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Ageing rock bands


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So, at this year's Glastonbury, we have had Iggy and The Stooges, The Who and John Fogerty (who, I'll admit, I'd never really heard of), all playing high-profile slots on big stages. Last year I watched The Buzzcocks headline a festival, and found it annoying, dull, and a bit embarassing.

Although I'm increasingly interested in the history of rock and pop, and listen to lots of older music, I can't help but wonder if the sight of 60 year old men jerking around on stage, trying desperately to conjure up the same magic that produced the songs they wrote decades ago is all slightly lamentable. But then, which is worse, watching that, or some new band trying to conjure up the same magic that someone else produced decades ago, using the same formula, only with less talent and zeal?

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So, at this year's Glastonbury, we have had Iggy and The Stooges, The Who and John Fogerty (who, I'll admit, I'd never really heard of), all playing high-profile slots on big stages. Last year I watched The Buzzcocks headline a festival, and found it annoying, dull, and a bit embarassing.

Although I'm increasingly interested in the history of rock and pop, and listen to lots of older music, I can't help but wonder if the sight of 60 year old men jerking around on stage, trying desperately to conjure up the same magic that produced the songs they wrote decades ago is all slightly lamentable. But then, which is worse, watching that, or some new band trying to conjure up the same magic that someone else produced decades ago, using the same formula, only with less talent and zeal?

Ah, well that's the $64,000 (or at least 64-year-old) question. Certainly the prospect of 60-year-old men gyrating on stage offers a great potential for embarrassment. It's way too late for Roger Daltrey to get away with a line like "Hope I die before I get old," but I bet he sang it at Glastonbury anyway. That said, it's still great music, and it didn't stop being great music just because it was originally recorded more than 40 years ago. There's no shelf life on these things.

I think my reaction to old rock 'n roll geezers depends to a large degree on how they comport themselves. I can think of few sights more ludicrous than a wrinkled, spandexed Mick Jagger on stage. On the other hand, Bruce Springsteen seems to have moved into geezerhood with some grace, and has adjusted both his stage show and his worldview to account for the fact that he may soon be a grandfather. But sure, there's certainly a ludicrous aspect to it. Rock 'n roll is and always will be the music of disaffected youth, and there's something both funny and sad about watching wheezing gazillionaires sing about their youthful resentments and passions. But what are you gonna do if you just keep waking up in the morning? The same talent, if not quite the same intensity, is still there. It just needs to be tempered by the realization that the circus needs to be scaled back to account for age and decorum.

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