-Billy Joe Armstrong
“If you think you are too old to rock ‘n’ roll, then you are.”
“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” I think that question has been answered in spades. Paul McCartney is now 72, and apparently, we do still need him. Who’d have thought so many true pioneers of rock and roll would not only be alive but entertaining us all these years later.
There’s a joke going around the Internet. Something along the lines of, “Breaking News just in. Keith Richards found alive.” I must admit, after following his self-medicinal exploits over the last five decades, I too am baffled by his longevity, but that’s rock for ya.
The creative shelf-life of a teen heartthrob used to be measured in months, or at most, a few years because fans are fickle, grow up, have teenagers of their own, and drift away to less raucous forms of music like country and jazz, only to decry this new generation’s music as crap.
Not so for the rock-and-roll fans. Barring major health issues, infighting/break-up and bad material, rock bands are measured in decades, and their fans are a loyal bunch; hence, the fact that 60s bands and solo artists like The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Paul McCartney have continued to fill arenas worldwide for over 50 years. Even less iconic bands like Styx, Def Leppard and The Doobie Brothers are still touring.
Even if you can’t see the original band in all its glory, most of these 70s groups still have enough key members to justify a $50 ticket and an iPhone/lighter wave. The “Silver Spender” fans are so eager to relive their youthful musical lusts that even tribute bands, - a cover band that only plays material by one group- are pulling in big crowds.
Though significantly less venerated than the above artists, I, like so many other unsung rockers that haunt the seedy, beer-stained bars and clubs of America, continue to carry the torch. We live for nothing more than the squeal of loud guitars and the love of rock music that only comes from giving a particularly skillful performance to a small, but appreciative audience.
We also struggle to fit into skinny jeans while our contemporaries are enjoying a round of golf or the early-bird-special at Denny’s. Or is that just me?
Okay, that’s a bit of a generalization. I have nothing against Denny’s.
The point I was trying to so eloquently make is that the ability to make music well into one’s golden years is a blessing. Perhaps even a reward for the years spent practicing in the bedroom before graduating to playing four hours a night for two drunks and a dog. The dog part was a joke, but you get the idea. I would estimate that 99% of rock-and-roll musicians never make it out of the bedroom, but who cares?
A week ago, at a concert we opened, I watched 81-year-old Jefferson Starship singer, David Freiberg, belt out song after song to an adoring audience. Did it matter that he wasn’t a skinny, 20-something teen heartthrob? Not to the crowd. Can the fella still sing? Youbetcha. Like a champ. I don’t know if when he was younger, he ever envisioned himself being on stage at 81. I sure didn’t imagine rockin’ at 64, but here we both are.
Are we still crazy after all these years? Uh-huh.
Will I still be rockin’ a Les Paul through a cranked Marshall when I’m 81?
I sure the heck hope so.