37 wrote:
An extremely bad article. But, worst of all, it's pointless.

Pointless? wouldn't ther combined ages be higher if Bill Wyman had been factored in. I think also that Bobby Keys, Mac, Bernard, Merry Clayton's, Oldham's and Cohls, ages should be factored in with ...lets say at 10.25% value or something. Maybe even they're wives ages should be factored in too.????? So it's not a completely pointless exercise.
August 28th, 2005 07:53 AM
Jumping Jack Here's hoping all the rappers shoot each other long before they get to 60!!!
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